On the contary to a lot of what you and others in this thread have said, things haven't improved for blacks since the days of Jim crow/Slavery. Slavery was about exploitation, jim crow was about subordination, and currently, mass incarceration is about marginalization, or creating a permanent “caste system” with legal discrimination against a group which comprises primarily of african american men, FELONS. A Caste System is intended to relegate certain individuals to a position of permanent "second class" status. Once placed in the “second class” group, you can be legally discriminated against. I'm talking about the "felon status" and right now 1 of 8 black men is deemed "felons" or has felony records. Once labeled a felon you can be legally discriminated against (America hates felons). Currently, people who are felons can be legally discriminated against through the media, employment, education and housing, and felons actually lose their right to vote, yet still count as citizens on the census.
Now, stamping black men with a “felon status” was deliberate, and was intended to place “black men” back where they “belong” (in a subordinate position) to appease the anti-black resentment that still lingered from the post Civil Rights Era (late 1960’s). To achieve this, new terminology needed to be used in order to discriminate against blacks without appearing outright racist. Race neutral terms needed to be used to describe a certain group, without appearing racist. This began during the Civil Rights movement of the 1960’s, where white politicians labeled the black Civil Rights leaders as “criminals” because they violated the laws of segregation (sit ins, boycotts, protests and disobeying police, etc). Whites began to view blacks as “criminals” and this perspective has stuck throughout the past 40 years. The words “black” and “criminal” were repeatedly tied together.
Now in 2011, if you say “We as America need to do something about WHITE CRIME”, people will be confused as hell because “WHITE” and “CRIME” do not go together, or at least naturally. Why aren’t there any images a.ssociated with “WHITE CRIME”? There are no images conjured in our minds of “white criminals” or no sense of urgency to put them in prison or create laws that specifically target them. However, if you say something like, “We as America need to do something about BLACK CRIME or MEXICAN CRIME”, people will agree, because politicians and the media have done an outstanding job of portraying blacks and Hispanics as criminals, although whites complete the same crimes as minorities and escape harsh scrutiny. “MEXICAN CRIME” may conjure images of illegal immigration and drug lords, “BLACK CRIME”, crack dealers and gang bangers, ‘WHITE CRIME”, nothing. “WHITE COLLAR CRIME”, rich white dudes who rob people of millions.
This is subconscious racism that people of colors are guilty of. Here’s another example, if I told you to close your eyes and imagine a “typical crack cocaine user”, what type of person pops into you head automatically? If it’s a black person, then you may be subconsciously racist because whites abuse crack at about the same rate as blacks. Likewise, if I told you to close your eyes and imagine the typical “welfare recipient” and you picture a black person, it’s because during the 1970’s the Nixon administration began a campaign to label black men as “criminals and druggies ” and black women as “welfare queens”. The word “CRIMINAL” conjures images of “BLACK MEN” committing crimes and “WELFARE” conjures images of “BLACK WELFARE QUEENS WITH 8 KIDS LIVING OFF THE SYSTEM”.
Nixon began the War on Drugs in the early 1970’s, and every war needs an enemy and blacks were being positioned to be that enemy. By the 1980’s Reagan revamped the War on Drugs, with its intended enemy, Blacks, and stricter mandatory sentences for drug related offenses were created with 100:1 ratios for cocaine/crack; which means that a prison sentence for 100 grams of cocaine (1 year of mandatory federal prison) is equal to 1 gram of crack (cocaine is a.ssociated with whites, crack, blacks). This is after the Reagan administration a.ssisted Nicaraguan drug lords in moving cocaine into our inner cities (predominately black neighborhoods) in the early 1980’s and crack was created. Reagan’s War on Drugs began before the emergence of crack, but when it surfaced, his administration used the media to describe “Crack” as a “dangerously lethal drug, that makes people violently aggressive and homicidal and turns them into “criminals”.
Sensational news stories circulated during the 1980’s showing “black crack heads” and “black thugs”. For white audiences around the nation, this reinforced their view of blacks as “criminals who are dangerous and need to be ostracized from society” and also catered to the anti-black sentiment that was still lingering from the 1960’s, just 20 years earlier. Thus, mass incarceration began, the new slavery, the new jim crow, the new way to discriminate against “black men” without appearing racists because “criminal and felon” are race neutral terms, but the words “criminal and felon” conjures images of black and brown people, not whites who commit the same crimes. Just as “welfare” another race neutral term makes people imagine “lazy blacks”. You gotta realize there is some subconscious racism underlying these statements by guys like Gingrich.
Most of the black men in prison are there because of the drug laws, which were intended to balloon prison populations. Whites are collateral damage, they were not the intended targets of the War on Drugs and mass incarceration, but a lot of them are in prison because of these racist drug laws. Once labeled a “felon”, you can be legally discriminated against and once labeled a “welfare recipient”, apparently, you can be publically discriminated against.
and...don't get me started on the racist judicial system and police tactics that target blacks, or the socioeconomic systems that destroy black opportunities and that how the only blacks that are allowed to succeed in America are the ones that don't offend whites, or the educational system that labels black kids as retards, or segregation that crowds blacks in ghettos, or how the media exploits black stereotypes for records sales and viewership etc. etc. etc.