Racism in the 21st Century


Children are taught today that racism is a thing of the past. A disease which we have overcome and destroyed. Something that was rampant throughout much of history, and with the courageous leaders during the Civil Rights Movement, it was ended. However, shown in several polls is the opinion that racism is still very much a problem in the United States. In a CNN article, a poll showed that “Most Americans see lingering racism”. In a New York Times Blog, The Caucus, a poll showed that Americans today believe racism is a bigger problem than sexism.

But why, wasn’t the majority of racism proven wrong and demolished within our political system during the 60’s and 70’s? A quote from the CNN article holds the key.

“And experts say racism has evolved from the days of Jim Crow to the point that people may not even recognize it in themselves…University of Connecticut professor Jack Dovidio, who has researched racism for more than 30 years, estimates up to 80 percent of white Americans have racist feelings they may not even recognize.’We’ve reached a point that racism is like a virus that has mutated into a new form that we don’t recognize,’ Dovidio said. He added that 21st-century racism is different from that of the past. ‘Contemporary racism is not conscious, and it is not accompanied by dislike, so it gets expressed in indirect, subtle ways,’ he said.”

Racism has taken a new face in the 21st Century, one that is just as ugly and grotesque as before. A face that has changed as our times have. One that has morphed and conformed to our communities so that we don’t even know it’s there. What does this new face look like and how did it happen?

Shortly after the end of the Civil Rights Movement in 1968, in 1969 in a message to Congress, President Richard Nixon spoke of drug abuse as “a serious national threat.” He then called for a national anti-drug policy. In June of 1971 Nixon officially declares a “war on drugs,” identifying drug abuse as “public enemy No. 1.

How are these seeming independent events connected? That is the main point of the a book by Michelle Alexander, entitled, “The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness” These two events are connected she says because the Drug War is simply the “New Jim Crow”. That while the more overt and blatant racism of the 60’s: the lynchings, the “no blacks allowed” signs, the sit-ins and the freedom riders, simply disappeared. A different kind of racism has taken it’s place. One entitled, “The War on Drugs.”

A by-product of the drug war, is the ever increasing incarceration rates in the United States. The incarceration rate which is the highest in the world is a direct product of the drug war. Statistics show that incarceration rates have skyrocketed, specifically due to the drug war and the arrest of thousands of non-violent offenders.

Racisim is inherent in the drug war in it’s inception, execution and disportionality of arrests. Earning the drug wars title as the New Jim Crow. The Drug War, the New Jim Crow, Institutionalized Racism, any name you want to give it. It still shows that while the face of racism has changed, it still remains imbedded in our political structure.

The racism today is subtle, and for many whites or middle-class Americans, pretty much non existent. We thought it ended with the Civil Rights Movement, but instead it has been enabled through the drug war. The fight against racism in our lifetime is far from over. While scientifically speaking there is no such thing as race,  only superficial skin tone, it’s hard for many to reach past the cultural differences and embrace people of other colors as their own. As the future generation it is up to us, to break the barrier and to begin to look at other people as just people. Who have flaws and who have talents, who can be horrible and can be wonderful. Regardless of what color their skin is.

“The concept of ‘race’ is flawed,” he added. “Our differences as human beings are what make this world exciting and interesting. If we were all of the same culture, how boring would that be? The world needs to take a page from the atmosphere in Hawaii — the most racially diverse place in which I have lived.” A CNN.com reader, Mark Boyle of Muncie Indiana.

About Judith Ayers

Currently a double major in Political Science and Mass Communications with a minor in Sociology at York College of Pennsylvania, Judith is involved locally in many "liberty minded" organizations. This includes holding the position of President for the York College Libertarian Club.
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2 Responses to Racism in the 21st Century

  1. Andrew Shemo says:

    Good article, Judith. One of our other bloggers, Timothy, wrote something similar a while back linking gun rights and urban violence with the deadly war on drugs:

    I’d also like to point out that drug war has created an economical monopoly exacerbated by the government and worthless legislation. Think of all the money being made for law enforcement, lawyers, prison guards, prison officials, weapon systems, prison facilities, and etc. as a result of drug prohibition. People in those fields WILL NOT let the prohibition on drugs be lifted easily.

  2. Bill Tsafa says:

    I agree very much with your points about how the drug prohibition has created a very tempting black market. I did not always agree with this point of view, but it has become more and more obvious over the last two years.

    I do not agree with the links to racism that you made. In inner cities some drugs may be more prevalent among poor blacks… but at the same time other drugs like like “meth” are more prevalent amount poor whites. It depends where you live. In some places when you think of gang crimes you might think of the black and hispanics dominated Blood and Crip gangs… but in other places there are white dominated Hells Angels gangs that do exactly the same crimes.

    We also have to draw a distinction between racism and prejudice. I would define racism as an active effort to deny somebody their their Rights because of their ethnicity. Not including someone in your social network because of ethnicity may not show good character… but it is not racism.

    You mentioned Sexism. Sexism today works more against men then women. I see women more and more being giving positions that they are not qualified for just to make in quota (like construction). Also… woman in certain industries, like fashion modeling or porn, make far more money then their male counterparts. Courts favor women by a wide margin in cases of child custody or child support.

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