De Jure Racism Became De Facto Racism (Pacific NW)

Segregation in the southern United States was custom, policy and law.  Overturning the laws transformed racism from de jure segregation to de facto.

de facto segregation [(di fak -toh, day fak -toh)]
Racial segregation, especially in public schools, that happens “by fact” rather than by legal requirement. For example, often the concentration of African-Americans in certain neighborhoods produces neighborhood schools that are predominantly black, or segregated in fact ( de facto ), although not by law ( de jure ).
The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.


Racial segregation that is imposed by law (i.e. Jim Crow in USA, Apartheid in South Africa)

Type of:  segregation, separatism
a social system that provides separate facilities for minority groups

The forgotten story of racism and segregation in the American West leaves little justification for pride or complacency.   The University of Washington provides a website including documentation and research for the Seattle Civil Rights & Labor History Project.  “When Oregon was granted statehood in 1859, it was the only state in the Union admitted with a constitution that forbade black people from living, working, or owning property there. It was illegal for black people even to move to the state until 1926.” – Oregon Was Founded As a Racist Utopia, Gizmodo.com , Matt Novak

The University of Washington’s project documents that people of color in Seattle were excluded from most jobs, most neighborhoods and schools, and many stores, restaurants, hotels, and other commercial establishments, even hospitals. Severe racial discrimination in Seattle targeted not just African-Americans but also Native Americans, Asian Americans, Pacific Islanders, people of Mexican ancestry and Jews.  The Ku Klux Klan was active in the 1920s.   There were also anti-Japanese crusades following WWI.  The unions and those fighting for civil rights and against racism supported one another through shifting alliances and projects.

The mythology of the American West is much more powerful than the historical reality.  The false myths that cowboys were brave, generous, unselfish men; that white American pioneers were noble and just; that heroic American soldiers fought the savage red Indian foe; that frontier justice was rough but fair; all contributed to the overarching concept of individual freedom, independence, toughness and pioneer “spirit”.

In many ways, this mythology idealizing the West resembles the southern mythology of the Confederacy.  Slaves and Native Americans, who suffered similar degradations and depredations, now suffer from the symbols and cultural myths enshrined by the white privilege.  Tribal cultures still fight to have their treaty rights enforced, to hold on to lands and utilize their subsistence hunting and fishing rights.  They struggle for their rights while the government treats them as less than full citizens and limits their control over grazing and mineral rights on their own lands.  Like the mentally ill and other people of color they’re ignored or treated as violently threatening.  All lives matter and until that becomes practice rather than theory, the Pacific Northwest (where I live) remains as liable as the rest of the country.

What do you think?

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.