Your Opinion: Racial inequalities continue today

Dear Editor:

Congratulations to Octavia Spencer for her outstanding portrayal of a maid, wining an Oscar for her supporting role. So far only 13 black actors have won the award.

While it is difficult to find fault with a movie like “The Help,” I sometimes think that contemporary films that continue to relentlessly celebrate the triumph of the human spirit over Southern racism may be masking an important contemporary situation: We may actually be a more oppressive country in the treatment of America’s black population than during the bad old pre-Civil-Rights days. The message of films like “The Help” is essentially “Look how far we’ve come!” These films serve to distract us from the terrible racial inequalities in present day America. What we now have is essentially a reconstituted “New Jim Crow.”

Let’s look at a few eye-opening facts:

Nearly one-half of black men in the United States are socially and politically disenfranchised, permanently labeled felons, denied voting privileges, unable to serve on juries and effectively denied employment, housing, access to education, public benefits and are a major contribution to a further destruction of black families as a viable social unit.

The heaviest application of the infamous war on drugs falls hardest on poor, black communities although it has been established that there is essentially no difference between drug use by blacks or whites.

This war on black people is an essential part of what is referred to as the “Republican Southern Strategy,” although it is bipartisan and certainly not limited to the South.

As America continues to circle the drain and unemployment in black communities continues at devastatingly high levels, this persecution for non-violent minor drug crimes will only increase disenfranchising higher and higher percentages of the black population. This is not class war; it is caste war.

“Recent data shows that much of black progress is a myth. In many respects, African Americans are doing no better than they were when Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated and uprisings swept inner cities across America. Nearly a quarter of African Americans live below the poverty line today, approximately the same percentage as in 1968. The black child poverty rate is actually higher now than it was then. Unemployment rates in black communities rival those in Third World countries. And that’s with affirmative action!”

— Michelle Alexander, author of “The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness.”

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