It’s (Segregated) Beach Season: NY Times cites NJ as Historical Example of the North’s Jim Crow

Dr. Andrew Kahrl’s New York Times Op-Ed is worth reading in full. As a scholar of the history of segregation, he ties recent phenomena’s like the Philadelphia Starbucks incident to Jim Crow and beyond. And not just in the South — Dr. Karhl points out that the North had its own mechanisms for maintaining segregation. Where does he start that argument about the North’s own Jim Crow? You guessed it. New Jersey:

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.

Dr. Kahrl goes on to identify all kinds of ways that private property was weaponized to exclude people of color. He cites efforts that restrict beaches to “residents” — ensuring that housing segregation gets mapped onto the use of public spaces — and he cites examples of “private” beaches where police were only called when people of color entered the beach.

The conclusion is a powerful indictment of how these same techniques are still used to sharply segregate our communities:

Most white Americans prefer to consign such naked acts of discrimination to a shameful past that we have supposedly overcome. But in light of these recent incidents, it would be more accurate to call the forms of Jim Crow that prevailed in the Northeast in the early- to mid-20th century the cutting edge in technologies of exclusion, a sign of things that were to come.

For those who have been reading our coverage of modern-day segregation — everything from discrimination in mortgage approvals, to segregation in schools — the idea that New Jersey has its own segregation legacy shouldn’t be a surprise. But Dr. Kahrl lays bare the way that exclusion works through the argument of “quality of life” and actively excludes communities. That still happens all too often here in New Jersey.

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