The Dangers of Desegregation

One of the emerging and familiar defenses in Perry v Schwarzenegger is that marriage for LGB people would damage society. It seems like a dumb defense to me, and one that Boies and Olson are poking plenty of holes in. It smacks of the Majority’s complaints when the US Supreme Court ruled that racial segregation was unconstitutional.

I got to thinking (always a dangerous undertaking): While I acknowledge that there is no 1:1 union between the fight for women’s civil rights and the fight for racial minorities’ civil rights and LGBT people’s civil rights (etc.), there are often overlaps from one to another. Is this one area of commonality? How might our current struggle overlap that of the Civil Rights movement in the mid-20th century?

Lucky for us, there are some fantastic search tools available online, including one to find old news. Here’s what I found from the Milwaukee Journal on October 20, 1955. I’ll transcribe for the search engines, with apologies for the language of 1955. (Click the title to go to that article in the archive.)

Keep in mind that this happened after the Supreme Court had ruled against segregation and Separate-But-Equal laws.

Court Backs Negro BanCourt Backs Negro Ban

Ruling in Florida
Tallahassee, Fla -(AP)-The Florida supreme court ruled Wednesday that Negroes could not be admitted to the all-white University of Florida until a determination had been made whether there would be harmful effects.

The 5 to 2 decision had the effect of delaying integration of the races in the university, and possibly the public schools, for several months to a year or more.

The majority opinion said that the United States supreme court had knocked out segregation in classrooms but that, in line with the high tribunal’s order of last May 31, local conditions must be taken into account in working out integration of the races.

Sought to Study Law
The Florida court handed down its decision in the case of Virgil Hawkins, 48 year old Daytona Beach Negro, who applied six years ago for admission to the University of Florida law school. He had filed suit in the courts after being denied admission.

In Hawkins’ case, the court appointed a commissioner to take testimony to determine when it would be possible for him to be admitted to the university without creating “public mischief.”

Tells of “God’s Decree”
Justice Glenn Terrell, dean of the court, wrote a defense of segregation in an opinion concurring with the majority holding. He said that the United States supreme court in ordering desegregation in public schools had “reversed a decree of God Almighty.”

“When God created man he allotted each race to his own continent according to color — Europe to the white man, Asia to the yellow man, Africa to the black man and America to the red man,” wrote Terrell.

“But now we are advised that God was in error and must be reversed.”

But that’s not all! The next day, the Milwaukee Journal published the following editorial about the Florida court’s decision.

Law (?) in Florida's High CourtLaw (?) in Florida’s High Court

The dean of Florida’s supreme court, Justice Glenn Terrell, made legal history of a sort the other day in an opinion concurring with a majority decision of the court that Negroes could not be admitted to the all-white University of Florida until a determination had been made whether there would be harmful effects.

“When God created man,” wrote Justice Terrell, “He allotted each race to his own continent according to color–Europe to the white man, Asia to the yellow man, Africa to the black man, and America to the red man.”

Therefore, the justice reasoned, the United States supreme court “reversed a decree of God Almighty” by directing the end of segregation in the classroom.

If all that the learned justice asserts is true, by what divine right does he reside in America? By what right, indeed, do any of the rest of us–of white, black or yellow skin? Isn’t it our holy duty to give this nation back to the red man forthwith–by order of the Florida supreme court?

We further wonder whether Justice Terrell realizes that his opinion “reversed” a former governor of his state. Fuller Warren–not to be confused with Chief Justice Earl Warren, former governor of California–often spoke of Florida as the site of the Garden of Eden. If God chose Florida as the abode for the man He created, where better than in Florida should all of Adam’s children live in harmony and brotherhood and equality–no matter what the tint of their skin?

The Pro-Prop 8, anti-gay defendants’ case and the Anti-Prop 8, pro-gay plaintiffs’ response are strikingly similar to these from 1955. The question before us is whether the US Supreme Court in 2010 will agree with the 1955 Florida court or the 1955 federal court.

Also at stake: 55 years from now, will people be ashamed or proud of the court’s decision? The court gets to choose.

* * *

One more thing. Notice that big black box in the first screencap? There’s another article under it that shows again that some things never change.

NAACP Is Assailed
NAACP Is Assailed

Atlanta, Ga.–Eugene Cook, Georgia’s attorney general, Wednesday accused the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People of “subversion” in its antisegregation crusade.

Cook said that activities of the group “and its local fronts pose a serious threat to the peace, tranquillity (sic), government and way of life of our state,” and hinted that he would take steps to have the organization banned in Georgia.

He said that the NAACP’s real design was to “force upon the south the Communist inspired doctrine of racial integration and amalgamation.”

[In New York, a spokesman for the NAACP said that Cook’s speech “apparently was part of a conspiracy” to combat the United States supreme court’s ban on segregated public schools. Roy Wilkins, executive secretary of the NAACP, charged that Cook’s speech was “full of distortions, word juggling, free translations and untruths.”]

For goodness sake, Cook all but called it a Radical Negro Agenda.

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