5 Wild Loopholes People Used To Beat Rigged Systems
Americans have more freedom than ever. Minorities (sometimes) have to be served by bigots, workers are allowed to think about unionizing, and even trans people can maybe use the bathroom they prefer (in some places). But we haven't always enjoyed such privileges. Throughout history, the powerful have found ways to disadvantage the weak. And those disadvantaged folks have in turn found clever ways to turn the tables, exploiting the rules laid down to exploit them. For example ...
Jim-Crow-Era African-Americans Avoided Racism By Wearing Turbans
Muslims haven't had a great time in America since 2001. Actually, any brown person wearing a turban hasn't been super happy, since racists think any bit of cloth on the head "makes them look like terrorists." So it's kind of weird, then, that once upon a time in America, people wore turbans to avoid being racially profiled.
During the Jim Crow era, Indians were considered "exotic" instead of just "inferior." That was a big plus for them, as it meant they were exempt from the crude, nonsensical segregation laws. But how did a dumb racist think they could recognize these rare, exotic Indian people? By their turbans, of course. So when Sri Lankan scholar Chandra Dharma Sena Gooneratne noticed how badly his other Asian colleagues were being treated, he gave them some clever advice: "Any Asiatic can evade the whole issue of color in America by winding a few yards of linen around his head. A turban makes anyone an Indian."
But the turban trick didn't only work for Asians. As black Lutheran minister Jesse Routte put it, "I was Jim Crowed here, Jim Crowed there, Jim Crowed all over the place ... And I didn't like being Jim Crowed." So the next time Routte went to Alabama, he threw a turban on his head and started speaking with a Swedish accent. His strange array of racial markers worked like a charm, and confused white people so much that they jumbled their racism and started treating him like foreign royalty.
Similarly, the first black man to have his own TV show did so by pretending to be an Indian guy named Korla Pandit. Born John Roland Redd, he originally changed his name to Juan Rolando to get a job at a radio station. When the ever-fickle white people decided they now hated Mexicans too, he became Korla Pandit the Indian and dodged the uncertain hand of racism once again.
Gay Couples Adopted Each Other For Legal Protection
Up until a few years ago, only straight people were allowed to marry each other and get shared dental and vision coverage across the nation -- just as God intended. But if all those gay lovers weren't allowed to legally marry, they had to find another way for the state to acknowledge them as a family. Like, say, adoption.
As both a gay man and a black man, Bayard Rustin double-dipped in the Civil Rights Movement, championing rights for two oppressed minorities at a time when doing it for one was considered a bit much by most people. He even taught MLK about civil disobedience (though apparently not how to be cool about gay people). But while black civil rights took great strides in his era, even in 1977, Rustin wasn't able to marry his boyfriend Walter Naegle. So instead he adopted his young bae.
This was a common practice among gay couples after the legalization of adult adoption in the '50s. Besides merely wanting to put a ring on it, marriage also comes with a lot of legal protections -- one of the biggest being leaving your inheritance, tax-free, to your family. So for gay couples to financially protect each other in case the worst happened, adoption was the next-best thing; bequeathing riches to a "child" works very similarly to a spouse. Also, it legally enables you to send your loved one to their room without supper until they apologize, a feature sorely missing in regular marriage.
But adopting one's lover (for civil rights, not like Woody Allen) has its own complications. When Olive Watson, the granddaughter of the founder of IBM, adopted her older girlfriend Patricia Spado, they thought their love would last forever. Sadly, their love only lasted a year. What did last forever? The adoption papers. Adoption, contrary to marriage, is the true "til death do us part," because you can't divorce your kid. So even when Watson and Spado separated, they legally remained mother and daughter. When Watson's mother died and a portion of her large fortune was divided among her grandchildren, that included the adopted Spado. We should be glad that gay couples can finally do away with this weirdly incestuous loophole, and now enjoy the most important and blessed part of a legal marriage: the no-contest divorce.
Black People Hired White People To Buy Houses In Good Neighborhoods
Before the Fair Housing Act of 1968 made it a little more difficult for the redcaps of the world to (explicitly) segregate their boring suburbs, it was almost impossible for a nice black family to buy a house in a white neighborhood. So some black families figured that if realtors wanted a white buyer, they would get a white buyer ... right up until the signing of the papers.
A lot of things are determined based on where you live -- access to jobs, access to schools, access to a decent guilt-free soy latte on your way to yoga. So during segregation, keeping nonwhites out of good neighborhoods (which was totally legal), was a big part of keeping minorities oppressed. To counter that, some black families started employing what playwright Kirsten Greenidge calls "ghost buying."
In Greenidge's grandmother's case, she bought herself a nice house in Arlington, Massachusetts with the help of a Stepford-wife-looking friend. The friend served as a ghost buyer -- a white person used by nonwhite families as racism decoys, so they could buy houses in white neighborhoods. Posing as her friend's servant, Grandma Greenidge toured the house with the realtor none the wiser. Then, presumably after talk about craft beer and avocados had lulled the sellers into a false sense of white security, she had her friend buy the house for her, giving her and her family the opportunities that came along with it. And also the satisfaction of knowing you just duped some dingbat into doing the decent thing.
A Funk Band Beat Spotify's Poor Payments With The Sound Of Silence
With Spotify's average payout being around $0.006 and $0.0084 per stream, it's easy to see why some artists view it as a "smelly banana," i.e. a terrible way to pay your rent. There just aren't enough waking hours for fans of small bands to make a living on Spotify. That's exactly what Michigan-based retro funk ban Vulfpeck figured when they released their 2014 album Sleepify, an album of ten 30-second tracks of utter silence. Vulfpeck encouraged fans to repeatedly stream such hits as "Zzz" and "Zzzzz" overnight while sleeping, working, and whenever they weren't jamming to Dave Matthews' deep cuts.
The album was an overnight success, so to speak, and the band managed to earn $20,000 in royalties, which they promised to use to fund a free tour. Spotify, of course, didn't like this, and took down the album after two months. But if you like that stick-it-to-the-man attitude, maybe you should check out Vulfpeck's music. And who knows, if you like it, you could maybe pay for it? No no, that doesn't sound right.
The Chinese Restaurant Boom Was An Immigration Loophole
Despite the important role that Chinese immigrants played in building vital U.S. infrastructure like the transcontinental railroad, by the early 1900s, America decided it no longer needed them. As such, Chinese laborers were essentially barred from immigrating and becoming citizens, and those already in couldn't risk leaving the U.S. for fear of being told to stay out.
But there was one exception to these draconian policies. Chinese business owners were allowed special merchant visas to travel back home and recruit migrant workers. The only problem was that to prevent Asians from opening shill stores in order to reunite with their friends, the only eligible businesses were far out of reach for poor nonwhites. Until a new business made the list: restaurants.
In 1915, the addition of restaurants to the merchant visa list suddenly created a legal way for Chinese-born residents to get their loved ones into the U.S. The only problem was that restaurants had to be "high-grade," which meant they needed to hire a full-time manager who wasn't allowed to do any kind of work in the restaurant. To get around this, groups of Chinese folks would pool their resources to open fancy "chop suey palaces," and take turns living the American dream (i.e. being the boss and doing nothing).
Every year, one of the partners would be crowned the new manager and would go back to China for their friends and family. Those friends and family members would then work in the restaurant until they could afford to buy a stake in their own restaurant. And so on and so forth until all those Chinese immigrants overran America, tore apart the very fabric of society and ate all the American children. Or, y'know, they became valuable members of our melting pot society.
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