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American citizens have a long history of civil protest and disobedience, and one of the most prolific times was at the height of racial segregation. Yes, Americans once lynched blacks and it is a shameful part of our history which few forget, including me. It was shortly over 56 years ago, on 1 February 1960, that four black university students staged a sit-in at a local diner in Greensboro, North Carolina, by taking their seats at a whites-only lunch counter. This sit-in is often regarded as the spark that fueled the civil rights movement in the early 1960's, when ordinary black citizens began to protest unequal treatment and demand change.

The four men were all students at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University. They planned the protest from their dorm room, simply because "we'd had enough...it was time to wake up and change the situation." Tired of being treated like second class citizens, they walked down the street, sat down and demanded to be served. They promised each other they would repeat the behavior daily until a plate of food was placed in front of them, no matter how long it took. There were reports that a black waitress admonished them, and two old white ladies stood and clapped, encouraging them along. The sit-in grew quickly, and other black students from local universities joined, as well as sympathetic white students who supported their cause. The men encountered resistance from KKK members who showed up and threw burning piles of newspapers under a counter seat. Yet the men were not deterred and the protest remained peaceful for the most part. Because of the swelling crowds and coverage by local media, Woolworth's was forced to close the lunch counter only a week after the four young men first arrived.

As the sit-ins continued, local citizens began boycotting the department store in which the diner was located. Their sales dropped by a third, and the owners abandoned their segregation policies less than three months after the black men first took their seats at the whites-only counter. On 25 July 1960, the store manager asked three black employees to change out of their waitress clothes, sit at the counter, and order a meal at the former "whites-only" counter. They were the first ordinary black customers to be served at a Woolworth's department store.

greensboro_demonstration

I've noticed many times that my Russian readers call me naive for thinking an individual can actually make an impact and effect change in a country, or something smaller like a local neighborhood and community. Yet these four young men prove it is possible. They are just a small representative example of the ordinary citizens who staged massive sit-ins in the 60's, 100's of thousands of people, whites, blacks, all protesting and marching for change that was eventually enacted and made into law during the Civil Rights Movement in the 1950's - 1960's. The change came through Supreme Court decisions, like Brown vs. The Board of Education in 1954, which legally ended segregation in American public schools, and ultimately the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which banned all segregation and work force discrimination in the USA. Of course, placing a law on the books and implementing it are two different things. It takes many decades for societal perceptions, inequalities and imbalances to truly shift. Even now, there are tons of problems with race relations in the U.S., but to say that we came a long way in a very short amount of time is an understatement in my view. And all of it was a result of action by ordinary citizens who demanded change and accountability at the local and Federal level.

Last December, I visited Birmingham, Alabama, the hotbed for the civil rights movement, and stomping grounds for famous leaders like Martin Luther King, Jr. I was there with my Russian friend, who is very smart, but knew little about the U.S. civil rights movement, or the events that took place during this time. I wonder if the history of this era was taught in Soviet times, or in modern day Russian schools? It seems most Russians know only that "we lynched blacks," and nothing more. During my stay in Birmingham, I visited the Civil Right Museum in the city, which is really remarkable. A living and breathing embodiment of the movement, told through art, photos and actual relics from the era, including burned buses that were torched en route to some of the marches and sit-ins. If it is of interest to readers, I can write a report about this city and explain more about the civil rights movement, and the changes in U.S. law and policy that came about as a result. Yes, I also visited Ferguson, Missouri last year, but never wrote a report about the neighborhood where Michael Brown was shot by a local police officer. I've seen it with my own eyes.

These men, known as the "Greensboro Four," went on to accomplish great things. One became a chemist, one a counselor, one a stock broker and the other a lawyer. Their legacies all began with a simple walk to a local store for lunch...

four540

I've never really seen any type of protest like this by Russians. Are there examples? I think the thought of protest isn't inherent in Russian mentality - most are taught to accept and obey, that suffering is ordinary, and even a badge of honor. To demand change, or hold leaders accountable, seems completely unrealistic and pointless. Of course, there are vocal political opponents and media, etc., but I'm speaking about ordinary citizens. This civil disobedience is ongoing in the U.S. at this moment, with a sit-in by local Oregon militia men. I'm sure you've read about it in the press, if not look here.

