By Juan Cole
The 45 million African-Americans in the United States are unequal before the law vis-a-vis European-Americans and becoming moreso. In the age of Jim Crow (the white South’s attempt to prevent them from having the full rights of citizens after their emancipation from slavery), African-Americans often were denied the right to vote and were subject to arbitrary, summary judgement and even lynchings. They could not so much as drink from the same water fountain as European-Americans.
Although segregated drinking fountains haven’t reappeared, in many ways the right wing in the United States has largely undone the advances of the 1965 voting rights act.
In many states parolees and ex-felons cannot vote. KQED notes, some 6 million ex-felons are disenfranchised in the US. Since African-Americans are sentenced at startlingly higher rates than European-Americans, the burden of loss of voting rights falls especially heavily on them.
“Disenfranchisement laws disproportionately affect African Americans: in 2010, 1 of every 13 African Americans of voting age — about 7.7 percent nationally — was disenfranchised, a rate more than four times greater than with non-African Americans. In some of the strictest states — including Florida, Kentucky and Virginia — more than 20 percent of the African American population was disenfranchised, the report found.
Republican Party-pushed “voter i.d. laws” are aimed at making it harder for those who do not have drivers’ licenses, i.e. the poor who take the bus to work, to vote. African-Americans are especially hit by these laws, which often now also forbid early voting so as to foil the African-American churches’ programs of busing voters in.
Residential segregation, which is de facto often policed by realtors, continues to be extreme, though it is off the levels of 1970.
So, how much progress has the US really made? That places like Ferguson, Mo. were tinderboxes was obvious to anyone following these issues (see below).
Here is what I wrote last February:
Most death sentences are handed out for killing white people, even though African-Americans make up 50% of murder victims (they are only 12% of the population).
So if an African-American male had fired ten shots into the SUV of some white suburban kids playing their music too loud, killing one of them, I think we all know there would have been a murder conviction and almost certainly a death penalty imposed.
In case of conviction for murder, African-Americans are 38% more likely to be handed the death penalty than members of other racial groupings.
88% of African-Americans in a 2013 Pew poll said that there was “a lot” (46%) or “some” (42% ) discrimination against them.
Only 57% of whites agreed, and only 16% of whites said there is “a lot” of discrimination against African-Americans:
Average household net worth of African-Americans: $5000
The wealth gap between white and African-American families tripled between 1980 and 2009, according to the Century Foundation:
1 in every 15 African American men are incarcerated in comparison to 1 in every 106 white men