Saturday, June 26, 2010

The New Jim Crow

It all started (in modern times) with Richard Nixon

"You have to face the fact that the whole problem is really the blacks.

The key is to devise a system that recognizes this all while not appearing to."

Richard Nixon as quoted by H.R. Haldeman, supporting a get-tough-on drugs strategy.
Thus begins the Fort Worth Star Telegram review of Michelle Alexander's book The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness. They go on to look at how she came to write the book.
Michelle Alexander was an ACLU attorney in Oakland, preparing a racial profiling lawsuit against the California Highway Patrol. The ACLU had put out a request for anyone who had been profiled to get in touch. One day, in walked this black man.

He was maybe 19 and toted a thick sheaf of papers, what Alexander calls an "incredibly detailed" accounting of at least a dozen police stops over a nine-month period, with dates, places and officers' names. This was, she thought, a "dream plaintiff."

But it turned out he had a record, a drug felony -- and she told him she couldn't use him; the state's attorney would eat him alive. He insisted he was innocent, said police had planted drugs and beaten him. But she was no longer listening. Finally, enraged, he snatched the papers back and started shredding them.

"You're no better than the police," he cried. "You're doing what they did to me!" The conviction meant he couldn't work or go to school, had to live with his grandmother. Did Alexander know how that felt? And she wanted a dream plaintiff? "Just go to my neighborhood," he said. "See if you can find one black man my age they haven't gotten to already."

She saw him again a couple of months later. He gave her a potted plant from his grandmother's porch -- he couldn't afford flowers -- and apologized. A few months after that, a scandal broke: Oakland police officers accused of planting drugs and beating up innocent victims. One of the officers involved was the one named by that young man.
They go on to look at some of what she found.
Others have written of the racial bias of the criminal injustice system. In "The New Jim Crow," Alexander goes a provocative step further. She contends that the mass incarceration of black men for nonviolent drug offenses, combined with sentencing disparities and laws making it legal to discriminate against felons in housing, employment, education and voting, constitute nothing less than a new racial caste system. A new segregation.

She has a point. Yes, the War on Drugs is officially race-neutral. So were the grandfather clause and other Jim Crow laws whose intention and effect was nevertheless to restrict black freedom.

The War on Drugs is a war on African-American people and we countenance it because we implicitly accept certain assumptions sold to us by news and entertainment media, chief among them that drug use is rampant in the black community. But. The. Assumption. Is. WRONG.

According to federal figures, blacks and whites use drugs at a roughly equal rate in percentage terms. In terms of raw numbers, WHITES are far and away the biggest users -- and dealers -- of illegal drugs.

Cross Posted at Classical Values

So why aren't cops kicking THEIR doors in? Why aren't THEIR sons pulled over a dozen times in nine months? Why are black men 12 times likelier to be jailed for drugs than white ones? Why aren't WHITE communities robbed of their fathers, brothers, sons?
The answer is pretty simple. If the laws were equally enforced the Drug War would be over in a few months. White people wouldn't stand for it.


Pastorius said...


How funny. I'm totally with you on this subject.

I know very few Conservatives who agree. Maybe I'm more of a Libertarian. But, well, I think Libertarianism, as articulated by it's strongest adherents and theorists, is stupid.

Nice to find someone I agree with.

M. Simon said...

Dallas Star Telegram

Fixed to Fort Worth Star Telegram