Jim Crow goes woke

Jim Crow goes woke. By Brendan O’Neill.

Racial segregation is back in the US. That old foul practice that most of us thought had been done away with by the 1964 Civil Rights Act has been given some politically correct spit-and-polish. Jim Crow’s gone woke.

Consider the University of California, Berkeley. A student house there has decreed that white people are forbidden in its common areas. People of colour, the house says, must have the right to ‘avoid white violence and presence’. Therefore, no honkies allowed. The colour line resurrected to protect allegedly fragile blacks from devilish whites.

This is happening at the Person of Colour Theme House, one of Berkeley’s off-campus, privately run student-accommodation blocks. The house’s rules on guests stipulate that ‘White guests are not allowed in common spaces’. Anyone who brings a guest to the house must announce publicly ‘if [the guest] is white’. Warning: white person in the building! The POC Theme House has a reputation for racial craziness. One former resident says its ‘call-out culture’ is off the scale. Residents are often criticised for ‘being white / white passing, aligning themselves with whiteness, or allowing white violence in the house’. Sounds a lovely place to live. …

On campuses around America the baleful idea that it’s sometimes good to separate the races is making a comeback.

  • The University of Connecticut set up a living community specifically for black men. New York University has taken steps to make ‘racially segregated housing a reality’, as one critical report put it. It gave the green light to student demands for blacks-only residences on the basis that black students are tired of ‘bear[ing] the brunt of educating their uninformed peers about racism’.
  • Western Washington University made an entire floor in its student accommodation a ‘blacks-only’ zone.
  • Stanford and Cornell are also reportedly embracing the idea that blacks and whites sometimes need a break from each other.

This is woke segregation. Sure, it isn’t fuelled by the supremacist idea that whites should never have to interact with their racial inferiors, as was the case in much of the Jim Crow South. But it is palpably reminiscent of another key conviction of the Jim Crow era — namely, that the races just don’t mix well. That they have their own customs, their own ways, and they should get on with it, separately. ‘Separate but equal’, as the Jim Crow ideology put it.

Tribalism has been the predominant state of affairs for nearly all of human history, as has population growth limited by food production. The last two centuries, of individualism and abundance, are the exception. But for how long?