In The New Jim Crow, Michelle Alexander (2012) asserts that the effects of slavery and Jim Crow laws continue to be felt today, with institutional racism creating barriers for minorities in every aspect of their lives. United States history has evolved from a “racial caste system based entirely on exploitation (slavery), to one based largely on subordination (Jim Crow), to one defined by marginalization (mass incarceration)” (Alexander, 2012, p. 219). White backlash resulting from civil rights victories are currently evident in the War on Drugs, legalized racial profiling by police, and laws that permit discrimination against criminals following conviction (Alexander, 2012). U.S. Presidents, as recently as Reagan, Clinton, the Bushes and even Obama, use coded language and implement programs to appease the dominant (White) race (Alexander, 2012). Reagan’s opening campaign speech at the site of the murder of three civil rights activists; Bush Sr.’s opposition of civil rights and affirmative action enforcement, and continuation of the War on Drugs; Clinton’s colossal expansion of federal and state prisons and approval of discriminatory housing practices for convicts; Bush Jr.’s unjust election; and Obama’s rejuvenation of the COPS and Byrne grant programs; all follow the politics of oppression for minorities and the protection of White supremacy (Alexander, 2012).
This argument is supported by the infographic outlining the school-to-prison pipeline. These staggering facts concerning the treatment of minority children within our country’s educational system, combined with the statistics evidencing a glaring overpopulation of Blacks and Latinos in the U.S. prison system, are blatant evidence that racial oppression has not yet been remedied. In The Hunted and the Hated, it is made quite obvious that the New York Police Department’s (NYPD) stop-and-frisk program forced officers to violate the rights of hundreds of thousands of innocent citizens, the majority of them minorities (Tuttle & Schneider, 2012). Under threats of punishment and retaliation, NYPD officers admit to being obligated to increase their unlawful searches of citizens on the street, and these officers often abuse their power by intimidation or using violence and disrespectful language during these frisks.
Angela Davis perfectly summizes this week’s material by stating that, “slavery has not yet been abolished” (Davis, 2003). The current state of affairs in the United States strips so many minorities of their basic rights after being convicted of a crime, a direct result of the continued influence of White dominance in our institutions. Slavery banned Blacks from voting, testifying against a White person, or sitting on a jury, and the current prison industrial complex in the United States serves the same function – creating “civil death” for minorities (Davis, 2003). Minorities are stopped, searched, arrested, and imprisoned at a much higher rate than Whites, and are also given harsher punishments at sentencing. This racialization of punishment has not lessened since slavery and Jim Crow laws were abolished. The opinions, attitudes, and concerns of so many minorities have been silenced throughout history, with forms of legal oppression and discrimination pervading every aspect of our society.
Alexander, M. (2012). The new Jim Crow: Mass incarceration in the age of colorblindness (2nd ed.). New York, NY: The New Press.
Davis, A. (2003, September 19). Slavery and the prison industrial complex [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yQ2cC7LHMxA
The Nation. (2012, October 8). Stopped-and-Frisked: ‘For Being a F**king Mutt’ [VIDEO] [Video file]. Retrieved from http://www.thenation.com/article/170413/stopped-and-frisked-being-fking-mutt-video