Racial segregation in the United States has been discussed and fought against for many decades, and the question still stirs lots controversy. Since the times of the formation of the original union, the Americans of different color have been treated as people that somehow have less value. The African-Americans have been the main group that has been affected by this primitive and archaic behavior that still exists in the majority of the people in the contemporary US society. What is more, the recent events in Ferguson are the highlight of how deeply rooted and grave the issues of racism and segregation are amongst American people.
The entire world knows that from time to time, African-American children and youth are killed by the police, rather than imprisoned and/or taken to the court of law for justice to be served. When it comes to the African-American community, the system of justice is sometimes thrown to the dogs as if they are less Americans than their white counterparts. Martin Luther King is remembered for his devotion towards an America that would be equitable to all its citizens regardless of their color. He must be turning in his grave seeing how color-blindness is yet to be achieved in a country that is considered to be one of the most democratic systems in the world.
The Jim Crow laws were created after the Civil War and the period of Reconstruction, with the primary aim to isolate and segregate African-American people from the white population, and to deprive the African-Americans from the privileges that they gained after the Civil War. However, more than a hundred years later, the events in the United States show that the situation nowadays is not that different. One of the best books on the current issues concerning contemporary racial discrimination and segregation in the United States is the one written by Michelle Alexander, titled The New Jim Crow. The book discusses many issues tied to the position of African Americans in the US society. The major focus of the book is the incarceration rates, as well as the social repression based on the notion of race. The book also discusses the social consequence of the policies that are being applied to the people of color in the United States.
This paper will try to answer some questions that relate to segregation of African Americans. Moreover, the paper will discuss why Civil Rights organization have not focused on the issues of racial justice and will look into some responses that are reasonable for someone in possession of illegal drugs. The third question in line with the case will be to answer the question of whether punishment is the best action for crime, and finally try to show the differences and similarities between new and old Jim Crow laws and how the differences can help in organizing a movement.
Chapter 1. Q2 Why haven’t Civil Rights Organizations Focused on or Have Been Slow to Focus on the Issue of Racial Justice?
In the United States, when one thinks of the Civil Rights movement that took place in the 1954, the fact that the Supreme Court outlawed segregation in schools comes into mind immediately. Established organizations and local groups constituted the movement, and were trying to improve the situation concerning discrimination and segregation in the society of the time. The primary aim of the Civil Rights movement was to eliminate the system of segregation and racism that has been a part of the history of the United States for so many years, as a consequence to the Jim Crow laws. However, in the 1950s and 1960, these groups were met with opposition from the white Americans, even though their quest for change has brought some signs of hope to the African-American segment of the population.
The Civil Rights movement has been politicized because of its contentious nature, thus lessening the efforts of its supporters. Legalization of rights has been the main objective of many immigrant groups some of which have fought for over a decade, thus permitting more than two million immigrants to obtain a legal status in the US. Anti-immigrant groups have strongly relied on racist arguments and statements to boost their agendas; this has hampered the supporters of the civil right movements in their quest.
Demographic changes have taken an earthshaking part in shaping the new wave of immigration. Migrants from Asia and Africa now consist the major part out of all the newbies to the US. This induced racial anxieties among the white communities. There are communities that embraced these changes in terms of diminishing racism and segregation, but tension is still high where these changes have been met with resistance. Lack of expansion and slow penetration to reach masses have played a negative role in this case.
The Civil Rights movements have not been able to expand and preserve civil and human rights of the immigrants, and many of them became targets for violence, as well as for both racist and anti-immigrant treatment. After all the efforts and struggle, African Americans are not the ones to dictate the social rules on the matter of education, employment and enjoy other opportunities.
Officiated racial segregation in schools and other public facilities, was not efficient for the progression of the movement. The government has made it even more difficult for the supporters of Civil Rights movements to reach their goals by saying one thing and doing the exact opposite, for instance the U.S. Supreme Court established that any kind of racial profiling is a direct violation of the US Constitution, and that all the people that reside in the country are to be granted equal legal protection. The U.S. Department of Justice presented the Guidance Regarding the Use of Race by Federal Law Enforcement Agencies that did not acknowledge that the social movements concerned with opposing the racial equality were of any kind if influence on the situation, as well as on the issue of the Civil Rights, therefore disrupting the efforts of the entire movement.
Chapters 2 & 3. Q3 What Do You Feel is a Reasonable Response to Those in Possession of Drugs Currently Defined as Illegal? To Those Currently Selling Drugs that are Currently Defined as Illegal?
On the one hand, the US law clearly states that there are drugs that are illegal to possess, produce and/or distribute. From the one point, the breaking of this kind of law should clearly result into fines, incarceration, and investigation. However, considering the fact that many African-Americans were killed or unlawfully imprisoned just because they were suspected of possessing the illegal drug, it is important to establish a new system that would exclude the racial prejudices on the matter.
