If a time machine took me to the era of slavery of the 1960s, I do not think I would be able to cite many differences between those times and the one we currently live in. The practices of today reflect those of times past. Specifically, I’m alluding to mass incarceration and police brutality.
In one of my favorite books, The New Jim Crow, Michelle Alexander brilliantly compares contemporary mass incarceration to the racialized caste system created by the Jim Crow laws. The author poetically articulates, “…I came to see that mass incarceration in the United States emerge as a stunningly comprehensive and well-disguised system of racialized social control that functions in a manner strikingly similar to Jim Crow.” The whole point of these 1877 Jim Crow laws were to relegate blacks to second-class citizenship and cause them to been seen as unequal. This is exactly what mass incarceration achieves, and at alarming rates. Alexander’s book reads, “The United States imprisons a larger percentage of its black population than South Africa did at the height of apartheid.” The United States mass incarcerates blacks to segregate and cause their existence to disappear from mainstream society, similar to the agenda of Jim Crow laws. Once released, blacks are still disadvantaged. Denying blacks the right to vote, disbarring them from juries, and forcing them to have fewer employment prospects, mass incarceration serves as the new Jim Crow because it ensures that a group of people is endlessly disadvantaged and subordinate as a result of their skin color.
The point of the Jim Crow laws were to marginalize huge segments of the black community and then allow for discrimination against them in education, employments, public benefits, housing, and voting. All of these disgusting goals are achieved by contemporary mass incarceration. In addition, “more than half of young black men in large American cities are under the control of the criminal justice system or saddled with criminal records.” This is not a product of poverty or poor choices, which is what most Americans like to believe, but is the product of this new racial caste system reminiscent of the Jim Crow laws.
Moreover, modern police brutality serves as the equivalent of the past practice of lynching. Instead of nooses and mobs of racist supremacists, guns at the hands of policemen kill innocent, unarmed blacks. Parallels between the two are also drawn as similar to the violent mobs, police officers who kill unarmed blacks are usually never punished.
Also, classmate Claire Gibbs discusses the film Cornbread, Earl and Me. Cornbread, an innocent black youth fatally shot by police, embodies Trayvon Martin. Both black and innocent, both were killed by policemen. This seems no different than the lynching of young black boy, Jesse Washington. Similar to mass incarceration embodying the Jim Crow laws, contemporary police brutality is the embodiment of lynching. The opening statements of this post regarding the time machine may have alarmed some of you, but after reading this, I hope you understand my sentiments.