Black Quotidian: Everyday History in African-American Newspapers

October 4, 1969

Guest post by Vincent Wiedemann, undergraduate student at Manhattan College.

On October 4, 1969, the New York Amsterdam News ran a tongue-in-check article by “Chester West” detailing how police sergeant Steve Zastenchik had filed a complaint with the State Human Commission in White Plains. His complaint was that he was denied a promotion to lieutenant because of his “color and national origin.” Zastenchik had been a member of the police force for nineteen years at this point and was upset he had not been promoted after placing extremely well on the civil service exam for lieutenant. He believed that he had not been promoted based on the fact that he was white and Russian.

What is interesting about the article is that a white man was claiming discrimination in the police force at the end of the 1960s, a period where racial tensions were high. It mentions that the number of black police officers getting promotions was greatly increasing. As more black citizens gained position in police departments across the nation, they began to help close the divide between races but also invoked some jealousy from other groups who wanted to climb the ranks of police departments and society. Some such as Sergeant Zastenchik felt they were being mistreated as a result. 

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