The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration and the War on Drugs
From the 1880s into the 1960s, a majority of American states enforced segregation through "Jim Crow" laws. From Delaware to California, and from North Dakota to Texas, many states could impose legal punishments on people for consorting with members of another race. The most common types of laws forbade intermarriage and ordered business owners and public institutions to keep their black and white clientele separated. The overall point of the laws were to keep blacks oppressed. It is hard to believe that something like this could still be going on, but it is. Today in the era of “colorblindness”, the system of mass incarceration has emerged as a strikingly comprehensive and well-disguised system similar to the Jim Crow.
The concept of race is a relatively new development brought on by European imperialism. After slavery black men were actually able to win their right and be treated as equal to whites for the most part. However beginning in the 1890s racism starts to take route and we get the Jim Crow Laws. In a depression racked 1890s “racism appeled to whites who feared losing their jobs to blacks (Steward).” This fear began a racial caste system known as the Jim Crow Laws “was more than a series of rigid anti-black laws, it was a way of life (What Was Jim Crow).” Under Jim Crow African-American were regulated under the status of second class citizens. The laws consisted of the following:
a. Blacks and whites were not supposed to eat together. If they did eat together, whites were to be served first, and some sort of partition was to be placed between them.
b. Blacks were not allowed to show public affection toward one another in public, especially kissing, because it offended whites.
c. Jim Crow etiquette prescribed that blacks were introduced to whites, never whites to blacks. For example: "Mr. Peters (the white person), this is Charlie (the black person), that I spoke to you about."
The Civil Right Act of 1964 worked to dismantle the Jim Crow system of discrimination in voting, employment and education (Alexander 38). When this movement the number of African-Americans registered to vote in the south skyrocketed between 1964 and 1969 (Alexander 38). However voting was only part of the problem, African Americans still had to deal with the issue of poverty and unemployment, therefore in August of in 1963 activist organized the March on Washington for Economic Freedom. This brought President Kennedys attention to the issue and he began working towards eradicating poverty. With the Civil Rights Movement having so much success it was easy to believe the nations racial equilibrium had been disrupted (Alexander 38-39). However, African American period “in the sun” was short lived.
Imagine you are twenty- seven year old Kelly Whyte, a single African-American mother, with a three year old son. You are arrested along with six other as part of a drug sweep. You are innocent. You m...