In 2013, Phil Robertson said of Black people in the South in the 1950s, “They’re singing and happy,” and denied that any racial animus bothered them. Now that race is dominating headlines, once again a plethora of white people seem to be claiming that black anger is a recent phenomenon. This is certainly not the case.
In 1830, Elijah Lovejoy ran an Abolitionist paper in Illinois. A mob gathered, dumped his printing press into the river, and murdered him. No one was convicted.
In 1888, John Clayton investigated and publicized the fact that the first election held in Arkansas since Reconstruction had ended had been rigged. He was shot and killed. His murderers were never prosecuted.
In 1964, James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner attempted to register African American voters in Mississippi. They were abducted and murdered. Only one of their killers was prosecuted for the crime. In 2005.
Also, four of the five men I’ve listed were white. Black people were routinely murdered for lesser infractions against institutional racism.
So let’s dispel the notion that Black people could even talk openly about their hardships during the Civil Rights era and before. Doing so could get them killed.
Even in the media atmosphere of the time, black people were relegated to playing butlers and maids. Only in the 1950s was racial animus even acknowledged in mainstream media, and even that was a mere trickle. Most people seeing black characters on the silver screen saw happy butlers, cooks, and maids.
Even after the Civil Rights Act was passed in 1964, punishing or firing employees for expressing discontent over wage or working condition disparities became prevalent. People’s attitudes were not magically legislated away. Even those white employers who did not consciously discriminate were still anxious to avoid the problem into the 80s and 90s under the veneer of, “I don’t see race.”
The media continued to present stories about race in ways that could make white people feel good about themselves. How many narratives about slavery or racism in the past few decades are centered around a benevolent white protagonist?
We need to consider that for most of American History it was very dangerous to express discontent with the status of race relations in America. This anger being expressed by Black people at the injustices that they face was not magically conjured when Obama was elected President. It’s always been there; those voices were just not heard.
So if the fact that Black people are very angry at injustices in America is somehow recent news to you, perhaps it’s possible that, in spite of your protestations, you don’t actually have lots of Black friends.