Thursday, February 23, 2017

Continuing Systems of Oppression

Racial caste is a social hierarchy in which a racial groups, specially blacks, are forced into the lowest class through legal and social actions in order to create a divide between blacks and whites. Racial caste is still evident throughout our society today as a result of mass incarceration. As Alexander argues, both Jim Crow and mass incarceration were created for the same purpose because of a “desire among white elegies to exploit the resentments, vulnerabilities, and racial biases of poor, working-class whites for political or economic gain” (1). Throughout history, many have attempted to end these systems of racial caste, specifically through the civil rights movement. The civil rights movement, which began in 1954, attempted to end social injustices because of these caste systems such as “Jim Crow” (1). As Alexander says, “segregation laws were proposed as part of a deliberate and strategic effort to deflect anger and hostility that had been been brewing against the white elite away from them and toward African Americans” (1). But, in reaction to the civil rights movement, “conservatives in the 1970s and 1980s sought to appeal to the racial biases and economic vulnerability of poor and working-class whites through racially coded rhetoric on crime and welfare” (1). 

Political forces using the vulnerability of the public to create a racial caste system is still part of our society and is one of the examples as to how racial caste perpetuated in the form of mass incarceration because of the War on Drugs. Because of the War on Drugs in which political figures negatively influenced society to associate blacks with crimes, more blacks were put into the criminal system than ever before, and at and alarmingly higher rate than whites. As a result, “many of the forms of discrimination that relegate African Americans to an inferior caste during Jim Crow continue to apply to huge segments of the black population today—provided they are first labeled felons” (1). The entire mass incarceration system not only forced blacks into the bottom ranks of society because they were admitted to jail at higher rates but also impacted the rest of a person's life. Once a citizen has been incarcerated, they not only lose the right to serve on a jury, but also the right to vote. Since more blacks are being put in jail than whites, these reprimands effect blacks in the legal system significantly more than whites because the amount of eligible blacks to vote decreases along with those eligible to serve on juries. Since these numbers decrease, there is now a racial imbalance in the judiciary system, which now resemble those that were present throughout Jim Crow due to “felon disenfranchisement laws” (2). Through the numbers of whites increasing in both juries and the voting  pools, not only court cases but also laws will be in favor of whites and against blacks. In conclusion, mass incarceration is a form of perpetuated racial caste as a result of how it confines racial groups to the bottom of society by placing them in the prison system and limiting their human rights after prison. 

1 comment:

  1. Hi Sam! Great job here with pointing out how incarceration is problematic in connection to the caste system. You made a strong connection to the judiciary system and highlighted how human rights are thereby affected. Well done! - Miss Kosyla