MLK dreamed that one day, “the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slaveowners would sit together on the table of brotherhood”, in equality. Today, they are equal only in name. A closer look at the collective fates of these groups of people shows a stark contrast between the celebrated equality of races and the reality on the ground. Though things are getting better (as MLK predicted), oppressive, divisive institutions remain, and they’re worth taking a closer look at.
The Voting Rights Act And Voter Discrimination
When the VRA, which protects minorities from state laws that discriminate against voters, got gutted by the Supreme Court, it seemed like a big middle finger to the decades-long work of civil rights activists. But this is part of a trend that’s been going on for awhile. As Greg Palast showed, George W. Bush was able to steal the 2000 election because Florida decided to unlawfully exclude the votes of prisoners.
A long-awaited step forward in the battle for racial equality came with the recent repeal of stop-and-frisk, a racist policy that targeted minorities. Conservatives predictably recoiled. To those who say that it’s not an “unreasonable search,” I would respond (and urge others to do so): I want to live in a world where no one should be able to touch a woman’s buttocks without her consent, regardless of the uniform they’re in.
The Racist Drug War
Despite this victory, the intense policing of poor, black communities remains a pressing issue, especially concerning marijuana. As I pointed out before, the police disproportionately target blacks for drug crimes, even though whites are more likely to use and sell drugs. As a result, about one-third of black men go to prison in their lifetime. Considering that prisons debilitate, not rehabilitate, it’s not surprising that half of the prisoners that come out of jail re-offend. Thus, that two states (Colorado, Washington) have already fully legalized marijuana is reason for optimism.
A Call for Justice
Right now, the black population is still being used as a method to funnel money into the prison system. Instead of being empowered politically and economically by the civil rights movement, the rights of blacks are being taken away and job opportunities are still scarce. Even under a black President. America’s not under any illusions; we know that racial equality is not yet a reality. Trayvon Martin’s case has brought this fact to national attention – the black population still has no justice. As the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington nears, we must answer J.K. Rowling’s question from the last book of Harry Potter, “We’re all humans aren’t we?” I hope your answer, and America’s answer, is a loud Yes. If it is, we’ve got a lot of work to do.