When it comes to illegal drugs, there is always a possibility of the unwilling possession when the individual might physically have the drugs with them, but be unaware of the fact. Thereby, legally the person cannot be found guilty, because of the unawareness of the individual that is involved in the crime. Despite the fact that this is easy to understand and legally established, many police officers do not follow through, and take it upon themselves what to do with an individual who has been found in the possession of drugs.
Sometimes, the fact of the possession is nearly impossible to prove, but that does not stand in the way of some police officers. The questions of drug possession and distribution are often connected with the abuse of power by the police. Sometimes, the physical power is being used to find the drugs, as well as the infamous planted evidence method. Police officers often can turn to illegal searches or seizures, as well as to unreasonable pressure, intimidation or threats against witnesses, especially if the witness is of an African American origin.
Sometimes, the accused is able to provide clear and convincing medical evidence. For sellers it would be reasonable to state that they knew about the presence of the drug but had no intent to sell it as it shows that there was no intent to actually distribute drugs. This will help in making the punishment less severe. However, the entire system needs to be changed, as even though there are legal ways to act in case of detection of illegal drug possession and distribution, there are many cases in which they are not being followed, as well as many cases in which racism overcomes the sound reason, and the police officer kills an innocent that has been only suspected of possessing the drugs.
Chapters 4 & 5. Q1. What Are the Similarities and Differences Between the “Old” and “New” Jim Crow? What Differences Would be Important to Take into Account when Organizing a Movement?
The 'old' Jim Crow laws were introduced at the end of the nineteenth century, as a response to the liberties and rights that African-Americans obtained after the Civil War. These laws were pushed through by the opponents of the equality, and proponents to the old system that existed for so many years in the country. These laws turned African-Americans, that have just got rid of the chains of slavery, into some sort of second class citizens. These laws basically legalized racism, and established new societal behavioral systems that are being followed by many people up until nowadays.
One might think that a lot has changed since those times, but that would not be entirely true. For instance, in the South of the country, African Americans were not allowed to use public libraries until the first decade of the twentieth century. Surely, now they can do so, but there are still so many issues to consider in this case. The 'old' Jim Crow laws established that African-Americans were disenfranchised as a result of the felony disenfranchisement laws, for example, such laws explicitly denied their right to vote. However, in some cities of the United States more than half of working-age African American men have criminal records, and thus they are subject to legalized discrimination juts like how it used to be during the 'old' Jim Crow era. For instance, according to the 'old' Jim Crow, the African-American men who served in the Union Army were regarded not as soldiers but outlaws, this being a clear sign that African-Americans were seen as second class people. Nowadays, African-Americans are an integral part of the military system of the US, but there still is discrimination within the system.
Michelle Alexander argues that the 'new' Jim Crow is nothing else but a speculation, and that a new caste system has been put in place to control African-Americans within the US society. She further provides evidence to prove that laws used today are not different from the old Jim Crow, even though these new laws do not directly mention the discrimination, they still allow it to happen.
Moreover, Alexander points out that the issue of racism still exists, and this has been done by keeping mass population unaware of existence of the racial caste system thus proving that the New Jim Crow and the old Jim Crow are very much similar. She connects this statement to the fact that the mass rates of incarceration are higher when it comes to African-Americans, as well as societal attitudes towards them often differ.
Furthermore, Michelle Alexander states that there is a lot of similarities between the new judicial system and the 'old' Jim Crow. She supports the example by showing evidence on how the accusations of drugs possession and distribution were used to target African-Americans. Her point is that the old Jim Crow system was not diminished altogether, but was just changed and that it continues to oppress and demoralize African Americans. Nowadays, the segregation and the ways of “The New Jim Crow” is more difficult to discern for the general public because they are mostly hidden slyly within the laws, or they merely exist as stereotypes within the society. The 'old' and the 'new' Jim Crow are identical, as they create a racial caste system that forces African-American people to become second class citizens.
The old Jim Crow system has evolved and continues to oppress and demoralize African Americans. The new Jim Crow, which Michelle Alexander describes to be clearly represented in the fact of mass incarceration of African Americans, and the consequences one faces after receiving the label as a criminal. Her argument clearly shows that there is nothing different from what African-Americans experienced more than a hundred years ago, and what they experience now, as the racial segregation of African-Americans is a sad reality of the contemporary US society, despite all the claims about democracy, freedom and equality.
More African-American men are imprisoned today than at any other moment the history of the United States, as well as more of them are disenfranchised today than in 1870, the year the Fifteenth Amendment was ratified prohibiting laws that explicitly deny the right to vote on the basis of race. It is important to understand the need for the development of better legal strategies that would be a part of the new societal and political structure.
