What racial progress has America made?


The civil Rights movement was a victory to mainstream political and social science scholars as well as average Americans. The immense pressure put on our government to dismantle slavery, Jim Crow and vagrancy laws, segregation, and other forms of oppressive systems designed to relegate Blacks in America has certainly advanced our country. 

We elected and re-elected our first Black president, Black representation in government and corporate America shows we’ve come so far. Today, race isn’t even discussed because we’ve left it behind, the issues of racial oppression no longer exist.

“Race? What about it? This is the land of the free, equal opportunities for all, it’s 2014 give me a break, are you still on that race stuff?” This is our rhetoric as it relates to race relations. 

Scholars in various fields who are not colorblind see a new system in America designed to maintain the same control and status of inferiority of Blacks in America as those intended by slavery. It’s our criminal justice system – “The New Jim Crow” ~ Michelle Alexander. 

Today there are more African Americans under penal control (prison, jail, corrections, probation) than there were enslaved in 1850. In 2004 there were more Black men disenfranchised than in 1870. 

In cities like Chicago, Philadelphia, and Baltimore more than 80% of African American men have criminal records and are subject to legalized discrimination. Since the 1970’s to 2000 our prison population went from 300,000 to 2 million. 

America has a higher prison population than all developed nations as well as highly oppressive regimes like China, Iran, and Russia. In some states 80-90% of all drug offenses have been charged to African Americans. 

During the Clinton administration more than 80% of drug arrests were for marijuana possession, which studies show is less addictive and harmful than tobacco and alcohol, and is just as or even more prevalent in white middle class communities. 70% of released felons return to jail or prison within the first 3 years. Upon prison release, felons are barred in some states from jury service, financial aid for education, they’re subject to public and private housing discrimination, unable to obtain professional licenses and certifications, and even denied access to food stamps. Discrimination of employment, and the list goes on. 

In Ohio if you’re a felon you can’t even get a barber license. So felons can’t vote, can’t get a job, can’t get money for school, have no place to live, and can’t even get help to feed themselves. Well what are they supposed to do? I guess just go back to prison. Upon release in some cases a felon may be required to pay back their term of imprisonment as well as various fines and court fees, and in the process 100% of their wages may be garnished to pay them back. Private prisons are currently on the New York Stock Exchange and doing quite well for themselves, there are people investing in American mass incarceration… Who’s incarceration? According to the numbers African Americans. 

The rabbit hole goes so much deep er, too deep to dive into on a “voices section” of a university student paper. This system is driven by the same forces that fueled our “peculiar institution” (slavery) – Class, Race, and Politics. The civil rights movement has put us to sleep. 

While we are not physically in bondage there’s a new system that has been in works since President Nixon mentioned “the war on drugs” at a time where drug crime was on a decline and less than 3% of Americans were concerned with drug crime. President Reagan coined the phrase and initiated the system, and President Bill Clinton (our first “first Black president”) escalated this war far beyond any republican, and has put more Blacks behind bars than any politician and has done more harm to the Black community than any politician by creating these harsh penal codes on drug offenses. 

Before you respond with “if Black people would just do the right thing, if they would just stop slanging then those numbers wouldn’t be what they are”. Before you respond I would ask that you educate yourself on the history of this behemoth of a system. 

Do some research. Look up “The H.R. Haldeman Diaries” as your first inquiry and what you’ll find is the same racist, classist, and political ideology that held slavery and Jim Crow in tact. I’ll leave you with a quote, by none other than former chief of staff H.R. Haldeman himself, “P (referring to the President) emphasized that you have to face the fact that the whole problem is really the blacks. 

The key is to devise a system that recognizes this while not appearing to. Pointed out that there has never in history been an adequate black nation, and they are the only race of which this is true. Says Africa is hopeless. The worst there is Liberia, which we built”. 


NOTE: All statistics for this article were pulled from The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander.)



Timothy Hernandez is a senior poltical science major from Lower Eastside, N.Y.