[Marxism] The new Jim Crow

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Tue Mar 27 13:01:55 MDT 2012

     The New Jim Crow
     How the War on Drugs Gave Birth to a Permanent American 
     By Michelle Alexander

     Ever since Barack Obama lifted his right hand and took his 
oath of office, pledging to serve the United States as its 44th 
president, ordinary people and their leaders around the globe have 
been celebrating our nation’s “triumph over race.”  Obama’s 
election has been touted as the final nail in the coffin of Jim 
Crow, the bookend placed on the history of racial caste in America.

     Obama’s mere presence in the Oval Office is offered as proof 
that “the land of the free” has finally made good on its promise 
of equality.  There’s an implicit yet undeniable message embedded 
in his appearance on the world stage: this is what freedom looks 
like; this is what democracy can do for you.  If you are poor, 
marginalized, or relegated to an inferior caste, there is hope for 
you.  Trust us.  Trust our rules, laws, customs, and wars.  You, 
too, can get to the promised land.

     Perhaps greater lies have been told in the past century, but 
they can be counted on one hand.  Racial caste is alive and well 
in America.

     Most people don’t like it when I say this.  It makes them 
angry.  In the “era of colorblindness” there’s a nearly fanatical 
desire to cling to the myth that we as a nation have “moved 
beyond” race.  Here are a few facts that run counter to that 
triumphant racial narrative:

     *There are more African American adults under correctional 
control today -- in prison or jail, on probation or parole -- than 
were enslaved in 1850, a decade before the Civil War began.

     *As of 2004, more African American men were disenfranchised 
(due to felon disenfranchisement laws) than in 1870, the year the 
Fifteenth Amendment was ratified, prohibiting laws that explicitly 
deny the right to vote on the basis of race.

     * A black child born today is less likely to be raised by 
both parents than a black child born during slavery.  The recent 
disintegration of the African American family is due in large part 
to the mass imprisonment of black fathers.

     *If you take into account prisoners, a large majority of 
African American men in some urban areas have been labeled felons 
for life.  (In the Chicago area, the figure is nearly 80%.) These 
men are part of a growing undercaste -- not class, caste -- 
permanently relegated, by law, to a second-class status.  They can 
be denied the right to vote, automatically excluded from juries, 
and legally discriminated against in employment, housing, access 
to education, and public benefits, much as their grandparents and 
great-grandparents were during the Jim Crow era.


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