Thursday, November 26, 2015

Exploration 7 From Ruksana Kabealo

The main thing I learned from the documentary film Ain't Scared of Your Jails is that, regardless of what a movement is advocating for, the initial reaction will always be resistance. While watching the film, I realized just how similar the arguments used by those who were opposed to the Civil Rights movement in the 1960s and those who are currently opposed to the LGBT+ rights movement today are.

When Jack Phillips, owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop in Lakewood, Colorado, refused to bake a wedding cake for a gay couple in 2012, he argued that making a cake for a gay wedding would be an infringement on his constitutionally protected right to exercise his religious practices, specifically his religion's opposition to same-sex marriage [1]. This exact argument, that the fulfillment of someone else's civil rights is an infringement on your civil rights, is the same argument used by the white Nashville woman interviewed at the beginning of the film: 

I also think that it is in violation to my civil rights if someone can say you must serve me. If you own -- If a man owns an eating establishment, if he can't choose whom he pleases to serve or not to serve, that can affect me and you and anyone else [2] 

The use of the argument is flawed in both situations, but it’s an argument that’s still being made, even fifty years later. From this we can infer that the actual reasoning behind the opposition to both movements more out of an overall resistance to change than anything else. By anticipating this inherent resistance to change, future movements can better prepare themselves to deal with opposition before it occurs.

One of the main tactics used in the film was the economic boycott. During 1960, as a way to support the student sit-in movement, parents of student protesters began to boycott the Nashville retail merchants. In Nashville in 1960, black buying power was about $50 million a year, $10 million of which was spent at the downtown stores [2]. Leo Lillard, a black resident in Nashville during the 1960, described the reasoning behind the boycott:

We figured that if they would feel the pinch of not having shoppers buy in the stores downtown Nashville, then that will put pressure on the mayor, on the political fabric of town, of Nashville, to change the rules, the regulations. [2] 
Eventually, the boycott spread across the country. Chain stores with discriminatory practices in the South were also boycotted in the North. This boycott occurred during Easter, one of the most important spending times for blacks across the country. Businesses lost not only the business of the blacks and sympathetic whites due to the boycott, but they also lost the majority of the white business as well due to the hostile environment created in downtown Nashville. During the boycott, boycotters were sent downtown to convince citizens to "stay out of town" [2] through tactics such as snatching bags and tearing things away from those who broke the boycott. In less than a month, the boycott by black customers was almost completely effective. The economic boycott caused the residents of Nashville to realize that the movement was both widespread and serious.  




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