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Mass Incarceration in an Age of Colorblindness

            "The slave went free; stood a brief moment in the sun; then moved back again toward slavery. Du Bois, Black Reconstruction of America. (Alexander 20). W.E.B. Du Bois reminds us that former slaves had "a brief moment in the sun" before returning to a status akin to slavery. In many schools across the nation, the Emancipation Proclamation is praised as one of the greatest documents to ever happen to the black man. However, to see freedom, a civil war, in which many African-Americans died, had to be fought. Constitutional amendments assuring African-Americans "equal protection of the law" proved impotent as soon as a white backlash against reconstruction gained steam. Suddenly, the black man was rushed back to square one with the advent of Jim Crow. Any researcher of American history must acknowledge that racism is a highly adaptive system. Today, in the so-called era of colorblindness, in the era of Obama, a new caste system has emerged in the form of mass incarceration.
             People find it no surprise that the Jim Crow system arose after slavery. However, it is astonishing that people do not believe that the political and social dynamics that purport to color blindness would create a new caste system- the one all Americans live in today. The fact that many African-Americans have success stories does not signify that a caste system does not exist even during the Old Jim Crow. It is impossible for a caste system to perfectly govern every single person. The superlative nature of individual black achievement in previously white domains signifies the end of the Old Jim Crow but that does not indicate the end of a caste system. The rules of the game have simply changed and have produced starkly similar results. Legal scholar Reva Siegel dubs this "preservation through transformation", which is the process through which white privilege is maintained, though the rules and rhetoric change.

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