Melissa Harris Perry of MSNBC and DeWayne Wickam of USA Today believe a recent incident in a Charleston, South Carolina restaurant shows we're not as far removed from the Jim Crow south as we might like to believe. Let me say upfront that the behavior of the restaurant's manager is shocking. You treat 25 would be paying customers as second class citizens because they make one customer feel uncomfortable? That is racism and there is no denying it. And I will agree with Wickam that if the facts as described are true, the restaurant's response has been inadequate. However, to label this as any type of extension of Jim Crow is a reach, at best.
The fact that this episode is producing the outrage it is shows how far removed we are from Jim Crow era, when this happened every day in the South and was government sanctioned.And how often do we hear of these racist episodes? Not very often. Racism will never be vanquished, not white racism against blacks or black racism against whites (more on that in a moment). The Charleston restaurant that allowed this to happen deserves every bit of the bad publicity it's getting. But to be intentionally redundant on the point, they're getting this attention because these instances are so rare. Now, how much national attention do you think an episode in Waukesha will get where a white bus driver told a passenger not to talk to her that way because she's "short, fat and black?" Oh wait, that's NOT what happened.
Is this as serious an incident as the one in Charleston? No, it isn't. Is it racism? And how viral would this video be right now if the race roles in this case were reversed?