From the NYT Opinion section:
By Andrew W. Kahrl
Andrew W. Kahrl, an associate professor of history and African-American studies at the University of Virginia, is the author of “Free the Beaches: The Story of Ned Coll and the Battle for America’s Most Exclusive Shoreline.”
May 27, 2018
Last month in Philadelphia, a white Starbucks manager summoned police officers to confront a pair of African-American men after one asked to use the restroom before he had purchased a drink. About two weeks later, at Lake Merritt Park in Oakland, Calif., a white woman called police to report a black family that was grilling food for a picnic.
In both instances, the victims were accused of violating laws or rules governing conduct in commercial establishments and public spaces. In the first case, it was for trespassing or loitering. In the second, it was for using a charcoal grill outside of the designated areas.
“Quality of life” laws serve as a potent instrument of racial segregation. They provide commercial establishments, law enforcement officers and everyday citizens with tools enabling them to police racial boundaries while at the same time claiming to simply be upholding the law. …
In the 1930s, Long Branch, N.J., passed an ordinance requiring all residents to apply for a pass that would allow access to only one of the town’s four public beaches. Town officials claimed the rule was meant to prevent overcrowding. Without exception, though, black applicants were assigned to the same beach and were denied entry to the others. …
The civil rights icon Constance Baker Motley, who grew up in New Haven, Conn., in the 1930s, recalled accompanying two white teenage friends to a private beach in the neighboring town of Milford. Although Motley’s white friends were not members, they went there often. But with an African-American joining them, “there was suddenly a membership requirement.” The three returned to New Haven, Motley dripping in sweat and stewing in indignation, her white friends having learned an important Jim Crow lesson. …
It will take more than sensitivity-training sessions and the public shaming of racist, hypervigilant white women to dismantle today’s system of segregation. Limiting the power of white people to use the law to act out their vision of a “quality” life that excludes black people is a place to start.