Please note! This essay has been submitted by a student.
The more things change, the more they remain the same is an old saying which clearly illustrates America and the issue of racism. When the country started out, it was hinged on white supremacy. But this had to find tools to insubordinate the people to color and have them believe and conform to the idea that they were inferior. This was the age of slavery and the master-servant ideology persisted. When slavery came to an end, white supremacists could not just let the people of color go, there had to be another way. This was found in the Jim Crow laws of segregation which ensured that the white people had access to all the conditions to better their lives including education while the people of color remained impoverished due to discrimination. This did not end here as the supremacist ideology on which racism is based has evolved through time, each time using different tools of insubordination which produces the same results of keeping the people of color disadvantaged and prevented from becoming fully functional individuals in society, thus while things have seemed to change, they have remained the same, at least in the outcomes.
During the civil rights movements which sought to end the discrimination of people of color on the many fronts in life, there emerged black people that were so influential and who came to the very blink of delivering the most awaited change to their people. But such changes would mean overturning a system of racism which was used by white supremacist to protect their selfish interests. The assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. and that of Fred Hampton a leader of the Black Panther movement have very much in common in that they show what happens when the two leaders came very close to changing the system using their charismatic personalities and their ability to lead masses to demand for their rights.
The right of the black people to congregate and picket for their rights was constitutionally protected. Their leaders were people of character, for instance Martin Luther King Jr., who advocated for methods of non-violence during the demonstrations of black people. However, when he delivered the “I have a dream” speech, many people related with the speech. They, like King, could not wait for the day they would be free. Freedom and good life was now visible even if from a distance. There was surely light at the end of the tunnel.
By calling out for redistribution of power and capital in order to ensure sociaty, King was rattling a sleeping force that was racism which thrived on this imbalance of power to keep the people of color insubordinate. The assassination of King thus was a scheme to subvert these plans and maintain the status of white supremacy that dominated at the time.
Several decades after King fought for equality of people color in America, a lot still has to be done to ensure this equality. This is evidenced by the black infant mortality in the US, which is twice as high as that for the white children. HIV/AIDS is a great challenge in the black community putting the life expectancy of black people as low as seven years less than that of the white people. Even as more black students get to college, their graduation rates are significantly lower (43, and 63 percent) which then has a bearing on their incomes. Further the difference in the rate of unemployment between the white and black people is twice as high as that of white people.
Years on after revolutionaries like King had made their impact the black populations still live in conditions of impoverishment. This is because the fight for equality is a fight against established and rooted systems of supremacy who will do anything but give power to black masses. They know that if black people become educated, they are likely to take control of their lives as they make critical decisions about their lives. But this also means that the supremacists lose their hold on power, which they are not willing to do. As a result, they have to keep the black masses as powerless as they can by denying them the very tools of power including education. This is the reason why most affirmative actions in America meant to redistribute power and right the injustice black people have suffered in the past are violently opposed. This is done to protect the well rooted system of racism and racial insubordination.
King’s assassination story is similar to that of Fred Hampton, a black man, leader of the Black Panther movement in 1969. He like King was advocating for the abolishment of the system that sought to elevate one race over another. The approach of this movement was such that it wanted to shun racism, thereby recruiting both black and white people who sympathized with the black cause. Given that there were a considerable number of white people who were willing to support the emancipation of black people, the movement would be a force to reckon with, and the white supremacists and their system saw this as a threat.
Hampton was a charismatic man who no doubt attracted large crowds. Like King, he had the ability to get people to listen to him. He, like king had the gift of speech and leadership skills which saw him rise steadily in the ranks of the Black Panther movement to become a leader. He would therefore influence a lot of people if he were left to advance his agenda in a country that shunned racial equality (Alk & Gray, 1971). On recognizing the potential of Hampton to effect change and subvert the system of racism, those in power developed an interest I him finally assassinating him in his house.
Michelle Alexander in the book “The New Jim Crow” says that nothing has changed since the time of the discrimination of black people based on the Jim Crow laws of segregations. She says that it is only the justifications and rationalizations of this discrimination that have changed while the results largely remain the same (Alexander, 2011).
Alexander seems to suggest that in the Jim Crow era, the justification for discriminating was based on skin color, where white people were regarded as more superior and thus could not mix with the people of color. When this was outlawed by the constitution, the supremacist movement and systemic ideology have found other means which circumvent color but still hold the same results for the people of color; that of criminal justice system (Alexander, 2011).
Alexander says that the criminal justice system is the new Jim Crow. Since the color of the skin cannot be used to justify discrimination and inequality, this system hinged on racial supremacy and protecting the interests of white people have criminalized the black people, and when black people are labeled criminals their subjection to discrimination, torture and stripping them of their human dignity is justified (Alexander, 2011).
In the case of Hampton the sentiments of Alexander seem to be true. Lead investigations into the case surrounding his death showed that Hampton had been drugged the day before he was killed. Thus when police stormed into his house, he could not even move, making it easier to kill him. Other people who were in the house with him and who were merely injured were charged with criminal activities including armed violence, murder and hold of illegal weapons, charges that were later dropped when it emerged from the investigations showed that the members of the movement had only fired twice at the police, while the police actually fired ninety-nine times.
Following his death, the police involved in his killing defended their actions saying that they killed Hampton in self-defense. This was clearly false as this was a man who could not even lift his head when they stormed his house. This was a clear case of assassination. A raid into the FBI offices showed that the FBI had the layout of his house in their hold which means that they had been planning how to attack all along. As if it would make it any better, the lead police boss said that Hampton was a criminal.
By labeling him a criminal, it made it easy for the police to justify the killing of a man who had only fought for the rights of his fellow black people. He had focused on educating the masses so they understood the cause for which they were fighting. The supremacist system however knew this, like in the case of King, would threaten their status are supreme people while the black people played servitude.
Racial discrimination and racial control in the United States have taken on different paths in the history of the United States. Starting from the age of slavery to the Jim Crow era, the system seems to find any possible tool which they can use to keep racial minorities and people of color in subordinate positions. Alexander finds that today, racism has found an effective tool in the criminal justice system, which she says is a replica of the Jim Crow laws of racial discrimination (Alexander, 2011).
Like in the Jim Crow era of discrimination where people of color were denied education, employment opportunities, housing as well as access to medical services, black people who are incarcerated are kept from accessing all of this. When black people who are incarcerated are released back into the system, their reputation is ruined which makes it hard to access employment. With this, they are unable to have any source of income and they suffer from stigma and alienation, which throws them again into a life of crime. The result is a cycle of poverty and crime which grips communities of colored and people. Thus the more things change in American racism, they remain the same and people of color continue to be on the receiving end of racism.