We know our places

Before 1960, Southern whites and blacks knew their places. Stepping into a bus and choosing a seat depended upon what color your skin was. Bus drivers were known to stop and tell blacks to go further back into the bus.

Black women could take white children to their breasts, but could not sleep under the same roof as white people. Blacks could work as maids and change bed linens, but could not sleep in the beds they made up. They could work as bellhops, and they could cook in hotel kitchens, but they could not eat in the dining rooms. Black people boarding passenger trains in Illinois could sit anywhere on the train, but before they got to Mississippi, all the blacks had to get up, gather their families and their belongings, and go to a separate train car, leaving only whites in their section of the train.

These laws were made by white Southerners in the Bible Belt. Many of those politicians went to church on Sunday and found justification for their discrimination from the pulpit and in the Bible.

The Southern Baptist Convention was born because Baptist Southerners wanted to keep their slaves, and they used the Scriptures to justify slavery. After the war, the Southern Baptist Convention, and other fundamentalist Christian groups, had to admit they were wrong about slavery, but they did not submit graciously. In fact, after the Civil War—which the South lost—these men were determined to enforce black and white segregation and enacted the segregation (Jim Crow) laws that lasted until the 1960s.

“We now look back on it as a form of social insanity, but it felt normal at the time. It felt normal to whites and to most blacks. The African Americans who fought to overthrow this were a tiny minority and really revolutionary and didn’t get the support of the general black public until it was pretty clear they were going to win.” (Diane McWorther “Carry Me Home”).

This was the South, baby! We all knew our places then, just as women know their places today.

We are told women can do some things in church. For instance, in some churches women can stand behind the pulpit while singing in the choir, but in other churches they cannot. A choir director told me that she could direct the choir as long as her back was to the pulpit, but that she could not turn around facing the pulpit and the congregation. Now, where is that in the Bible?

Women can walk to the pulpit to make an announcement, but must surrender the pulpit to a man when it comes time to preach the gospel. Women are told they can accept communion only from a male deacon. Well, to be exact, they do let women pass the bread and juice to the next person sitting in their row, but they cannot pass the plate of bread and juice to people behind them.

We know our places. But some of us are tired of those places. Some of us are telling our leaders that they are wrong. Some of us are holding them accountable for their segregationist attitude.

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 which gave black men and women equal rights under the law also is the Act that gave all women equal rights under the law. It came about because blacks were demanding their rights under the law. Women were the beneficiaries. Blacks made up around 14 percent of the population in 1964 (included are black women). This Civil Rights Act originally was intended for blacks only but would have given black women more rights than white women. Apparently someone realized that and included “sex” meaning gender in the Civil Rights Act, today giving 50.8 percent of the population the same rights men already had.

Will you join us? Will you tell your pastor that men and women are created equal and that you will tolerate no other teaching in the church you attend?

About bwebaptistwomenforequality

Shirley Taylor writes with humor and common sense, challenging the church body to reclaim equality for Christian women.
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3 Responses to We know our places

  1. Frances Priest says:

    🙂. Interesting!

    Sent from my iPhone


  2. Fessup says:

    The 19th Amendment was passed in 1920 but it was the Civil Rights Act in 1964 that actually allowed Black women to vote.


  3. annjones@inbox.com says:

    I was in a church where I was the only one willing willing and capable to take care of the music. I was later told that I would have to have a male technically be in charge as I was exerting too much authority over the men by choosing hymns. I am still shocked by that 30 yrs later!

    A lot of what Paul said about women was to protect the church from outsiders who didn’t want their legal issues disputed by the church to avoid bad feelings about the church. We seem to have missed that point entirely.


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