Do you think ordinary people can really impact change in your country? I think the answer is entirely dependent on the country in which you sit...in the U.S., I still believe it is possible. Call me naive if you wish...:) I'd rather be naive and hopeful than beaten down and complacent with policies to which I'm strongly opposed.

Comments

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perycalypsis
Feb. 3rd, 2016 03:33 pm (UTC)
The Romanian language has an idiom - haz baragaz, or
something of the kind - I forget the exact pronunciation, but
the words literally mean "underground laughter". Appar-
ently, during the Middle Ages Romania was frequently in-
vaded by all sorts of nomadic tribes, and so the peasants
constructed immense dugouts, entire underground houses,
into which they drove their livestock the moment a cloud of
dust appeared on the horizon. They themselves hid in these
places as well, and since the dugouts were quite excellently
camouflaged, the nomads could never find a thing. Natu-
rally, when they were underground the peasants were very
quiet, but just occasionally, when they were quite overcome
by joy at their own cunning in deceiving everyone, they
would cover their mouths with their hands and laugh very,
very quietly.
There is your secret freedom, the Romanian
said, it is when you are sitting wedged in among a herd of
foul-smelling goats and sheep and you point up at the roof
with your finger and giggle very, very quietly.
iamschik
Feb. 6th, 2016 05:37 pm (UTC)
Look, you are plagiarizing Pelevin; you should put quotation note here.
juan_gandhi
Feb. 3rd, 2016 03:38 pm (UTC)
Thank you.

Yes, there are plenty of examples in Russia. The problem is, the majority of the people just don't care. Which made me believe that, basically, they just don't deserve it. You do this or that, and nobody joins. There are heroes that still do it. Like Pussy Riot, like Voslensky.

I remember one exception. We were having rallies in a garden, just about 10 of us. I was responsible for secretly printing and bringing leaflets, more leaflets, for the people coming and going away. We stood there and talked about this and that, about politics; it was illegal in the USSR, but we did. Then the crowd started growing, 100, 1000... cops were coming trying to catch the organizers; we resisted, etc. When it turned into huge demonstrations, I pulled out, but those were amazing times, 1989-1991.
a_nimaida
Feb. 3rd, 2016 03:46 pm (UTC)
Pussy Riot герои ))))


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a_nimaida
Feb. 3rd, 2016 03:43 pm (UTC)
Yes, Americans once lynched blacks and it is a shameful part of our history which few forget, including me. >>>

Americans destroyed the Native Americans - Indians ..
maksipes
Feb. 3rd, 2016 03:56 pm (UTC)
o man, they also killed all bisons.
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maksipes
Feb. 3rd, 2016 03:44 pm (UTC)
why do americans have so little marriages between blacks and whites? don't you think this is because you guys still have strong racial segregation? not in the laws, but in your minds.
peacetraveler22
Feb. 3rd, 2016 03:48 pm (UTC)
Only about 13% of the U.S. population is black, so this is one reason. Plus, during this era, and my parent's youth for example, such relationships were still considered taboo. With my generation view began shifting, and with the new generation (like my young nephew) I don't think anyone really thinks about it. It's ordinary to see mixed raced couples, not only black/white, but white/Asian, white/Hispanic, everything really. Also mommy/mommy and daddy/daddy in progressive areas like Northern Virginia and Washington, DC. :)
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qi_tronic
Feb. 3rd, 2016 03:48 pm (UTC)
Sorry, no time to read it all now but I just find all that situation very strange.

Why installing segregation after abolishing slavery?
If Americans did not need all those blacks they'd need to send them back to Africa. Or let them live.
Some stupid legal games.

Such protests in the USA were successful only because the role of written law in the country's life is too big.

1. There is some stupid law.
2. A smart group organizes some formally lawful protest.
3. Police cannot eliminate them because police should also follow law.
4. The law is changed in the Supreme Court.
5. Voila! They win.

