America’s Invisible Caste System

Rant #11


You probably haven’t noticed America’s invisible caste system. That’s because the untouchables are millions of mostly young black and brown men trapped in a mushrooming gulag of mass incarceration.


Behind bars or “free,” convicted felons are denied the right to vote, automatically excluded from juries and legally discriminated against in employment, housing, access to education and public benefits. This is often the majority of young black men in major American cities.


It’s our recurring racial nightmare. First slavery, then a century of  discrimination. Now locked up with a criminal barcode that stays for life.


You say the election of Barak Obama shows that progress is being made. That’s makes Americans feel good but here’s reality:


Today more African Americans are in prison, or on probation or parole, than were enslaved in 1850, a decade before the Civil War began


Today more of America’s black population is imprisoned than in South Africa at the height of Apartheid.


Today more African American men can’t legally vote than in 1870, the year the Fifteenth Amendment was ratified granting former slaves the right to vote.


The caste system is enforced by hyping fear of black and brown drug use. Again the facts:


People of all colors use and sell illegal drugs at remarkably similar rates but blacks are 57 times more likely to be jailed for drug crimes than whites.


See Michelle Alexander’s book The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Era of Colorblindness. For an excellent interview with the author see the February 9 Against the Grain podcast. 

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