Ghosts of Jim Crow: Ending Racism in Post-Racial America

Ghosts of Jim Crow: Ending Racism in Post-Racial America

Ghosts of Jim Crow: Ending Racism in Post-Racial America

Ghosts of Jim Crow: Ending Racism in Post-Racial America

Excerpt

“You may think you are seeing some new [stuff] out here but this ain’t
nothing but a rerun to me.”

—The character Melvin, played by Ving Rhames in the Columbia
Pictures/John Singleton film Baby Boy, 2001

FROM 1619, WHEN the first blacks arrived in the Jamestown, Virginia, settlement, racial inequality was imposed through law and maintained by practices. In a long history of racial oppression motivated by white desires for economic exploitation and justified by false perceptions of inferiority, blacks were enslaved until 1865, were separated and victimized by law until 1954, and are separated and victimized by practice still, even when the president of the United States, the highest political official under the American constitutional democracy, is black.

What Does It All Mean?

At approximately 10:05 p.m., November 4, 2008, television news stations announced that Barack Obama had been elected president. I was watching the election returns in the National Press Club in Washington, DC, surrounded by friends, members of the media, campaign volunteers, and political junkies. Most of those in attendance were jubilant at the news, slapping five, hugging, shouting, and dancing. As I ventured outside onto the Washington streets on a particularly warm November night, the celebratory festivities continued, the sidewalks crowded with people of different races congratulating one another on the historic election of the first black president. People on the streets seemed excessively friendly with . . .

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