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Being a Teen in the 50s…as a Black Guy


You ever see one of those hipster Tumblr collages that talk about what people wish they were doing? Like saying that they wish they were laid up with someone, or that they wish they went on a certain type of vacation. Well there’s one that’s fairly common and extremely controversial and that’s the post that says “I wish I was a teen in the 50s.” This collage usually consists of three or four pictures that show a bunch of 50s teens at the beach or at a malt shop. Now this does sound like an awful lot of fun; if you’re white. Yes this is something that only white people on social media seem to entertain and even a good portion of them thinks it makes no sense. So I figure I’ll provide a black narrative to this trend.

Let’s say I was a teen in the 50s, I would be in the midst of the Jim Crow Era, which would mean I couldn’t go to the malt shops or the beaches in those pictures. If I tried to I’d be arrested and possibly beaten. But it was such a lovely time period right? Well how about the fact that going to the South would be basically like willingly living in prison. I would be able to sit on a decent bus seat and I’d be in fear of the Klu Klux Klan; the scary ones with torches, not the drunken ones that protest over flags. I couldn’t receive a decent education because I’d have to go through a subpar and segregated educational system. But you have the privilege of being white so why would you be worried about that? But let’s move past the obvious segregationist aspects of the 50s. Let’s talk about how polio was still a thing back then, or the fact that women were still treated like second class citizens and housewives; it didn’t matter if they were white or not.

Looks like fun (via
Looks like fun…(via

Thankfully these pictures aren’t circulated much anymore, but the fact that this was not only a trend, but a popular trend, is something that concerns me. The lack of education and acknowledgement of the dark things that occurred during that time are just as concerning. To look at a time period based purely on a few pictures of some white kids at a diner and a beach. What’s equally as crazy is the amount of women who say they want to go back to the 50s. The 50s were not a forgiving time for women and minorities so it confounds me that anyone from either one would ever find this time period idyllic. Luckily these photos have been ridiculed for their naïve view of a dark time period in American history. It’s been a while since any of these photos have popped up and any remaining photos mostly appear on Facebook, but the deep rooted ignorance in the intention of the post is concerning and makes one wonder how one could see the bright side in a time that was do dark.

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