Jews can relate to black fears of travel

How many of you were alive and aware when the word “restricted” was often used in reference to Jews? It applied to places like country clubs, to quotas in schools, to non-hiring policies virtually across-the-board in certain professions. Do you remember the euphemism “Jewish engineering” as applied to the college-level study of accounting?
My own father’s first degree and hoped-for career was in architectural engineering, but when he couldn’t get any job in his chosen field, he studied another; that’s how he became the doctor who was widely known among local physicians for spending those few minutes between patients perusing Architectural Digest rather than Medical Economics.
My dad was fortunate that he had the intellectual capacity to transition from one field to such a different another, and I was lucky to grow up in the house that he designed — we moved into it when I was 3 years old. I’ve visited since, and met its current owners — just the third family ever to live there; the place looks as good now as it did at its “birth” in 1937. But I must admit that a level of bitterness permeated my father’s life, and he was forever tinkering with the house (my mother said her life was always lived over a quarter-inch of sawdust!), or being busy helping someone else with some building project.
But in retrospect, our Jewish restrictions pale beside those of American blacks in those even earlier years when intense, demeaning and dangerous segregation ruled their lives. Colson Whitehead’s much anticipated new book, Underground Railroad, will be out next month to remind us all about it. But for now, and a quite different update, try The Negro Motorist Green Book.
Carvell Wallace’s recently published long article, The Negro Motorist Green Book and Black America’s Perpetual Search for a Home, will come as a shock to most of us complacent whites. The author begins by telling how he thought about it in 2007, when a long winter road trip involved his driving across Nebraska in the middle of a blizzard.
Victor H. Greene created this book in 1936, Wallace writes, tongue-in-cheek, because “Black people wanted to enjoy the vast American landscape, but had to take into account inconveniences like being refused service, spat on, or lynched.” Following the lead of Jewish newspapers, which he reports “…had long published comprehensive listings of establishments for readers to avoid…,” Greene’s travel guide named “restaurants, gas stations, museums, hotels, guest homes, grocery stores … that readers would feel safe being black in.”
The Dallas friend who called my attention to this piece is very much white. “The story crossed my Facebook ‘desk’ on the same day as a story about how ‘white’ the gifted and talented program at Booker T. has grown over the years,” she said. Of course she already knew that Booker T. Washington, now Dallas’ most renowned high school, is still in the same building in the same place where it started — as the city’s only high school for blacks. But that new information? “A fact I didn’t know at all,” she said. “I file it mentally under the category of ‘We Thought Racism Was Handled, But…’”
Her sentiment echoes the remark of writer Wallace: “There is an obvious irony in the fact that a country that obsessively congratulates itself on its freedoms … is so unsafe for its own naturally born citizens that a guidebook showing those citizens where they could safely exist within its borders was ever published.” As a black man himself, he comments, “We think about the fear we’ve felt when traveling in unknown parts, even in recent years. We know what it’s like to feel afraid of the sunset. And we know that even now, in 2016, we have no guarantee of safe passage.”
Take a look at feelings that may echo some Jewish memories; read this article:

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