The Jim Crow laws were designed to keep black men and women from integrating with society. After Abraham Lincoln abolished slavery, the remnants of a horrible system that saw an entire people group from Africa marginalized was able to continue in legacy. Black people, particularly in the South, were restricted from drinking from the same water fountains, using the same bathrooms, going to their own schools as if they weren’t human. Thankfully, the Civil Rights Movement was able to quash these blatantly racist rules and the integration of black people into society was complete.
Or was it?
Michelle Alexander makes a compelling argument that the old Jim Crow laws of the late 19th century were simply replaced. After the Civil Rights Movement, the age of “colorblindness,” where we are not suppose to see the differences in skin color, came full force. Despite this, there was still a lingering air of racism in the culture and the government; how do you achieve racial superiority as a country of white people when you’re not suppose to see color? The answer was in the crackdown on crime during the Reagan administration and into the 1990s. Alexander argues that urbanization and globalization took jobs that black people in the inner city once had. In exchange, they turned to dealing drugs, particularly crack cocaine. During the 1980s, Reagan achieved a series of reforms that brought crack to the forefront. While other drugs were still prevalent, crack was isolated because it was often found among people of color. The crackdown on crime in the city meant that if you were frisked and found with crack, you would be sentenced to a minimum of two years in prison and you could add a felony to your record,
In the 1990s, President Bill Clinton took this a step further with his infamous 3 strikes you’re out policy. Many black men were sent to prison in the 30 years between the 1980s and 2000. As a result, you are scarred forever with the felony on your record, unable to get a job or maintain a “normal” life, all under the auspice of the “colorblind” late 20th century (and for that matter, the early 21st century).
This book challenges the status quo. It explains how people of color have been marginalized and forgotten. I am personally part of the majority of millennials who are often seen as more passionate about social justice. However, my spin on this particular subject is more then just misplaced moxie; as a Christian, it is genuine concern that the system in our country has failed a minority people. As a Christian, it is our duty to stand up for those who are not able to. Alexander demonstrates how people of color are subjected to stop-and-frisk searches that are suppose to be unconstitutional. With that sentiment, we must say that there have been grave missteps by that same people group. Of course some might think that these people shouldn’t be selling drugs or doing drugs in the first place. I would agree with this. But until Christians become more ardent about speaking out against a racist system, as Alexander shows, these problems with continue to exist. This is a sobering book, one that should be read by those who see the dignity of humanity and their worth to our society.