Stop and frisk. The New York Police
Department's infamous stop and frisk policy, which involves beat cops targeting
citizens going about their daily business for pat downs and interrogations, is
primarily directed toward black and Latino citizens. The number of stop and
frisks occurring on the streets of New York has exploded in the past ten years,
jumping from 97,000 in 2002 to nearly 686,000 in 2011. Of all of those stops,
only two percent result in uncovering an illegal weapon.
by Michael Fleshman
the stop and frisks occurring in 2012, over 86 percent involved
African-Americans or Latinos. Even in precincts with the lowest percentage of
minority residents, blacks and Latinos still made up more than 70 percent of
all stops. Despite targeting minorities, a stop conducted against a white
person was more likely to uncover an illegal weapon or contraband than stopping
a black or Latino person.
Education. Even in the realm of education, one of
the first battlegrounds where civil rights activists were victorious,
segregation and inequality continue to rear their heads in the 21st
century. Indeed, as judicial oversight of school systems has waned in the years
since Brown v. Board of Education,
schools have become increasingly segregated.
researchers have suggested that American public schools are more segregated now
than they were in the 1960s. A report released in September 2012 by the Civil
Rights Project at UCLA reported a number of troubling trends and statistics,
including the fact that "fifteen percent of black students and 14 percent of
Latino students attend "apartheid schools' across the nation in which whites
make up zero to 1 percent of the enrollment."
addition to being segregated, students of color are much more likely to be
punished, and punished more severely than their white peers. During the 2009-10
school year, 96,000 students were arrested and 242,000 referred to law
enforcement officials. Of those students, more than 70 percent were black or
The right to vote. To bring it back to where
we started, the Supreme Court's assertion that the issue of universal suffrage
has been solved, even in the most historically racist sections of the country,
is simply false.
felon disenfranchisement, one in thirteen African-Americans cannot vote. In
some states, such as Virginia, that number rises to one in five. As of 2004,
more black men were disenfranchised than in 1870, the year the Fifteenth
Amendment, which bars racial discrimination at the voting booth, was ratified.
wake of the Supreme Court's decision in Shelby
County v. Holder , these disparities will only get worse. While the Voter ID
laws which states attempted to implement prior to the 2012 elections were
largely blocked due to federal oversight and judicial appeals, the Supreme
Court has just done away with any major impediment to these attempts to purge legitimate
voters from the rolls in a disingenuous attempt to protect the integrity of
attempting to purge voter rolls based upon specious accusations of voter fraud
is now the predominant method of discouraging or preventing minorities from
voting. Reducing the number of polling places and cutting polling place hours
is another tried and true method, and we will only see more attempts as the
results of the Supreme Court's decision play out.
for Shelby County before the U.S. Supreme Court, attorney Bert Rein referred to
racism as an "old disease" and claimed that "that disease is cured. That
problem is solved." What has been solved is not the issue of racism, but a
public relations issue. Racism is still alive and well in America; it has
simply taken on a more insidious character, and doesn't feature the bigoted
rants of the Dixiecrats of old. Instead it manifests itself in the public
schools, the criminal justice system, the electoral process, and elsewhere,
under the veil of seemingly colorblind policies which still tend to target
those who have been historically disadvantaged in this country.
Michelle Alexander explains in her book The
New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness , which
explains how America's so-called War on Drugs has been a vehicle for
reinstituting some of the most egregious policies of the Jim Crow era, we may
have changed the face of America, but underneath we still operate much the same
as we always have.
What has changed since the collapse of Jim Crow has less to do with the basic structure of our society than with the language we use to justify it. In the era of colorblindness, it is no longer socially permissible to use race, explicitly, as a justification for discrimination, exclusion, and social contempt.
So we don't. Rather than rely on race, we use our criminal justice system to label people of color "criminals' and then engage in all the practices we supposedly left behind. Today it is perfectly legal to discriminate against criminals in nearly all the ways that it was once legal to discriminate against African Americans. Once you're labeled a felon, the old forms of discrimination--employment discrimination, housing discrimination, denial of the right to vote, denial of educational opportunity, denial of food stamps and other public benefits, and exclusion from jury service--are suddenly legal. As a criminal, you have scarcely more rights, and arguably less respect, than a black man living in Alabama at the height of Jim Crow. We have not ended racial caste in America; we have merely redesigned it.