Nowadays, the key to successful Civil Rights movement is a mass political movement in the streets and in the communities. This kind of movement should be concerned not only with the protection of the rights, but also with breaking the stereotypes that currently exist in the society, and educating Americans on the matter of the African-American culture and backgrounds. Justice Movement is a careful review of traditional Civil Rights jurisprudence.
In other words, people need to look at how Civil Rights laws have been applied and enforced throughout the recent history, and look very carefully at what the implications of that history have been for other areas of Civil Rights law. Also it is important to get the right people who share the same ideas to come together and form larger movement that will bring along more ideas to help their course. Understanding the currently existing problem, as well as organizing the ways that are contributing to the process of addressing many foundational issues, learning from movements of the past, and moving towards societal change are just some lessons we get to learn. Grass organization is also a strong point that should be taken into account as we find this was one of the things that brought real effect to end the new Jim Crow era.
Chapter 6. Q5 Is Punishment the Best or Necessary Response to Crime?
Usually, the word “punishment” is used to describe anything connected with the infliction of some kind of pain. However, in the legal system, punishment is rarely connected to the infliction of pain, but is connected with the transgression of a certain law that defines the type of punishment for a certain crime. For many years, it has been believed that the currently acting retributive system of justice is the best and the most efficient one.
However, the influence of the new Jim Crow shows that sometimes, where there is punishment there is no crime. There are so many punishment methods established in the contemporary society that it sometimes seems that it is just too hard to let them go because of all the history they represent. Surely, punishment has existed since pre-literate societies, but this does not mean that the approach cannot be changed. The punishment is used to change a person or to make them sorry for what they did in terms of breaking the law. However, cruel punishment might sometimes have quite the opposing impact on the individual, just as well as the unlawful incarceration. The main thing is that the system does not change the attitudes towards the crime, as well as it does not educate the individuals on the matter of the crime being not that necessary or important to commit. Retributive justice considers punishment, if o course it can be applied, to be the best possible response to any crime. When an offender breaks the law, justice requires that he/she forfeits his/her right to something of equal value.
When it comes to punishment, the stability of the societal system is the thing that is being protected, not the individual or the society. A threat of disrupting the current order seems to be unbearable for the majority – this just as well explains the existence of racial stereotypes, discrimination and segregation in the contemporary US society. In order to understand the nature of punishment it is necessary to examine its basis and the then look at various measures that have been developed to justify society’s infliction of punishment. Thus, it is clear that there is need for a common ground if a consensus is to be achieved.
There are some disagreements between retributionists and utilitarians in regard to punishment. According to the latter, punishment is justified by a purported ability to achieve future social benefits such as crime reduction. For retributionists, punishment is backward looking and strictly for punishing crimes according to their severity. There are various opinions in regard to such issues as crime and punishment. For instance, some believe that death punishment does not prevent crimes as it does not keep others from committing more crimes. On the other hand we have a counter opinion according to which it does prevent subsequent crimes as the accused is not able to commit crime in the case of death sentence.
Hard punishment serves only as revenge and it will not prevent criminals from committing subsequent crimes. However, there are also people who are of contrary opinion and they think that it serves to prevent crime and eliminate it from society; thus, they believe it is a righteous form of reprisal. If punishment is meant to dissuade criminals from committing crimes, why do people still murder others? That is the question those against punishment are rhetorically asking those who support it. Moreover, they wonder if punishment deters crime, then the world should be the safest place, however, it is not the case.
The history of the Civil Rights movement goes back centuries, but there is a strong need for it to change and to start using proactive rather than reactive actions, since it is evident that African-Americans are still considered a law enforcement problem, their rights are being frequently violated, even when there is no apparent reason for that. Every US citizen is aware of the Jim Crow laws, as well as of the effect that they had in the liberties and freedom of African Americans, but not all of them are aware of the fact that these laws are still operating within the US society, even if the majority is not aware of such occurrence.
These laws now undertook a very dangerous form – the one of stereotypes and societal attitudes towards African-Americans. However, these attitudes turn into violence and different treatment, unlawful incarceration and many other problems that ruin the lives of African-Americans. Michelle Alexander wrote the book on the topic of the contemporary racial segregation titled The New Jim Crow. This book establishes the argument that in the contemporary US society the Jim Crow laws still exist, and are very much efficient. The issues connected with mass incarceration as well as with the social pressure on the grounds of the racial differences are being discussed on the book.
Many African Americans are being unjustly labeled as well as treated differently than the rest of the US society. Even though the Civil rights movement exists, it needs to adapt to the needs of the contemporary society, and extend their boundaries to include some new activities that would be aimed at breaking the stereotypes and establishing new order in the society.