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The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration and the War on Drugs

It is hard to believe that something like this could still e 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 1 890s 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.

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Blacks were not allowed to show public affection toward one another in public, especially kissing, because it offended whites. . 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 nemployment, 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 drug sweep. You are innocent. You meet with you court appointed lawyer, after spending a week in jail-with no one to care for you children- all you want is to return home, he advises you to plead guilty, and accept the prosecutors offer of probation. You refuse because you are innocent and deserve a trail to prove it. More than a month goes by, still no trail and still in jail. Finally you decide to take the plea and not risk a year in prison.

Once accepted you are sentence to ten year probation, and ordered to pay $1,000 in fines. You now hold the label f drug felon, you cannot vote for at least twelve year, you can’t get food stamps and you are being evicted from you home. Now homeless, you son is taken into foster care. The judge eventually dismisses all charged from the case and those who didn’t plead guilty. Nothing changes for you however, still a felon, unemployed, and unable to regain custody of your child. This is the War on Drugs. The anti-drug movement took off when President Reagan launched a massive media campaign against crack-cocaine in the 1980s.

When crack began to circulate impoverished neighborhoods in the 8(Ys,the Reagan administration aunched a massive anti-drug media campaign against drugs, subsequently leading to a sharp increase in funding for the War on Drugs ( Mass Incarceration, Coughlan). Once elected Regan went through on his promise to enhance the federal government in fighting crime, by letting the Justice Department cut in half the number of specialist assigned to violent criminals and instead focused on street crime, mainly drug-law enforcement. Thus began the War on Drugs.

From 1980 to 1984 the antidrug funding for federal law enforcement went from $8 million to $98 million. In contrast the funding for agencies that provided drug treatment, education and prevention was reduced from $274 million to $57 million (Federal Drug Control Budget). In less than a decade the war on drugs went from a campaign slogan to an actual war, with a green light and all the funding police took to the streets to cleanse the United States of drugs. The main victim? Black men. Black men are five time more likely than white men to de arrested for a drug crime even though white men are more likely to use.

In less than three decades our number of incarcerated went from 350,000 o over 2. 3 million (Alexander 93). Harsh sentence is a major problem with the increase of mass incarceration, a man charged with a possession of a small amount could find himself serving the same as someone with a large amount. However prison is only part of the night mare, once related felons must try to live in a world that wants nothing to do with them. Once a person is labeled a felon, he or she is ushered into a universe where they experience discrimination, stigma, and exclusion. The rights they have as citizens are revoked such as voting and jury service.

Once you are label a felon, where you went to prison or not, you are a second class citizen. It’s no wonder that most people labeled a felon find themselves back in prison, about 30 percent (Life after Prison) will return in less than six months. This treatment is consistent with the Jim Crow Laws in the 1 960s, those who cycle in and out of our prison system are member of America’s new racial caste system. The origins of both are similar, both were introduced by lower and middle class whites who wanted to separate themselves from a growing black community (Caging of America).

In mass incarceration, onservatives wanted to appel the biases and economic vulnerable lower and working white class by racially coded messages on crime and welfare (Alexander 195). Another similarity is the legal discrimination, from the Jim Crow laws list in the beginning you can clearly see the outright racism used so blacks couldn’t find work, housing, or health care. With mass incarceration, once you are labeled a felon you will have a hard time surviving in a world turned against you. In the Jim Crow age gave black certain area they were allowed to live, which was of course the worst part of town.

They had different restaurants, school, and even water fountains. Furthermore, in the mass incarceration era we find similar segregation in prison. Prison are located miles from civilization. Prisoner themselves are main black and brown people kept behind bars away from the nice suburban towns (Caging of America). The Jim Crow laws of the 1960s and mass incarceration of black during the past three decades have very much in common. Both are a racially charged caste system designed to keep blacks oppressed.

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