“How can you say that a racial caste system exists today? Just look at Barack Obama! Just look at Oprah Winfrey!” (Alexander, pg 21).
The truth is, racism is highly adaptable (Alexander, pg 21). The idea of adaptable racism was presented and proven not only in Alexander’s work, but also in Nyong’o’s. White supremacists create new rules to produce the same results: keeping whites out of the “bottom” and maintaining white privilege , though rules and rhetoric change (Alexander, pg 21).
The New Jim Crow is not segregated bathrooms, drinking fountains, and bus seats. The New Jim Crow is the imprisonment of colored people, whether by shame reiterated in countless entertainment and societal constructs (Nyong’o) or literally behind bars for criminalizing those who fall to the margins of the mainstream (Alexander, pg 58).
Racial undertones can be found throughout the making of the new laws and punishments, even though discourse is and was kept racial neutral. When policymakers went to criminalize cocaine, (which, by the way, became a problem because jobs were only available in suburbs, which pushed those trapped in ghettos, mainly blacks, away from legitimate work, which encouraged the sale of drugs, pg 51) they punished powder cocaine–associated with white crime–less harshly than crack–associated with black crime (Alexander, pg 53). Same drug. Same crime. Different skin tone associates. Different punishments.
It’s mind-blowing how much of history was founded on racism. The weaving of words that formed color-neutral laws actually had extremely racist motives, and that is difficult to stomach. So much of our governmental policy was created around racism and white supremacy. To keep from getting too discouraged, I guess now more than ever, it is important to question the motives and roots of our laws and daily actions to prevent the perpetuation of systemic racism from proceeding.
Michaela Stock, Hope College 2020