Book Analysis: “The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness”
The term “Jim Crow” refers to a series laws and ordinances passed by Southern states and municipalities between 1877 and 1965 legalizing segregation (the physical separation of individuals based on race, gender, religion or class) within their boundaries. Flash forward to the 21st century when America elects a black president and this is expected to be a new era of colorblindness. However, even though America has made a huge stride by electing a black president, there are still elements of racism in the US. By the end of the 19th century, Jim Crow was synonymous to segregation and restricting the interaction of black and white people in public areas. One of the most common Jim Crow Laws made it illegal for anyone to marry someone of another race and demanded that business owners separate their customers by skin color and protected their right to legally refuse service to people because of their race. The primary objective of the Jim Crow legislation was to propagate racial segregation at both the state and local levels, with the sole target being African Americans.
“Jump Jim Crow” was a 19th century dance mocking people of color. It was later transformed in the Nineteenth and twentieth century to represent racial segregation and discrimination. Jim Crow laws were a reaction by white supremacy enthusiast to reconstruction. Before reconstruction, white had power over the black people. With reconstruction in motion, white people felt that their place in society was threatened as the black man was now their equal in society. To maintain social order, Jim Crow laws of segregation were enforced. In the decades following the end of slavery, segregation was used as a way to enforce and emphasize white supremacy. White people especially in the South believed that black people were a subordinate race and them-the whites were a superior. Following the Emancipation Proclamation 0f 1863, black people were freed from the life of slavery but White Southerners could not fully accept that the negro was finally free and so to make themselves feel superior, they enacted the Jim Crow Laws. White people felt that black people were a subordinate race, and their proximity in shops, in parks, and on trains suggested an unacceptable equality in public life. For example, in during the early 20th Century, black and white textile workers in South Carolina could not use the same door; look out using the same window or work in the same work space. Most industries refused to hire black workers as many trade and worker unions that were white dominated put up regulations to exclude black workers.
Jim Crow was a practice that took place in the US from the late 19th Century. As mentioned above, the practice led to the unequal treatment of black people. The book The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness challenges the idea that the election of black president reduced racism in the country. The book claims that segregation of the black people has not reduced, it has just been redesigned. Communities of color are decimated and targeted through war on drugs. The United States Judicial system is now functioning as a system for racial prejudice and control. The main focus in the book is how the American Judicial system uses its power to foster the 19th century Jim Crow practice.
Incarceration of black men is growing rapidly in America. There is an element of ethnocentrism as white people are believed to be the better race that is incapable of crime. White crime in America is overlooked and the white population faces less incarceration. Since time immemorial, people of color have been considered inferior. There are various preconceptions about people of color originating from the standards of the white people. The African American community has been deprived of their men. As a result, many families have lost their bread winners and there are many single mothers in the African American community. Children are forced to grow up without father figures while their mothers have to work more than one job to make ends meet.
The Incarceration of black men is a contemporary system aimed ta achieving social control. A subfield of sociology, social control studies the means via which society upholds social order and cohesion. To achieve social order mechanisms such as coercion, shame, restraint, force and persuasion are used. Social control can be exercised through institutions, individuals or even the state. In this case, social order is maintained through restraint of the African American men. The main aim of social control is to ensure that established rules and norms are followed to the letter. In some way, this system is similar to the dictatorial system. The established norms in the United States are white superiority. Through the increased incarceration of the African American man, the African American race is nipped in the bud and prevented from any form of development. They are left to forever be inferior to the white man. Social control is used when a group or individual is though to be deviant, threatening, undesirable or deviant. The white man has always felt that his place in social order is threatened by black people. As the population of black people continues to grow, the white feels more threatened and has thus resulted to the mass incarceration of African American men.
African Americans may not be working in a sugar plantation as slaves in the present day. They may not be segregated like they were back in the day but they are discriminated anyway. Discrimination of minority groups in the US has always been an issue with total equality having never been achieved. The author of The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness believes that the mass incarceration is a response to the African American win during the civil rights movement of 1965. The mass incarceration of African Americans amounted to racial injustice and denial of civil rights. To approach the matter as anything else would only give strength to this new form of Jim Crow.
The black community is marginalized together with other minority groups. African Americans have limited access to education and in the past this has been pointed out as the major factor hindering the development of African Americans. However, poverty and lack of access to education are but smaller issues compared to mass incarceration of African American men. Policies that have led to this mass incarceration are a well disguised system by one social group to the other and motivated by ethnocentrism. In 1982, President Reagan and his administration began a war on drugs that targeted the African American neighborhoods. Over the years, this war on drug has escalated and led to the highest incarceration in the whole world.
During the 1980s, the use of crack escalated in black neighborhoods to an all time high. As a result, federal authorities went to the media with this information making it public that black neighborhoods were plagued with a drug problem. This was a tactic by the federal authorities to gain support from the public. The media campaign was successful and fueled conspiracy theories that put in place plans by the government to destroy the African American population. The CIA even acknowledged that the American government was involved in the smuggling of cocaine and the distribution of the same in African American system.
To maintain social control, the U.S. justice system is prejudiced against the African American race. Class systems are important to the American government and the development of the African American is a threat to this class system that is purely based on white supremacy. When African Americans succeeded in gaining equality during the civil rights movement, white supremacy enthusiast felt that their place in the social ladder was threatened and that the African American community was a force to reckon with. From then on, African American men have been victims of targeted incarceration. As a result, African Americans will remain inferior to white people for the longest time. Their development will be at a slower rate seeing how their young men are victims of the mass incarceration. The incarceration of African Americans has little to do with the war on drugs; it is a Jim Crow-style manipulation of justice system to exert control over African Americans.