Tuesday, May 15, 2012
Diversity Does Not Equal Equality
“What has changed since the collapse of Jim Crow has less to do with the basic structure of our society than with the language we use to justify it. In the era of colorblindness, it is no longer socially permissible to use race, explicitly, as a justification for discrimination, exclusion, and social contempt. So we don’t. Rather than rely on race, we use our criminal justice system to label people of color “criminals” and then engage in all the practices we supposedly left behind. Today it is perfectly legal to discriminate against criminals in nearly all the ways that it was once legal to discriminate against African Americans…We have not ended racial caste in America; we have merely redesigned it…Quite belatedly, I came to see that mass incarceration in the United States [due to the War on Drugs] had, in fact, emerged as a stunningly comprehensive and well-disguised system of racialized social control that functions in a manner strikingly similar to Jim Crow.” – An excerpt from The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Color Blindness by Michelle Alexander
Diversity does not equal equality. In this supposed age of colorblindness where we have elected an African American man as president of the free world and one of the most powerful sources in the media today is an African American woman, we have made great strides in terms of overt racism, such as legalized segregation, but we have also taken many steps backward, or at the very least, halted our progress, wearing the comfortable shoes of covert, and even seemingly justifiable, discrimination. In Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Color Blindness, she addresses the grossly erroneous War on Drugs enacted in the early 1980s and how its provisions have created a racial caste system by disproportionately incarcerating minorities and then subjecting them to second class citizenship status by ostracizing these individuals from mainstream society and its economy with unjust mandatory minimum sentencing and felony charges.
Diversity does not equal equality. As someone who studied criminology in Miami, FL, as an undergrad, a program that focused on race relations and the larger structure of society and how they both contribute to theories of social deviance in disorganized and disadvantaged communities, I was given the opportunity and insight required to be able to look beyond the surface of our daily lives and examine the mechanisms that create and maintain systemic patterns of oppression. As an 18 year old white female from a largely homogenous, affluent hometown in the suburbs of New Jersey, this was a true honor and profound gift due to the fact that I had lived my young life in privilege, specifically white privilege, without the need to examine the workings of a society I gladly participated in but never questioned. Today, I know better, and I also possess the tools, the desire, and critical thinking skills necessary to carry this examination forward into all aspects of my life.
Diversity does not equal equality. As time progresses, the efforts to create and maintain diverse work, school, and living environments consisting of many different races and ethnicities remain a priority, but despite environments filled with all the colors of the rainbow, equality, equal treatment, continues to allude us whether it is through overt or covert racism or hidden individual, even unconscious, biases that have been engrained is us so deeply over generations that they are almost at the cellular level. From the macro level, with the mass incarceration of minorities, to the micro level, with the senseless murder of Trayvon Martin, it is easy to identify these patterns of prejudice and discrimination in the modern day. I know that I don’t have to tell my readers, individuals living out the values of love, equality, justice, mercy, compassion, empathy, and non-violence, to consider the larger social context and the systematic oppression present within it, but I encourage you to share this article and Michelle Alexander’s book with someone you know that might greatly benefit from this knowledge, and in turn, help to benefit our society and human kind.