Monday, February 04, 2008

Ongoing Discrimination - Virginia's Less Than Proud Heritage

Although not a native Virginian (I first moved to the state from Central New York to attend college at the University of Virginia), I have lived in the state long enough to recall much of the lingering mindset that followed desegregation and the U. S. Supreme Court ruling in Loving v. Virginia that ended the ban on inter-racial marriage a few years before my arrival. In checking some of my usual blog reads, I came across a post supporting Obama ( which happened to look at some of the historical past. I have set out below the portions directly applicable to Virginia since the same mentality exists today on the part of Virginia legislators who are currently killing bills that would protect gays from employment discrimination and allow domestic partners to be named as beneficiaries on employer provided group life insurance policies. Of course what is truly amazing (and something I will NEVER understand) is that many blacks pastors across the state are being co-opted into working on an anti-gay agenda with the very people and/or their descendants who supported laws like the one described below. It definitely illustrates the dangers of not knowing history. Here are the highlights:
The year I was born, 1946, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Morgan v. Commonwealth of Virginia that interstate buses and trains could no longer be segregated. The case arose two years earlier when Irene Morgan, a 27-year-old mother of two still ill from a miscarriage, bought a $5 ticket at the "Colored" window in the local grocery and boarded a crowded Greyhound bus in Gloucester, Va., for a trip to visit a doctor 165 miles away in Baltimore. She sat next to a young mother and her baby in the fourth row from the back of the bus, well within the section decreed for black people by America’s peculiar brand of apartheid, Jim Crow.

At a stop a few miles down the road, the driver ordered the two women to stand so that a white couple could take their seats. Morgan said no. She also wouldn’t let the other woman give up her seat. As she told Washington Post reporter Carol Morello more than half a century later, she had asked: "Where do you think you're going with that baby in your arms?" The driver headed into the next town and parked in front of the jail. A deputy strode onto the bus, handed Morgan an arrest warrant and asked her to come with him. When she ripped up the warrant and tossed it out the window, he grabbed her by the arm. She kicked him in the crotch and he retreated. She clawed at a second deputy and ripped his shirt as he dragged her off the bus and into the jail.

Morgan pleaded guilty to resisting arrest and was fined $100, but she refused to plead guilty to breaking the state’s segregation laws. At trial, her NAACP lawyers argued that those laws impeded interstate commerce, purposely avoiding the due process argument of the 14th Amendment, something they felt the Supreme Court was not ready to hear. Morgan was convicted and fined $10. On appeal, the Supreme Court accepted
the commerce argument and struck down the Virginia statute, and by extension all such laws.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Point well made -- at any time, but for the grace of God, go I. However, there are black people who do not agree with the idea or mindset of homosexuality. For this reason, I can't see that Black ministers should be fighting for the rights of a group of people that are in direct conflict with their views. Granted it is discrimination at its core, but I don't see that we're going to convince people of the fundamental mindset that we are no different from them when they hold so literally to the document that binds them. Better, I think to appeal to the open minded and to ourselves. How many are too quiet when they should let people know how normal it is to be attracted to a member of the same sex. Just my two cents.