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Monday, April 1, 2013

Better than Jim Crow

Look how far we've come. 
So many of the racial issues that plagued our history are no longer with us. Slavery, Jim Crow, legalized segregation: all largely things of the past. Progress is good and we celebrate the heroes that have brought us this far. 

But if we rest in the satisfaction that we are no longer as we were a generation ago, we become complacent in our own battles with injustice today. Indeed, comparing ourselves with Jim Crow or KKK racism is setting a fairly low bar

Since the Civil Rights Era, the blatant ugliness of Jim Crow- racism has given way to a new, more subtle form of colorblind racism. Prejudice is no longer quite as overt or violent as it was in the 1960's, but the systemiccultural  and generational manifestations of racism are still very much in place (see post: Defining Racism). 

Click to enlarge cartoon
While most of us believe that everyone should have a fair shot at getting ahead, many white folk are still actively against the sorts of policies that would make this sort of ideal world possible (eg. prison reform, affirmative action,  health care reform, racial profiling, voting access).

And so significant racial disparities remain, while we end up blaming the victim for the inequality. We still tout broad racial stereotypes or 'cultural pathology,' to avoid any personal culpability

So we are left with a country in which we no longer burn crosses, but where lives are still daily destroyed by racial prejudice (see post: New Jim Crow). The consequences of racism are still just as real, only without the same 'cause and effect' immediacy that there once was. 

In some ways, the subversive and insidious nature of modern racism can make it even more difficult to combat. It's harder to pin down, to prove, or to call out. We end up trivializing the testimony and experiences of our sisters and brothers of color, who tell us they experience the effects of racism everyday. When white folk  believe racism is no longer an issue, their own racial biases and privilege go unexamined and unchecked.

So how far have we really come? 
In 1967, Martin Luther King Jr. observed, "When we view the negative experiences of life, the Negro has a double share. There are twice as many unemployed. The rate of infant mortality among Negroes is double that of whites…"

Reflecting on this quote, Abagond responds "Forty-something years later little has changed: the black unemployment rate is 1.96 times the white one (2011) while black babies die at 2.36 times the rate of white babies (2005)."

In many ways, we're actually no better than Jim Crow at all. 

1 comment:

  1. Hint: don't miss the sarcasm embedded in some of the links above regarding 'progress'


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By Their Strange Fruit by Katelin H is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
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