In Russia this does not work.
Here the government has a goal: not allow the protest to happen.
So either police use any slightest formal cause to put the protesters in jail or the law is changed dynamically, sometimes overnight :)
peacetraveler22
Feb. 3rd, 2016 04:09 pm (UTC)
Why should they be sent back to Africa? They were born here, in the USA. America is their home country. :) There can be no healthy society where the government suppresses protests, I truly believe it. Btw, do you read the musings of exiled journalist Rustem Adagamov? Today, he has published this, and I imagine you completely disagree with it. :))

Владимир Путин назвал патриотизм единственной национальной идеей. А вообще нужна стране национальная идея? Что это такое вообще? Пытаюсь вспомнить какая национальная идея у Норвегии, Швеции, Финляндии, Голландии, Чехии. Ни разу не слышал ни о каком обсуждении национальной идеи в этих странах. По-моему, разговоры о национальной идее — это для бедных и неустроенных. Там, где работают, создают, живут хорошо и безбедно, не нужна никакая национальная идея. Хорошая, безопасная, удобная жизнь людей — вот идея, смысл существования любой страны. У кого-то это получается, у кого-то нет. И никакая национальная идея не поможет, если ты бездельник и вор, а страна твоя в руинах.

Yes, this post is a lot of text, with almost no pictures. Few people will read or comment on it, because it requires mental thought and contemplation. :)

Edited at 2016-02-03 04:34 pm (UTC)
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kichiro_sora
Feb. 3rd, 2016 03:59 pm (UTC)
They did not teach anything about US civil rights movement in USSR schools. The was some blabber here and there about how blacks suffer in USA, and that's it. Don't be surprised. How much did they teach about USSR history in US schools?

>I've never really seen any type of protest like this by Russians. Are there examples?

You've obviously missed 1917 Revolution... Took 70 years to get things back to normal. So yes, they can revolt, but need to take a lot of beating to start the ball moving.

And it looks like Putler might just do it pretty soon.
peacetraveler22
Feb. 3rd, 2016 04:03 pm (UTC)
I thought the Bolshevik Revolution was mostly accomplished at the hands of political leaders, not ordinary people. In what way did ordinary citizens play a role to demand change? I've read about it only in the political context.
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rostislavddd
Feb. 3rd, 2016 04:14 pm (UTC)
Беспорядки в Бирюлево два года назад.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9ly94dJY6tg
Результат разборок после бунта - снято и частично посажено руководство полиции данного района, такой же каток прошелся по прокуратуре и Миграционной службе.. Обвинения - укрывательство преступлений, взятки и прочие нарушения закона и служебных обязанностей.
Бунтовщиков при усмирении слегка побил ОМОН, более 30 человек задержано, позже всем выписаны штрафы и прочие административные наказания, уголовные обвинения не выдвигались.
Рынок, несмотря на то что частично принадлежал депутатам Госдумы ликвидирован, работавшие на нем мигранты прочесаны и в большинстве как минимум высланы.
Теперь Бирюлево в криминальном смысле самый спокойный район Москвы.
peacetraveler22
Feb. 3rd, 2016 04:26 pm (UTC)
Интересно, спасибо большое!
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vasha_masha
Feb. 3rd, 2016 04:34 pm (UTC)
Объясните, пожалуйста, зачем в правовом демократическом обществе протесты? Если демократия работает, все решается простым голосованием, выборами, политическими институтами. Если можно собрать петицию, выдвинуть кандидата, отправить его в законодательный орган - в чем смысл акций гражданского устрашения? Сделать громкую картинку для взбудораживания масс? А зачем их будоражить?
peacetraveler22
Feb. 3rd, 2016 04:38 pm (UTC)
Because as society, humans and technology evolve, laws and regulations must also keep pace and be changed. Humans nor societies do not remain static for centuries at a time if they are living in a healthy and progressive country. Most governments are inefficient, slow to change, and leaders are lazy unless they are forced to be accountable for action or inaction. In the U.S., protests are a way to force action by officials at Federal or State levels.
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radjana
Feb. 3rd, 2016 04:57 pm (UTC)
"infamous leaders like Martin Luther King, Jr." - I suppose it is a misprint?
peacetraveler22
Feb. 3rd, 2016 05:04 pm (UTC)
Yes, of course! It should be "famous". I probably made a spelling error, which was auto-corrected by my work program where I wrote the text. Thanks a lot, this shows you are a very perceptive reader, to notice an error in a very large text, with a lot of words. Few people have the attention span to do this, so I thank you for that. I corrected the text.

