Posts Tagged ‘race’

new jim crowLaw professor Michelle Alexander wrote a book called The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, which has become not only a surprise best seller since its paperback version came out in January 2012, but arguably THE definitive book on mass incarceration, particularly of men of color.

From the New York Times: “The book marshals pages of statistics and legal citations to argue that the get-tough approach to crime that began in the Nixon administration and intensified with Ronald Reagan’s declaration of the war on drugs has devastated black America.

“Today… nearly one-third of black men are likely to spend time in prison at some point, only to find themselves falling into permanent second-class citizenship after they get out… Professor Alexander’s book [asserts] that the crackdown was less a response to the actual explosion of violent crime than a deliberate effort to push back the gains of the civil rights movement.”

Our church studied the book in February during the Adult Education hour. In brief, Alexander shows an imperfect, but palpable, link from slavery to the Jim Crow laws that took effect, from after the American Civil War to perhaps a half century ago. That was followed by a NEW Jim Crow of mass incarceration, where the number of people in prison in the United States grew from about 300,000 in 1970 to over 2 million by 2000.

Check out Uneven Justice: State Rates of Incarceration By Race and Ethnicity and Breaking Down Mass Incarceration in the 2010 Census: State-by-State Incarceration Rates by Race/Ethnicity.

Moreover, that mass incarceration has had a devastating effect on communities. From the book:

What has changed since the collapse of Jim Crow has less to do with the basic structure of our society than with the language we use to justify it. In the era of colorblindness, it is no longer socially permissible to use race, explicitly, as a justification for discrimination, exclusion, and social contempt. So we don’t. Rather than rely on race, we use our criminal justice system to label people of color “criminals” and then engage in all the practices we supposedly left behind.

Today it is perfectly legal to discriminate against criminals in nearly all the ways that it was once legal to discriminate against African Americans. Once you’re labeled a felon, the old forms of discrimination—employment discrimination, housing discrimination, denial of the right to vote, denial of educational opportunity, denial of food stamps and other public benefits, and exclusion from jury service—are suddenly legal. As a criminal, you have scarcely more rights, and arguably less respect, than a black man living in Alabama at the height of Jim Crow. We have not ended racial caste in America; we have merely redesigned it.

The problem with having read this book is that, once you’ve done that, you know the basic premise to be self-evidently true, and don’t understand why EVERYONE doesn’t know this. The one saving grace is that, when Alexander first started investigating the issue early in this century, SHE hadn’t connected the dots either.

I will note that the author occasionally repeats the narrative, I reckon, so that she’s certain the reader gets the point she’s making. But these are important points. Moreover, the issues are still taking place. Read Jails: Time to Wake Up to Mass Incarceration in Your Neighborhood.

When we were investigating some aspects of black history this year at church, I was intrigued by the fact that, for a time in the mid-17th century, slavery based on race wasn’t really codified in the United States. There were white indentured servants and black slaves, but the former were often given ever-changing terms of servitude, making them functionally little better off than slaves.

In the 1670s, Bacon’s Rebellion “demonstrated that poor whites and poor blacks could be united in a cause. This was a great fear of the ruling class — what would prevent the poor from uniting to fight them? This fear hastened the transition to racial slavery.”

The status of blacks in Virginia slowly changed over the last half of the 17th century. Read the rest of this entry »

Pie-Chart-39
Delayed exoneration of a death row inmate, after 30 years.

9 Things Many Americans Just Don’t Grasp (Compared to the Rest of the World).

“The phone rang. It was my college rapist.”

What Happens When Mein Kampf’s Copyright Expires?

Building Equity: Race, Ethnicity, Class and Protected Bike Lanes.

Giving Homes to the Homeless is Cheaper Than Leaving them on the Street.

Man vs. Machine. A guy walks into a bar. He finds a video poker machine – run by the Oregon state lottery – which dealt him a strange hand.

Re: NCAA men’s basketball March Madness, the odds of a perfect bracket? It’s not 1 in 9.2 quintillion. Read the rest of this entry »

Two-people-talking-logoThere’s an interview with Larry Wilmore, former Daily Show with Jon Stewart “senior black correspondent,” who is now hosting “The Nightly Show With Larry Wilmore,” on Comedy Central, taking the slot vacated by The Colbert Show when Steve Colbert agreed to replace David Letterman on CBS later this year.

The bits that jumped out at me were these:

Growing up mainly in a white environment, I knew I was always different, too…

One of my early stand-up bits was called “Black Away.” Read the rest of this entry »

Abraham Joshua Heschel walks with Martin Luther King Jr. on civil rights march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama. Courtesy of the American Jewish Archives

Abraham Joshua Heschel walks with Martin Luther King Jr. on civil rights march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama. Courtesy of the American Jewish Archives

Arthur the AmeriNZ sent me an article about the new Speaker of the Nevada state assembly, Ira Hansen, and notes: “This guy obviously endorses the current Republican meme about how the relationship of blacks and the Democratic Party is akin to that of master and slave. I’d love to see your take on that, um, interesting propaganda point.”

Specifically: “[Hansen] wrote that African-Americans are insufficiently grateful for being given their freedom: ‘The lack of gratitude and the deliberate ignoring of white history in relation to eliminating slavery is a disgrace that Negro leaders should own up to.'”
Read the rest of this entry »

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