30th, October 2016
How has race shaped and impacted society then (before Jim Crow) and now (21st century)?
Before Jim Crow, there was no concept of race. Men of color and whites worked hand in hand in equality. “The concept of race is a relatively recent development. Only in the past few centuries, owing largely to European imperialism, have the world’s people been classified along racial lines,” Michelle Alexander says in The New Jim Crow. It was only due to colonization that that race became so important. Before slavery, Europeans wanted to “exterminate” the Native American race.
The europeans were savages that raped, killed, and tortured the native people to get the land they wanted, this caused them to be viewed as the more powerful race. If you were not white, you were discriminated against. Soon after even the poorest of the whites became high in power. To keep slavery going they told the poor whites that they could also mistreat and police the slaves. This bonded all the whites to the concept of slavery because now the all had power. Alexander says, “The degraded status of Africans was justified on the ground that Negroes, like the Indians, were an uncivilized lesser race, perhaps even more lacking intelligence and laudable human qualities than the red-skinned natives,”. This proves that the African Americans were viewed as property, not humans.
In 1865 things were supposed to change. The 13th Amendment was passed. This abolished slavery. Now that the slaves were free this created a great fear for the whites. They feared that they no longer would be at the top of the hierarchy. “It was unclear what institutions, laws, or customs would be necessary to maintain white control now that slavery was gone….Rumors of great insurrection terrified whites, and blacks increasingly came to be view as menacing and dangerous,” it states in The New Jim Crow. Since it was easy to make people afraid of “blacks” it was easy to convict them of petty crimes and even really big one that would put them into jail for a long time.
Being convicted with no way to pay off their debts from the court costs they were “sold as forced laborers to lumber camps, brickyards, railroads, farms, plantations, and dozens of corporations throughout the South,” because the 13th amendment abolished slavery for everyone expect prisoners.
As the hatred grew stronger, whites no longer wanted to be around blacks. They did everything they could to keep the two races separated. They went to different schools, restaurants, bathrooms, and even beaches. As the Civil Rights movement grew stronger things got more intense. A man by the name of Martin Luther King Jr. helped fight for black rights through boycotts, and marches. He helped laws get passed that little by little whites were no longer more superior than blacks. They were no longer segregated.
Now in the 21st century, race has changed slightly. White privilege is still alive but is now being noticed from the whites themselves. The prisons are still filled with blacks and latinos, and the incarceration rates are getting higher every year. In the book Americanah, Ifemelu writes a blog called Raceteenth or Various Observations About American Blacks (Those Formerly Known as Negroes) by a Non-American Black. In this blog she mentioned a moment where she went to the beach and a girl offered everyone but her sunscreen lotion. She responded to this by saying “I just want to be normal”. This shows that both in real life and in the book, Blacks see that their personal image isn’t good enough. They think that being white is better, that it is normal.
This shows that racism will never truly stop. It is an ongoing epidemic that is worldwide. The past has had such an impact that race will always be an issue. Some people can be coherent with another race but some just aren’t capable of feeling equal.