Posts Tagged ‘race’

Little Rock, 1957

Little Rock, 1957

At my relatively diverse, but still primarily white, church, I am the de facto organizer for Black History Month each February. I’ve noticed that 2016 will mark the 90th anniversary of what what was Negro History Week, designed by Carter G. Woodson in 1926. “Besides building self-esteem among blacks, [it] would help eliminate prejudice among whites.”

I think the argument that the United States is “post-racial”, now that Barack Obama has been elected President twice, has been pretty well negated by the events of the past six years. There are those who will seriously argue that because Obama, and for that matter, actress Halle Berry, had white mothers, they shouldn’t be considered black. Anyone passingly aware of the historic obsessive nature of the US government to define race Read the rest of this entry »

guns.AmericaTackling more Ask Roger Anything questions, where a theme seemed to emerge:

New York Erratic wants to know:

What is the #1 thing that annoys you on social media?

Mostly that so much of it is so banal. I post these blog posts to my Facebook and Twitter and get a few comments. I write, in response to an Esquire clickbait article, “If you think I’m going to click on this 80 times, you’re crazy;” it’s gotten over 120 likes, many of them in recent days.

Sometimes, though, it does some good. Which nicely segues to…
***
Jaquandor muses:

I often hear calls for “a national conversation” to deal with Big Issues. What would a “national conversation” look like?

Since we can’t seem to agree on simple concepts, such as facts about science, I think the “national conversations” bubble up in ways that I don’t think can possibly be entirely controlled.
Read the rest of this entry »

police.public_corruption_1In light of all of the recent incidents involving young black men and the police in America, it got me to wondering how I managed to luck out and largely avoid confrontations with them. Growing up, I have no specific recollection of dealing with police much at all. Of course, I was a “good” kid, but that didn’t always inoculate one from confrontation.

There a Facebook friend of mine, who’s about a decade older than I, who went my church when I was a youth, who tells an ugly tale about him and cop, a doughnut on the ground not dropped by him, and the abusive language from the cop. And he was surely a “good” kid.

During some antiwar demonstrations, I do recall moving quickly to avoid teargas, or police on horses, or the like, but those were in mass demonstrations.

As an adult, most of my dealings with the police have been as a victim of crime Read the rest of this entry »

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 »

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