Since the emancipation in 1863, people in the south feared revolt and revenge from the newly-freed slaves. In an effort to reverse reconstruction-era policies, and prevent/quell backlash from the black population a terrorist organization called the KKK was formed, lynching thousands of black people from its inception well into modern times. However with the ever-changing zeitgeist, lynchings post the civil rights movement became more commonly referred to as hate crimes.
Since the emancipation, stricter and more irrational laws were established and enforced, targeting black men (illegal to be drunk in public, can’t be rowdy in the presence of a white woman, can’t spit in public, etc.) and consequences for misdemeanors were elevated to harsher sentences (5 years in prison for petty theft, etc.). The main reason for this was having slaves was illegal, but free labor from convicts wasn’t.
While slaves were a major monetary investment and therefore more-or-less cared for like livestock, convicts were not as they were leased for cheap. Thus, conditions for the convicts were arguably worse and more brutal than that of slaves. During the slave era, black people were seen as submissive and pathetically docile. After the emancipation, a new black stereotype was formed: criminal. Due to the fact that this stereotype has been insidiously ingrained into society, black people have been disproportionately targeted by the police force ever since. Nearly 40% of the incarcerated population is black. And to further illustrate the targeting, two “justifiable” killings of black people were reported every week to the FBI at the hands of a white officer from 2005-2012.
Since the integration of schools in 1964, studies show that black and Hispanic students face more discipline and are more harshly punished by teachers and the school system from kindergarten through high school with more frequent out-of-school suspensions while white students and Asian students (often labeled the “model minority”) are often exonerated. The punished students are constantly conditioned to believe they are bad at the core, discouraged from performing academically, and learn to view authority as the enemy—a vicious cycle that continues outside of the school system and with the law. The stunted potential for education also keeps a large portion of the population in poverty, keeping black people from fully ever integrating with white society.
Though the civil rights act exists and slavery and segregation is no longer written in law (for “ethical” reasons), society found loop holes to keep slavery and segregation very much alive while eliminating the guilt and keeping the general white population economically and socially dominant.
The point of this post isn’t to vilify white society, or rant about the injustice. This is purely for awareness and to open people’s eyes about the root of where the stereotypes and current social issues stem from. These are general statements, but the manifestation of racism has changed and continues to change, and modern racists think and act very differently from racists decades ago, which is probably a good thing! Racism in the manifestation of hatred is no longer socially-acceptable but it continues to manifest itself in ignorance, privilege and apathy. Progress is slow but it’s there. There’s just more work to be done.