Ever felt that you had your rights violated? I had a recent experience that I would like to relate.
Imagine taking your children to an amusement park. After seven hours, your family runs out to the car. You and your group get the required hand stamp for re-entry before exiting. On the way back in you get stopped. You are told that you can’t re-enter the park. Staff points out that one of your child’s friends is of a different race than you. They say that child can’t possibly be a legitimate member of your group.
They demand that you prove that you are the legal guardian of the child. Of course, you admit that you are just the caretaker for the day. In response to your truthfulness, you are told that you must leave the park immediately.
This park’s policy requires that you be a parent or guardian of all children in your group. The policy does not go into effect until 6 p.m.
After spending several hundred dollars, you are being dismissed for a policy you don’t understand. It feels like you are receiving punishment for being with a person of a different race.
Is this incident a misunderstanding or an injustice?
A misunderstanding is a failure to understand something correctly causing a quarrel. Injustice is a violation of legal rights.
I felt that targeting a child due to his skin color was wrong. I called the police and disputed the policy itself. There was some obvious misunderstanding about the policy and how it should be enforced.
Fortunately, an officer from the police department was present. The officer (also a staff member) and manager of security told the park personnel to let us back into the park.
The rest of my trip was soured by the incident. I drove home surrounded with an angry group of children complaining about the violation of their civil rights. I promised them I would research the matter.
The children were right. Federal and state laws prohibit discrimination based on race in places that are considered “public accommodations.”
The federal code reads “All persons shall be entitled to the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, and accommodations of any place of public accommodation, as defined in this section, without discrimination or segregation on the ground of race, color, religion, or national origin.”
I approached the corporate management of the amusement park. I received an apology for every aspect of the issue.
It was good to see the actual problem solved. Strange though, I didn’t really feel better.
Then they refunded my money and gave me a package of additional tickets to attend the park later. They promised that it would never happen again.
Now I felt a lot better! The kids were happy too.
This incident spurred me to consider the recent Congressional hearings on reparations. In the United States, our laws are based upon the idea that we all have equal rights. We call that justice. In a Constitutional Republic like ours, injustice requires violation of someone’s established rights.
We are having national talks about reparations because we are considering making amends for the rampant violation of the rights of black Americans up until the 1970s. I am not sure that slavery reaches that legal and Constitutional threshold.
But I am extremely sure that the “Jim Crow” laws and northern segregation policies of the early twentieth century do. Those policies and laws were a clear-cut violation of established Constitutional rights for all who were affected by them.
I know that as a society we have created better laws and worked to keep them. I just want you to consider that emotionally we have not made it better.
Before some of you begin screaming “victimhood” I want you to consider how the white child with me felt having his civil rights violated based on his skin tone. Do you support that?
Just like that white child deserved to be compensated for his loss of his rights, so do those people that lived through Jim Crow. Just give it some thought.
I guarantee you we will have other chances to talk about this.
Rachel Stovall is a longtime community advocate and organizer. Also a fundraising, media and marketing consultant, Stovall is most known for singing with her dance band Phat Daddy and the Phat Horn Doctors.