This week has been full of disconnects. I finished reading Michelle Alexander's important book The New Jim Crow about how the Drug War is the new form of racial caste system in this country. Her research and statistics are impressive. Simply put, she argues that we have gone from slavery to Jim Crow laws, to mass incarceration. All are a form of race control. Fascinating too how she quotes both Martin Luther King Jr. and James Baldwin in her final chapter. Would that both were with us today to provide additional insight.
So then, the day after I finish the book, I sit down for the best entertainment of the week, the next Republican "debate." Of course these two hour "watch me talk over you and get my time" telecasts aren't really debates, but they are fun to watch because they expose just how polarized our politics are these days both within and without our political party affiliations.
No mention of racial issues anywhere. Not even connected to the talk about the economy or minimum wage.
This is the same week that the President of the University of Missouri resigned for inaction involving blatantly racist incidents on his campus. We're talking explicit KKK type acts. That spells ignorance, but it also spells take this seriously...immediately. Alexander, in the aforementioned book says that indifference is, in part, responsible for the new Jim Crow. I see that.
A couple of weeks ago the Internet was filled with examples of a Texas approved history text that attempted to whitewash slavery, calling the "immigrants" from Africa, "workers." I guess more accurately workers with no pay. Which brings up how each Republican candidate spoke against raising the minimum wage to $15. In their view that would cause unemployment. What about the cost of living in a time when rents are rising faster that American Pharaoh, the Triple Crown winner. Disconnection. To this mix add the introduction of a simply red holiday cup from Starbucks. No snow flake or snowman, no musical note or green tree. Red...just red with their pagan mermaid logo. Christian persecution. Never mind that for the previous 300 years only one kind of religious icon was "acceptable" for the red and green. Some of the entitled are feeling the pangs of disconnection.
The clock is not only ticking, it's melting. As we digitalize everything, we are becoming multicultural whether we like it or not. Most of us do value the mix. Like the research in The New Jim Crow, the numbers don't lie. I only hope the latest versions of the American story include the old Jim Crow. Lest we forget.
A final thought: Alexander's work also retraces the tragedy of poor people, both black and white throughout our history, to unite. There have been brief periods when poor and working class Whites realized that with Black support, both could defeat a common foe. Enter the race card played by White power brokers. "You may be poor, but at least you ain't black," is the implicit message. This division represents the biggest disconnect of them all in many ways. This capitulation to racism is eloquently detailed in C. Vann Woodward's seminal work, The Strange Career of Jim Crow. Connection, yes, but disconnection as well.