The United States of America is proud to be known as the land of the free. Its representative democracy Is supposed to hold the consent of all American colleens and make sure the constitution and equality Is upheld; however, Its state of government has been actively partaking In actively and rulings that do not benefit the whole of America. In fact, many of the state’s decisions have been working against specific racial minorities and creating a criminal justice system that almost mirrors the racist statues implemented after the Civil War, called the Jim Crow laws.
This New Jim Crow unfairly targets minority races, sentences them harsher in court, and leaves them and their families to deal with the immense consequences. These consequences not only trap them in a cycle of poverty and immobility, but take away many of the rights that are supposed to be granted to every citizen of the United States. These policies are pushing the U. S. Democracy back toward pre-Call War mentalities, making African-Americans’ (and other minority groups’) voices Irrelevant and unheard. Power and authority rest In the state.
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While these two words seem honeymoons, they hold two very different meanings. Power Is the ability to make someone do something they would not normally do through the use of force and authority is the justifiable right to exercise that power. Only legitimate authorities have the consent of the people, while illegitimate authorities simply hold power over the governed, regardless to how the people feel. The united States of America claims to be a democracy, a state that has consent of the governed peoples.
However, is that truly the case? By questioning the idea of democracy in the United States, one must look who olds the power in this country and whether or not we can consider the state working toward the overall benefit and happiness of country at large. The state Is defined as “a human community that (successfully) claims the monopoly of the legitimate use of physical force within a given territory” (Dobra, Walden, and Bezel 2012:37).
While many people would recognize the government as a legitimate authority, that can and should be allowed to use force, the government may not exactly be using their power in a way that is equally beneficial and fair to all its citizens. Power is seen as any “individual, group or structural capacity to achieve intended effects as a result of force, influences, or authority” (Dobra, Walden, and Bezel 2012:3). The government and its officials hold the power; however, are they using that power democratically, with the consent of all the citizens in the ASSAI?
In a democracy everyone should be granted the opportunity to participate in decisions of the political state once you are considered an adult citizen of that state (Dobra, Walden, and Bezel 2012:47) whether it be by voting or simply having the right to participate as much or as little as you want. In the United States’ democracy, It Is thought that we have the ability to vote and have equal opportunity In all political decisions. In reality, the democratic freedoms and rights that the united States Is known for can be taken away or be made unavailable all too easily.
Democracies, for their country, through voting or participating in a Jury, among other things. Yet, our “democracy’ has somehow managed to covertly bring race and racist practices back into government. Many different aspects of the state help to create and enforce practices that work against the core values of democracy. The criminal Justice system, including police officers, courts, and Jails/prisons, encompass institutional racism, putting some racial groups at a disadvantage, but not through overtly discriminatory mechanisms.
Ingrained stereotypical images of minority groups, heavy focus on impoverished areas, and leniency on drugs and/or crimes that are more associated with white people, cause this institutional racism. While individuals working for the state may not have these factors in mind, the system and our society have been shaped to be more aware of and give harsher punishments to people of color Alexander, 2012). Throughout history America’s government has used race as a determinate factor on one’s social standing and level of capability.
In the late sass’s Jim Crow laws were enacted in order to establish a “separate but equal” status for African Americans. In 1868, Amendment XIV gave black men full citizenship and promised them equal protection under the law. The northern victory in the Civil War and this amendment allowed blacks to vote, run for and win elected office positions, and serve on Juries. However, 10 years later when federal troops withdrew from the South, returning it to local white rule, this equal protection slowly disintegrated. In the twenty years after the fourteenth amendment was formed, blacks would lose almost all that they had gained.
The freedoms and rights they had previously thought were guaranteed were being denied to them. This denial was made legal by Jim Crow laws, a series of racist statutes. These laws were implemented in order to appease white southerners and take back the rights that were granted to former slaves. While the fourteenth amendment granted citizenship to everyone born in the United States, including blacks, and protected individual’s rights of citizenship, the Jim Crow laws specifically worked to destroy that. Citizenship allows one to vote.
Therefore, Jim Crow laws could not necessarily take the right to vote completely away, however they implemented restrictions on registering to vote in order to assure that blacks would not be able to have a say. Through literacy tests and other prerequisites, the amount of blacks that were eligible to vote diminished rapidly. These were originally found to be constitutional because they did not specifically attack one group of people due to heir race, ethnicity, or background. However, these laws targeted the black community by aiming at their weaknesses.
Since the majority of southern blacks were former slaves, they did not have wealth, a prestigious line of ancestry, or the necessary skills or network to seek employment out of servitude. The requirements to register to vote became nearly impossible for a black man to achieve. Some states required a literacy test knowing that former slaves were banned from learning how to read and write. If the slaves did become literate, there were many other stipulations that stood in the way of them registering to vote.
