Segregation affected all people, because it altered their social landscape, fomented ignorance, and created insurmountable legal barriers. In Separate Pasts, Melton A. McLaurin examines the multifaceted effects of segregation not only on blacks but on whites as well. Both whites and blacks were denied access to the totality of human resources in their midst. Whites left a legacy of racism that is all but entrenched in the culture of the South. Racism remains a seemingly insurmountable barrier precisely because white citizens like those in Wade, North Carolina resisted change. Segregation perpetuated mistruths, systematically denying both white and black citizens access to information. The perpetually low rates of education and high rates poverty in the South can at least be indirectly traced to segregation. It is important to hear white impressions of segregation because of the way whites denied themselves access to the fruits of African-American culture. McLaurin's narrative is important because it shows how segregation prevented the South from achieving its highest potential economically, politically, socially, and spiritually.
In retrospect, segregation was an embarrassment to McLaurin,...
He has seen the way segregation led to differential economic situations for blacks and whites, restricting access to jobs, education, and other resources by which black families and individuals could achieve upward social mobility. Ironically, it was another McLaurin who would bring segregation to the Supreme Court: George McLaurin, a black university professor who fought for equal access to University of Oklahoma educational facilities. McLaurin won his case, a nail in the segregation coffin. The white McLaurin and author of Separate Pasts did not leave as enduring a legal legacy but reflects on the impact of segregation from his racial perspective. It is refreshing to inject self-awareness into the discourse, as white privilege is not something all whites are willing or able to recognize. McLaurin is, and his book is about how whites need to recognize why their positions of power were enforced whereas blacks were systematically oppressed.
It is painful for McLaurin to reflect on Wade and its backwardness, which he recognizes in his own parents. McLaurin frames segregation as denial of rights to all children -- black and white -- of access to friendship and the truth. As McLaurin puts it, the people of his hometown of Wade "seemed so oblivious to the forces of change that…
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