Social Control and Coping Mechanisms for the Silver Roll

The chain link fence around the “American Cemetery” in Corozal today is
reminiscent of the chain link fence of the Canal Zone

As our history of the Silver People unfolds these crucial times would become marked by a first generation of Westindian youth that would seek to develop their own coping mechanisms for the progressively tighter and systematic forces of social control imposed by the Canal Zone authorities. Since they had been born into a system that rejected them from birth to the grave they found some creative as well as direct and indirect ways of countering these negative forces in their lives. Many countered, if they could, by simply refusing to work on the Canal Zone.

The “Silver Roll” brand of separation that degraded and limited them as persons had been a treatment the older folks and their parents had experienced first hand since the 1850’s. But, by the time this first generation reached adolescence during the 20th century many were not so willing to accept this double standard treatment, especially as they noticed how the white adolescents their same age on the American Canal Zone seemed to enjoy watching their degradation.

The Panamanian side of the fence would not be much different in their view of the Blacks who they, the “Latinos,” had made little effort to know or understand- people who had been in their midst, working, raising families, living with them as neighbors, contributing largely to their economy, worshiping with them, etc., since before the Republican Era.

Westindian Blacks from both sides of the “fence”- the legendary chain link fence that the American Canal Zone governance had constructed around their Canal Zone parameters- visited and joined each other’s Lodges, Churches, Sports and Social Clubs and other entertainment and social activities. Since we are talking about youth, dances and parties on both sides of the fence (Panama side and Canal Zone) hosted Black youths who would, much later in the century, find themselves attending the same Panamanian public educational system.

In the meanwhile the American segregationist system had control of all the U.S. Armed Forces and the Court System and had placed the Panama Canal Zone under their respective policies of control and governance. This system would use all its powers to segregate the much needed Black employees, much more than they did with any other persons of color from any other part of the world who sought to be employed under their system. Racial segregation became a way of life on that Zone, a system designed especially for the degradation and control of Black Americans and Westindian professionals.

By now, the successive governments had allocated economic resources for educating the White American children in the Gold Roll schools while the Black Silver schools also began emerging within the Black townships of the Canal Zone at about the same time. In our next post we will delve into the evolution of the “Silverschools as part and parcel of social control in and around the boundaries of the Panama Canal Zone.

This story continues.

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