There was a restriction on lineage, requiring that a grandparent had to have been a voter in order for you to become a voter. This was quite impossible for the majority of blacks, for the obvious reason that their grandparents were slaves themselves or had not been born in the United States so they were not voting citizens. Jim Crow laws took advantage of any government and hopefully be reduced back down to slavery or close to it. Implementing poll taxes and requirements to own property targeted blacks lack of monetary funds (Alexander 2012).
As former slaves, they did not have a lot of money ND they definitely did not have extra money to waste on poll taxes. Even if they were granted land to purchase and had the money, most property owners would not sell to a black man. Last but not least, the “good character” clause was enacted. This is seemingly a last resort. If a black man met all the former stipulations, the poll workers could simply give a reason as to why they question his character and deny him the ability to register. The “good character” rule is purely based on opinion.
Along with restrictions on voting registration, Jim Crow laws were also enacted to include restrictions on marriage, housing, public institutions and even times of day one could be outside. These were created to ensure that blacks were segregated as much as possible from the white community, being “separate but equal. ” In Please vs… Ferguson, the Supreme Court found this idea constitutional; however, while restrooms, schools, train cars, and even neighborhoods became separate, they were rarely ever equal.
Laws were even established that segregated blacks from living in white neighborhoods through making it illegal to live on a block in which the majority of residents were people that you could not marry. Laws banning interracial marriage were established before this. This ensured that blacks and whites would not live together, forcing blacks into parts of the town that were more impoverished. To further belittle former slaves, most buildings, restrooms and drinking fountains were separated with “whites only’ and “blacks only’ signs, showing an unwillingness to even share water with a different race.
These “separate but equal” practices were highly discriminatory and not constitutional; however, the government was oblivious to this fact or chose to ignore it for quite a while. Brown vs… Board of Education was one of the first cases to point out the flaws in the “separate but equal” practices. In that hearing, the Supreme Court decided that it was unconstitutional and detrimental to minority children to have separate public schools (Alexander 2012: 36). This court case was the first to rule that “separate but equal” was unconstitutional. This began the unraveling of Jim Crow.
Separate public schools for white and black children were deemed unconstitutional and a violation of the 14th amendment, leading the way towards complete integration and more victories for the civil rights movement. After the first victory in court, African-American’s continued their pursuit of civil rights and liberties, leading to the establishment of more equal practices. The Civil Rights Act of 1964, outlawed many forms of discrimination against racial, ethnic and religious minorities and women. It ended the ability to create unequal requirements in order to register to vote.
Furthermore, it desegregated the school system completely, along with the workplace and public accommodations (Alexander 2012: 39). This eliminated Jim Crow laws, but it could not change the minds of those who supported them. The Voting Rights Act (1965) and Fair Housing Act (1968) outlawed discriminatory voting practices and provided for equal housing opportunities regardless of race or national origin; two things that had been responsible for the widespread the fifteenth amendment, making sure that no requirement or prerequisite was present in order to vote or to register.
This way no citizen was denied the right to vote, no matter what race or ethnic background. The Housing Act also prohibits discrimination due to race, color, religion, or national origin. One cannot refuse to sell or rent a dwelling to any person because of those particular traits. However, landlords are not required to rent to anyone that applies, they may deny someone based off of other criteria, like the applicant’s suspected ability to pay rent.
While the civil rights movement desegregated American and won back the black population’s rights as citizens, this victory did not last long. These Acts seemed to have given the African-American population equality; however, there were many loopholes in which inequality still thrived; the biggest one being the 13th amendment’s exception on slavery, allowing it only as a form of punishment for a crime (Alexander 2012:31). The 20th century changes in voter laws gave blacks the ability to change the political landscape and thus challenge white male corporate power.
Yet, in the 40 years since the Civil Rights Movement, corporations (and the politicians that serve them) have been taking that power back by systematically attempting to deny African Americans the right to vote. This is where the birth of the New Jim Crow grew from. The New Jim Crow laws are more implicit and do not include overt racial language, however they are Just as bad. While they do not include specific details that are unique to one group of people, they create practices that unfairly attack minority groups through focusing on more impoverished communities and creating unequal punishments for crimes associated more with minorities.
The War on Drugs is the main contributor to these New Jim Crow laws. This “war” gave America a reason to view racial minorities as the bad guys. Through the establishment of certain laws, such as establishing a 100 to 1 sentencing disparity for the possession or trafficking of crack, compared to penalties for trafficking of powder cocaine (Alexander 2012), there is a heavier focus on minority groups and larger criticism of their drug use due to increased arrested.
