For many years, I’ve been monitoring the efforts of Blacks–from all walks of life–struggling to overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles, to achieve political, economic, and social justice in America. Over the past two years I’ve been writing commentaries that address these issues from various perspectives. This week I’m going to provide a historical context and timelines for what I believe is the origin of institutional racism that has blocked the path to justice for 400 years.
To provide the context and timelines I’m going to reference the books, videos, the Department of Justice (DOJ) report on racism in Ferguson, MO, and the “Doctrine of Exclusion,” a white supremacist document. I think facts bear out my conclusion that the Doctrine of Exclusion is the public policy in which the original conspiracy was born, documented, and lives. It is where the white supremacists looked and look for guidance in their evil deeds. It is where the public policy that has supported institutional racism originated.
The books and videos are of two provocative authors: Michelle Alexander, The New Jim Crow and Douglas Blackmon, Slavery by Another Name. These two written publications are quite authoritative in describing and documenting the historical brutality that Blacks have been subjected to by the so called criminal justice system since 1619 when Blacks were legally freed from enslavement. What I think needs to be further stressed is that the treatment of Blacks in America is and always has been America’s public policy. I suggest searching YouTube for their video presentations.
My theory is that the Doctrine of Exclusion actually documents the origin of American public policy toward Blacks and the DOJ report on Ferguson documents its continued existence. It appears that Ferguson is neither unique or an aberration in its institutional racism. Both books explain the role of the criminal justice system in the enslavement and incarceration of millions of Blacks. The New Jim Crow covers the entirety of the conspiracy from 1619 to-date and Slavery by Another Names covers it from 1865-1951. The intentional oppression and subjugation of Blacks in America became a cultural norm for white society and continues to exist today.
In Slavery by Another Name, Arthur, Douglas A. Blackmon eviscerates one of our schoolchildren’s most basic assumptions: that slavery in America ended with the Civil War. Blackmon unearths shocking evidence that the practice persisted well into the 20th century. (New York Times) Alabama was among the Southern states that profitably leased convicts to private businesses. As the book illustrates, arrest rates and the labor needs of local businesses could conveniently be made to dovetail. Blackmon describes free men and women forced into industrial servitude, bound by chains, faced with subhuman living conditions and subject to physical torture. That plight was horrific but legal until 1951.
According to Adam Lee’s book review, Author, Michelle Alexander’s thesis is that America’s history can be understood as a cyclical struggle between social-justice advocates who want the races to be equal, and those who want to perpetuate a racial caste system that assigns people of color to a permanently inferior status. When the advocates of caste are in power, they create systems of racial control that perpetuate inequality through discriminatory law. Each of these systems reigns for a time, but inevitably the injustice is recognized, and mass movements arise to fight back against them. Finally, advocates of social justice succeed in overthrowing the current system of racial control. But inevitably, the other side regroups and creates a new system to take the place of the old one, using different language and justifications to achieve much the same result.
Although Michelle doesn’t say it, she describes the origin of American public policy as documented in the Doctrine of Exclusion and Slave Codes. The Doctrine provided “Neither the existing black population, their descendants, nor any other blacks shall be permitted to enjoy the fruits of White society.” Together, the Doctrine and Codes required all individuals, churches, businesses, organizations, schools, and all levels of government to teach, justify and enforce the status of Blacks as “a subordinate, excluded, noncompetitive, non-compensated, managed work force for the personal comfort and wealth building of White society.”
Alexander’s book makes the case that the War on Drugs is the latest incarnation of this racial caste system. This may seem like conspiratorial thinking, but she backs it up with a wealth of evidence, a consilience of facts that all point to the same conclusion.
Alexander documents that after several decades, the drug war has become part of the fabric of American politics, assented to by both major parties (including President Obama). Alexander compiles abundant evidence to show that drug-war rhetoric has been employed to oppress people of color in the same way as Jim Crow laws once were and that mass incarceration has become a fact of life for Blacks and Hispanics in America.
The DOJ found that the Ferguson Police Department (FPD) engaged in a pattern or practice of conduct that violates the First, Fourth, and 14th Amendments of the Constitution. They found Court practices were exacerbating the harm of Ferguson’s unconstitutional police practices and imposing particular hardship upon Ferguson’s most vulnerable residents, especially upon those living in or near poverty. Minor offenses generated crippling debts, resulted in jail time because of an inability to pay and resulted in the loss of a driver’s license, employment, or housing.
The DOJ found a pattern or practice of racial bias in both the FPD and municipal court. They found the harms of Ferguson’s police and court practices are borne disproportionately by African Americans. Additionally, they found Ferguson’s harmful court and police practices are due, at least in part, to intentional discrimination, as demonstrated by direct evidence of racial bias and stereotyping about African Americans by certain Ferguson police and municipal court officials.
The record is clear from the 1619 to-date, Blacks have been subjected a conspiracy to deny them basic human rights, democracy and the “American Dream.”
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