I happened to watch The Butler the same day I read about the “Black Brunch” protests, and I couldn’t help but see some obvious parallels—but the protesters aren’t going to like them.
Let’s go back in time for a minute here. The protests depicted in The Butler occurred in February of 1960, in Greensboro, North Carolina, at a Woolworthss lunch counter. Some of that is going to be confusing to those of you who weren’t around for that period of history. First off, Woolworths was a drugstore that had a lunch-counter in it. The store had a desegregated goods counter and a segregated lunch counter.
Maybe I should explain that, too.
In the United States at that time, particularly in the South (which was run entirely by the Democratic party, by the way), public spaces were generally segregated. For you millennials, that means Black people and White people could not sit together, drink from the same fountain, ride in the same section of a public bus, sit on the same benches, or do just about anything which would involve Whites and Blacks standing or sitting near one another. This was legal. In fact, it was not illegal until 1964, when The Civil Rights Act was passed by Congress, with 80% of Republican and 63% of Democratic votes in the House and 82% of Republican and 69% of Democratic votes in the Senate.
Here are some fun historical facts about this Act that your free liberal education might have omitted. In the Senate, eighteen Democrats and one Republican filibustered the bill for fifty-four days. Among those who spent nearly two months fighting for segregation were future Senate Majority Leader, Democrat Robert Byrd (who was also a former Klan member by the time he got to the Senate) and Georgia Senator Richard Russell (who was so “outside the mainstream” of the Democratic Party that the Senate Office Building is named for him. Maybe the people who specialize in politically correct name-changing should take a look at why the building Senators have their offices in honors a rabid segregationist. I won’t hold my breath.) The only person most people today remember in association with this is Strom Thurmond, who is only remembered as a Republican. However, he was a member of the Democratic party in good standing when he said this:
“This is the worst civil-rights package ever presented to the Congress and is reminiscent of the Reconstruction proposals and actions of the radical Republican Congress.”
The “radical Republican Congress,” by the way, were the people who tried to punish the Confederate states after the Civil War, wanted full voting rights for African-Americans, and tried to convince Lincoln to abolish slavery without compensating former slave-holders. Even in 1964, Southern Democrats still resented losing the Civil War.
But I digress. Lunch-counters.
The Greensboro lunch-counter protests involved African-Americans entering Woolworths, purchasing something at a desegregated goods counter, then sitting in the Whites Only seats at the lunch-counter. At that point, the establishment would refuse to serve them, try to get them to move, try to get them to leave, and/or call the police. Meanwhile, helpful white customers would “encourage” them to leave, by taunting them, calling them the n-word, and pouring condiments over them. They also screamed in their faces, threatened to beat them, and sexually harassed the women (it wasn’t called that then, though; it was just abusive flirting.)
The point here is that the Black lunch-counter protesters were trying to establish their right to be treated equally as the Constitution actually claimed they should be. They were peaceful. They made no demands. They made no uproar. They sat quietly, and it was the over-reaction of the White racists and the Southern power structure that demonstrated (hence the term “demonstration”) the obvious evil of the custom they were breaking.
Now, let’s look at the “#BlackBrunch” events.
African-American protesters, in the name of their twin pillars of anti-cop justice, Mike Brown and Eric Garner, entered establishments they deemed “White” and harassed the people who had gone there to have a nice brunch. Upon entering, they read the names of African-Americans killed by police, chanted, and accused White diners of genocide and Black diners of internalizing White privilege.
Yes, I do see similarities here.
One group has a right to be where they are and are quietly attempting to be served, while the other group is disrupting them. One group is loud, one is quiet. One group is demanding and rude, while the other is simply sitting and enduring the abuse.
The problem for the Civil Rights claims of the Black Brunchers is that, in the brunch establishment, they are the interlopers. They are the bad guys.
The moral authority of the Civil Rights movement—of any movement, really—lies in its ability to demonstrate the falsity of the establishment position by forcing it to act out in public. Mahatma Gandhi, from whom Dr. King borrowed many of his tactics, called it Satyagraha. Literally, it means “truth-force,” and it aims to change the heart of those who are of the opposition. The core of non-violent resistance is the willingness to be punished by an unjust authority.
The Black Brunchers aren’t getting arrested–they’re getting ridiculed.
Sorry, Brunchers, but when your Civil Rights tactics make you look like bad guys and clowns, you’re doing something wrong.