With the hubbub of a holiday weekend, you may have missed the NewYork Times opinion piece, “The North’s Jim Crow.”
It’s by Andrew W. Kahrl, an associate professor of history and African-American studies at the University of Virginia. He recently wrote a book about Ned Coll, the 1960s and ’70s activist who sought access to Connecticut’s shoreline for all.
Citing 2 recent examples — the Starbucks manager who called the police when 2 black men asked to use the restroom while waiting for a friend, and the woman who called police to report a black family grilling at a picnic — Kahrl says that “the selective enforcement of minor ordinances … performs the same work today that segregation laws did in the past.”
Take public beaches, for example. He notes that while Southern officials “literally drew color lines in the sands,” towns in the Northeast “devised elaborate, and ostensibly colorblind, procedures for determining who could access public shores, and what they could bring and do inside, and then proceeded to enforce them for black and brown people only.”
Kahrl zeroes in on “wealthy, all-white towns along the Connecticut Gold Coast, where blacks were effectively excluded from living by racist housing policies.”
He says, “While nearby urban black populations swelled and the demand for access to public places of recreation spiked, towns like Greenwich, Westport and Fairfield restricted their beaches to residents. It was obvious whom these laws were meant to exclude.”
This winter — in response to last summer’s crowds, who came from throughout Connecticut and nearby New York, and sometimes filled the parking lot to capacity — Westport restricted the number of daily passes (sold to anyone without a season sticker).
Yet I don’t know that Westport ever “restricted (our) beaches to residents.” That’s a pretty strong charge for Professor Kahrl to make, and for the New York Times to print.
If any “06880” readers have recollections of Westport’s beach policies in the 1960s and ’70s, click “Comments” below.
(For the full New York Times opinion piece, click here. Hat tip: Fred Cantor)