Edited at 2016-02-03 05:05 pm (UTC)
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pin_gwin
Feb. 3rd, 2016 05:12 pm (UTC)
Well, Shannon.... First , feel the energy of this song, late 80s

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FU8csnZxdPA

Moscow of late 80-s....early 90-s would give you no doubts on mass protests in Russia and Soviet Union. People like Sakharov, Solzhenitsyn could be the examples of individual's impact, that's a short list. I knew lots of people denying to join Communist Party for career even though it cost them promotions. The civil rights movement there never was race based, also there was no segregation or voting rights limitation for women. And you know, I still remember the spirit of that times like it was a week ago.

US is just a very different society there in no sense to compare. Living here, I would say that informal segregation is still here big way, though it has more cultural nature. Minorities are not mixing well in one hand culturally, while education cost it sky high. It turns out that being a single mom living on child subsidies is a career of choice for many. Being grown in that parasitic environment is a dead loop. Few blacks will get out of this loop, most will not. Even more - I see plenty of cases when. for instance, universities are giving an advantage to some just because they are minorities. It's wrong!

And this is of recent ones
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F1oJvj1lH2Y

Unfortunately, what I see here is that US media is showing a very limited scope of what's really happening abroad, so you are getting whether "first take" version, or you would never know something important.
peacetraveler22
Feb. 3rd, 2016 05:21 pm (UTC)
I know this singer. :) I've seen his painted mural in Moscow. Yes, U.S. media is almost entirely focused on domestic issues and problems, not international coverage. I try to read other sources, and of course communicating with a mostly Russian audience here on LJ helps a lot when it comes to Russian issues. They are always happy to educate me, and point out my historical errors or misconceptions. :) Yes, unfortunately, a lot of racial issues are based on disparities in social classes and opportunities. About affirmative action, I have mixed views. It's complicated.
dkfl
Feb. 3rd, 2016 05:48 pm (UTC)
There was similar movement https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Strategy-31
but only a few people supported. This sounds weird but Russians do not care about owns basic rights. Even travel ban outside Russia is not blamed.
"Не высовывайся" ("Don't rise") is the country motto.
peacetraveler22
Feb. 3rd, 2016 06:06 pm (UTC)
"Do not care about own basic rights..." do you really believe this? I can't imagine such a life.
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jackie_jones
Feb. 3rd, 2016 06:39 pm (UTC)
There is some civil protest in Russia.
Like that:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2011%E2%80%9313_Russian_protests
And that:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2014_anti-war_protests_in_Russia

I hope we’ll see more.
We desperately need someone like Martin Luther King.
peacetraveler22
Feb. 3rd, 2016 07:12 pm (UTC)
Thanks! I knew about the Crimea protests, but not the first link.
krasnogorr
Feb. 3rd, 2016 07:54 pm (UTC)
Вообще то позор вам не в том, что это было в вашей истории.

Позор вам в том, что это было аж до 60-х годов, 15 лет спустя, как были разбиты нацисты.

Мало кто вообще видит иронию в том, что расисты США победили нацистов из Германии.

Это, Шеннон, не позор даже. Это просто лютый пиздец всей твоей нации.
krasnogorr
Feb. 3rd, 2016 08:03 pm (UTC)
me_frai
Feb. 3rd, 2016 08:25 pm (UTC)
As I see you know Russian history much worse than I know American. In general, Americans have a little interest in other countries, or do it rather ignorantly - like you. Examples from Russian history - Decabrist uprising, February revolution, Narodnaya Volya movement
peacetraveler22
Feb. 3rd, 2016 08:40 pm (UTC)
I have little interest in other countries? Sure, that's why I spend hours each day communicating with people from Russia and other global locations. I was speaking about protests in modern day Russia, not hundreds of years of history. And I certainly don't claim to be an expert on Russian history, that's why I sometimes ask readers questions in this blog. If you want to give me a long list of massive civil protests since the collapse of the Soviet Union, I will be pleased to read about them.

Edited at 2016-02-03 08:45 pm (UTC)
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korneev14
Feb. 3rd, 2016 08:31 pm (UTC)
Clown Trump has been desroyed.

A-y-e! )))
peacetraveler22
Feb. 3rd, 2016 08:40 pm (UTC)
Yes, I hope this downward spiral continues, and very rapidly.
(no subject) - korneev14 - Feb. 4th, 2016 06:29 am (UTC) - Expand
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