Category: New Jim Crow

Challenging the new Jim Crow, part 2

This is the second excerpt from a speech recently delivered at the Campaign to End the Death Penalty conference on the campus of the University of Chicago.  The introduction can be found here. AGB

The new Jim Crow comes to Tulia, Texas

By Alan Bean

Sheriff Larry P. Stewart

To understand how radically our society has changed it is helpful to trace the life stories of the folks running the new Jim Crow machinery in small southern towns. The stories you are about to hear are taken from cases investigated by Friends of Justice, but they are symptomatic of a national disease.

I started talking about the new Jim Crow in Tulia, Texas when I realized that a drug bust that swept up half the adult black males in town was standard operating procedure.

There is a picture of Larry Stewart in an old copy of the Tulia Herald. It was Cowboy Day at the Tulia High School, circa 1960, and Larry came dressed as an old-time Texas Sheriff, badge and all. But Larry wasn’t supposed to grow up to be a lawman; like most local boys he wanted to farm like his daddy did before him. (more…)

Goodwyn: The price of speaking out

Wade Goodwyn

Wade Goodwyn’s “Reporter’s Notebook” on the NPR site deals with a curious encounter with the black principal of Clarksville High School.  I urge you to give Wade’s account your careful attention because it highlights a tension that exists within the African American community, especially in small southern towns where it is incumbent upon black professionals to remain in the good graces of the white establishment.  I could relate similar stories from my work in places like Tulia and Hearne, Texas; Jena and Church Point, Louisiana; and Winona Mississippi. 

It is easy to write off people like the principal described below as an Uncle Tom, and doubtless the shoe fits.  But the economic and social consequences of denouncing injustice can be catastrophic.    (more…)

Michael Vick dodges the New Jim Crow

Michael Vick in court

Michael Vick’s performance against the Washington Redskins on Monday Night Football may constitute the most impressive single game by a quarterback in the history of the NFL.  Nicole Greenfield gives the religious backstory of Vick’s remarkable post-prison turnaround at Religious Dispatches this morning. 

But Washington Post columnist Courtland Milloy takes a different slant.  Quoting copiously from Michelle Alexander’s game-changing The New Jim Crow: Mass incarceration in an age of colorblindness, Milloy points out that Vick’s “prison was just what I needed” testimony may be sincere, but his experience is hardly typical.  The Eagle’s QB isn’t just adept at dodging would-be tacklers, his celebrity status and high-profile supporters allowed him to escape America’s new caste system.  Here’s the normal pattern:

“Once swept into the system, one’s chances of being truly free are slim, often to the vanishing point,” Alexander writes. “The fact that more than half of the young black men in any large American city are currently under the control of the criminal justice system [or saddled with criminal records] is not – as many argue – just a symptom of poverty or poor choices, but rather evidence of a new racial caste system at work.” (more…)