The minimum mandatory sentence for small amounts of drugs associated with minorities, like crack, are equivalent to large amounts of drugs that are commonly used by white people, like powder cocaine. Furthermore, minority groups that get arrested for drug charges are more likely to receive a harsher punishment than if someone white were to be arrested. With the combination of severe and unbalanced drug possession laws along with the rates of conviction in terms of race, the Judicial system has created a huge racial disparity.
Due to the belief that culture is responsible for black poverty, the government abstinently erased their role in fostering this poverty, “forgotten are the failed schools, the malign welfare programs, the desolate neighborhoods, [and] the wasted years” (Alexander 2012:53). This war on drugs and the huge push for “law and order” practices in inner cities or poor, black neighborhoods have caused lastly economic effects. The state is responsible for the negative effects that the black population is dealing with today.
The war on drugs was supposed to be a crack down on drug users and sellers; however, it disproportionately targeted racial minorities and the hat focused on these inner cities and racial profiled community members to be targets of “stop and frisks. ” In accordance with police officers increased amounts of arrests, courts were sentencing people of racial minorities longer prison terms than their white counterparts. To fit the influx of prisoners, more state institutions needed to be built.
From the streets to incarceration, the criminal Justice system and state institutions have been flawed and seemingly corrupt. These actions only hinder the groups of people targeted and lead to an endless cycle of poverty and immobility. In the drug war, police have discretion regarding who to target (which individuals), as well as where to target (which neighborhoods or communities)” (Alexander 2012:123), enforcing strict policing in impoverished urban areas in which the majority of residents are of a racial minority.
These police departments are bribed with monetary incentives in order to make drug-law enforcement top priority and step away from violent crimes to focus on inner city drug crimes. This is the state, the federal government, using resources to create inequality and put a target on areas where racial minorities are most common. Our society has established a stereotypical image of a criminal that includes darker skin color. This way of thinking is not only detrimental to certain ethnic groups, but establishes and enhances racial profiling.
Police departments not only partake in racial profiling, they are taught to do so. The training program known as “Operation Pipeline” teaches officers how to “use perceptual traffic stops and consent searches on a large scale for drug interdiction” (Alexander 2012:70). This is enforcing the idea to make bias Judgments on civilians, stopping people who fit the profile of a rug user or criminal even if they are doing nothing wrong and there is no probable cause to stop or search them. Along with racial profiling comes another unconstitutional practice implemented by our government agencies: the stop and frisk rule.
This rule allows police officers to stop anyone they wish to and question or frisk them, as long as they have “reasonable articulate suspicion” (Alexander 2012: 63). People of color in impoverished neighbors grow accustom to stopping and spreading their arms up and onto the nearest wall whenever a police officer comes into view. This shows Just how common they are targeted. No matter if they are in a car, taking the bus, or simply walking down the street, racial minorities are aware that they unequally hold police attention, based solely on their appearances.
Along with the unequal amounts of police attention, people of color also get unequal sentencing and conviction ratings. While the mandatory sentence for a large amount of cocaine, associated with the white population, is five years; the mandatory minimum sentence for small amounts of crack, associated with urban poor, is also five years (Alexander 2012). These longer felony sentences are unfair and lead to huge repercussions that a small drug offense should not create. Many people question why it seems like black fathers are always out of the picture.
This may be due to the fact that a large percent of the black male population is under some form of incarceration and cannot be present for his family. The higher and unequal incarceration of colored males leaves many women alone and forces them to become a single parent. While nothing is wrong with being a single parent, it stifles their consequences that being in Jail produces psychologically, prisoners face tons of active reinforcement when they are released from prison, as if being locked up was not punishment enough.
Since a majority of impoverished black men are targeted for searches and questioning, a large number of convicts come from poor areas. When they are released with no money, no Job, and no way of getting end meats; they are forced to straight back to the neighborhood that caused their problems and will most likely get involved in some form of illegal activity to earn a few bucks. Ex-convicts resort to illegal activities because the black mark on their record hinders them of getting any respectable Job. Being a felon is seen extremely negatively.
Along with Job discrimination, felons lose their right to vote, their ability to receive welfare or student loans, and live in subsidized housing. Revoking all of these things leaves many felons, homeless, Jobless and on the road back to imprisonment. Our government does not have the consent of all it governs because a large portion of “the land of the free” is behind bars and without a voice. Racial minorities are unfairly targeted, imprisoned and revoked of their rights. This is pushing America backwards, toward slavery, a time when only white males had to right to an opinion.