Racist Laws: Today vs. In The 1930s
If you take a walk down the street in a typical white, Southern neighborhood, say in Alabama or Georgia, you’ll notice the absence of “black lives matter” yard signs, and an alarming surplus of confederate flags hanging off of houses. Many people like to think that racism ended back in the days of slavery and Jim Crow laws, but the reality is that we still struggle with a shocking amount of racism in our country today. While internalised racism is definitely a problem in U.S. citizens, the possibility of racist laws being passed once more is a much more terrifying prospect; and we might not be able to stop it.
To Kill A Mockingbird gives us a child’s perspective of what it was like to live in 1930’s Alabama, a time when segregation and unapologetic racism were the norm. An African-American man is sent to jail and subsequently sentenced to death, just because he is black, and the majority of Maycomb residents could not care less. You may look at the state of the world today and think, “Well it isn’t like that now, no one is racist anymore, so we don’t have to worry about that,” but actually, we really do. Take a look at a study done by Peter Moskos, assistant professor at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York. His results show that approximately 49% of police killings in 2015 were white, while only 30% were black; but African-Americans make up only 12% of the population. That means that black men are 3.5 times more likely to be killed by police than white men. He also found that black males aged 15-19 were 21 times as likely to be murdered by the police than whites in that same age group. And that isn’t a coincidence. African Americans aren’t more prone to crime than white people. Whether the racism in the American police force is internalized or blatant, it is still there, much like the judge, jury, prosecutors, and audience in TKAM.
Those aren’t laws. There is no law that says that if a black teenager is walking down the street then they are automatically running from a crime scene. However, there are many actual laws being proposed that would seriously affect people of color if they get passed. For example, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has repeatedly suggested building a wall between the U.S. and Mexico to prevent illegal immigrants from coming into the country. It may seem like a good idea at first- illegal immigration is illegal for a reason, of course- but it’s Trump’s reasoning that alarms many Americans. In a speech announcing his presidential candidacy in June 2015, he said, “When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending the best. They’re sending people that have lots of problems and they’re bringing those problems. They’re bringing drugs, they’re bringing crime. They’re rapists and some, I assume, are good people, but I speak to border guards and they’re telling us what we’re getting,” and, sure, some Mexicans are criminals, but there is no difference between them and white people, black people, Asian people, any other race. Anyone can be a criminal, and assuming that the majority of Mexican immigrants are rapists and drug dealers is very racist.
Trump also thinks that the U.S. should completely eliminate Muslim immigration into the U.S., because he thinks that Muslims are automatically terrorists. In reality, there is nothing in the Islamic holy book, the Qur’an, about killing for their religion; in fact, it is against their religion to kill people. Therefore, ISIS is not Muslim. They say they’re Muslim to justify their terrorism, but they don’t understand what Islam actually is. The overwhelming majority of people who practice Islam are horrified by what ISIS are doing. Trump’s way of dealing with it is not only racist generalization, it also wouldn’t work. And it’s entirely constitutional. The constitution says that Congress has the right to stop immigration from any country, and they don’t even have to give a reason, because non-Americans don’t have any constitutional rights. So if a president wanted to pass a law prohibiting Muslim immigration to the U.S., and it successfully passed, then there would be nothing stopping it.
We have come a very long way since the 1930’s when it comes to racism in the American government and people, but we are by no means out of the woods yet. We still have a very long way to go before our country is 100% not racially biased. We are only a few steps away from going back to the way we were in the 30’s, and stopping it will take all of our power.