GLBTQ+ Bare History Month: Breaking Bare-iers! Part 2
In everyday vernacular “barrier” is often interpreted as a blockage, an impediment and/or a challenge that must be overcome. In today’s title, bare-ier, is intended to imply that we are breaking (destroying, eliminating. eradicating, removing) the perceived challenge to being bare (clothes free, naked, nude). ReNude Pride is truly one “safe space” for being bare!
Today’s post: “Breaking Bare-iers! Part 2 focuses on the early days of the art of photography and the gradual desegregation of the races of the camera’s subjects. This posting concentrates primarily on the United States. Since the end of the USA Civil War and the emancipation of all slaves in 1865, official and unofficial practices were adopted throughout the USA that continued the separation of the races. Freedom was for everyone, however, Caucasians were “freer” than African-American and Native American populations. For the most part, African-Americans were pictured with only African-Americans; Caucasians with other Caucasians; and the Native Americans (Indians) the same.
Bare or clothed, the accepted and expected routine was identical. In the majority of states, including all of the south, the interaction or mixing of races was very strictly forbidden. The southern states all had very severe penalties for any violation of this practice. Of course, the severity of the crime and punishment depended on the race of the offender.
This policy also extended to any magazines and/or periodicals available in the states. Some publications that contained any combination of the differing races were denied distribution and banned from those regions.
This policy endured as widespread in the USA up until shortly after the conclusion of World War II. The middle of the 20th century brought the rise of the equal rights movement and the restrictions against racial harmony slowly began to relax. The interaction between the soldiers during the conflict and the actual integration (combination) of the armed forces in 1948, under then-President Truman, helped to erode the barrier between the races and ethnicities.
Throughout the south, however, early images depicting the races together – bare or clothes – were still seen as scandalous and remained prohibited. The appearance of these pictures today would be determined tokenism as they frequently contained only one African-American or Native American in a group of Caucasians – never the reverse.
In many instances, this practice remains true, even today in the 21st century. The lesson this country still needs to absorb and learn is that integration does not guarantee equality. Many people of all the races fail to see tokenism as any concern or problem.
By the 1960’s, the rapidly growing civil rights/equal rights struggle was gaining numerical support as the focus now turned more and more to the judicial branch of government to pave the way towards freedom. For too long, legislatures and politicians had failed to deliver any respite from oppression and poverty.
The turbulence of the 1960’s in the struggle for civil and human rights, the feminist cause and the protests against the Vietnam war expanded in the final year of the decade. In the summer of 1969, The Stonewall Riots happened then that opened the floodgates for the GLBTQ+ equality and personhood. The inauguration of the “Gay Power” movement into the political scene burst open the door for the inclusion of cultural, ethnic and social minorities onto the stage for “inalienable” and inherent freedom!
Pictures of interracial nudity together became less pronounced, less shocking and gained wider acceptance, even in the conservative southern states. Slowly, segregation and tokenism were replaced by the ideals of equality and harmony between the subjects of the photos. Images of an African-American and a Caucasian together, one-on-one, lost some of the disgust and repulsive reactions they once provoked.
The photographs increasingly became less formal – less “posed.” The dynamics between the subjects reflected positive interaction and relaxation. The different races gradually began to offer the concept of acquaintances and possible even friends.
Soon, the images featured actual physical contact between the interracial subjects. The old, prejudicial taboo against touching or suggestive of casual intimacy was overcome and replaced by a demonstration of humanity. The restrictive chains were gradually becoming unlocked and disappearing!
There are, even today, challenges to the barriers of ethnic and/or racial inferiority and tokenism that remain to be confronted and removed. We by no means exist in a perfect world! The triumph of equality and humanity over bigotry and hatred is a struggle that needs to be continued. Working together, the goal of success looks attainable!
Take care and stay bare!
Roger Poladopoulos/ReNude Pride
Author’s Note: The next post entry here is planned for Monday, October 18, 2021, and the proposed topic is: “Unity Day/Spirit Day!”