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Did Civil Rights Acts improve the living conditions of Blacks?

The civil rights movement is often romanticized as having been victorious; the mainstream public discourse purports that racism, as a factor oneimpeding black social mobility, is increasingly on the decline. It is claimed that America is coming closer to achieving Dr. Martin Luther King’s dream with each passing day. Such a dangerous myth obfuscates the true plight of African-Americans; the reality is that civil rights legislation proved ineffective in improving the plight of black Americans, and discrimination against African-Americans is ubiquitous throughout all of American society, even in the era of a black President.

 

two    America is still a segregated society; the masses of blacks are confined to ghettoes, where they are completely ostracized from mainstream American society. Civil rights legislation failed to even put a dent in segregation. When the legislation was passed, white citizens created various neighborhood improvement associations throughout America. Racism was masked under the agenda of protecting property value and maintaining safety in the neighborhood. Neighborhood Improvement Associations actively lobbied the city council to carry out zone restrictions, endeavoring to preserve white racial homogeneity. Strategic boycotts were organized against real estate agents who had the audacity to sell their homes to blacks. Thus, institutional racism would remain an integral part of city planning, all seeking to keep blacks living in a perpetual state of segregation.[i]

 

African-Americans who made it to the middle class would often seek to escape the narrow confines of ghetto life. Real estate agents would takewhitetenants advantage of these black customers by selling a home in a predominantly white area, yet, subsequently, these white real-estate agents would alert whites in the area that blacks would be moving in; with fear and panic, they would often sell their homes. Poor African-Americans were then targeted, and these same real estate agents would then sell them homes that they could not afford. A cash advance and several months of mortgage would be collected, and after inevitably defaulting, they would be evicted; afterwards, another black family would be subjected to the same process.

 

segregationThese discriminatory practices, known as blockbusting, ensured that segregation would be maintained despite the passing of civil rights legislation.Douglas S. Massey concluded, “Since the passing of the Fair Housing Act, the level of black-white segregation has hardly changed.” Within these segregated neighborhoods, the educational systems reflect these apartheid-influenced conditions.[ii] A Harvard study on civil rights recently concluded that – even in the 21st century, after the Brown Vs. Board of Education decision – the majority black students were found to not only have attended schools that were in a de facto state of segregation, but they were also found to attend schools that were more likely to be at the bottom of the socio-economic latter with less resources available for students.[iii]

 

The discrimination in educational opportunities significantly harms equitable access to the job market—a job market in which black candidatesdiscrimination2 are already at a disadvantage for merely having dark skin. The study titled, ‘Are Emily and Brendan More Employable than Lakisha and Jamal?’ concluded that job applicants with more ‘black-sounding’ names were less likely to be called back for an interview than applicants with more ‘white-sounding names,’ even with identical credentials.[iv] A more troubling study from found that white convicts and blacks without a criminal record, with otherwise identical credentials, have an equal opportunity for employment.[v] Such a social reality demonstrates a dire situation for black ex-convicts seeking to improve their lives.

 

policetortureSuch black convicts would have already been victims of an unjust legal system. Racism pervades the judicial system; blacks are more likely than whites to be stopped by the police and to become victims of police brutality. In court, blacks routinely have poorer representation compared to white defendants; blacks are more likely to receive harsher sentences for the same crimes as whites. Instead of standing firmly for justice, whether an individual is rich or poor, black or white, the report, ‘Racial Disparities in the United States Criminal Justice System’ [vi] concluded that, “The source of such disparities is deeper and more systemic than explicit racial discrimination. The United States in effect operates two distinct criminal justice systems: one for wealthy people and another for poor people and minorities.” As a result of these discriminatory practices, America incarcerates its populations at rates that surpass all other nations, and the majority of these prisoners are black, Latino, or a member of other minority communities.

 

 

Yet, the discrimination against black people in the judicial structure is part of a broader problem that seeks to feed the prison industrial complex. The apartheid prison system is becoming an increasingly important factor in the U.S. economy, with the government issuing out private contracts to construct prisons. The federal prison industry (UNICOR), which is owned by the U.S. government, even utiliprisionlaborzes the labor of prisoners to produce miscellaneous goods, including solar panels. Furthermore, many mainstream corporations, such as Microsoft, Boeing, IBM, and Texas Instruments, take advantage of this prison labor. Merrill Lynch has made heavy profits from investing in prison construction bonds. Eve Goldberg notes:

“Prison labor is like a pot of gold. No strikes. No union organizing. No health benefits, unemployment insurance, or workers’ compensation to pay. No language barriers, as in foreign countries. New leviathan prisons are being built on thousands of eerie acres of factories inside the walls. Prisoners do data entry for Chevron, make telephone reservations for TWA, raise hogs, shovel manure, make circuit boards, limousines.”[vii]

Thus, discrimination continues to be ubiquitous throughout American society, from housing, employment, and education. Civil rights chiefkeeffgbelegislation merely removed the overt signs of racism, such as “No blacks allowed” signs, but it did not mitigate the everyday practices of racism which manifests in the blockbusting, redlining, tactics of real estate agents in housing, the discriminatory predatory loans practices of banks, or court rooms which continue to bequeath harsher sentences to black offenders. At large, the black population in America is segregated in ghettos in which the only viable source of employment is the drug economy; they are systematically deprived of quality education; host lethal gang violence; their neighborhoods are often food deserts; and inside these ghettoes many die from preventable diseases.

 

Racial discrimination is as pervasive as it was during the ‘60s, the only change being how this racism manifested itself. After years of solidifying anti-black discrimination in every facet of American society, discrimination was able to continue without an overt legal mechanism to support it. Taking all this into account, it is clear that civil rights legislation protected white supremacy by putting an end to the overt manifestation as a recuperative mechanism to give the illusion of equality.

In the next article, we will take a look at how Civil Rights Legislation was passed with the intent to protect white supremacy.

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[i] American Apartheid, Segregation and the making of the Underclass by Douglass S. Massey A. Denton

 

[ii] IBID

[iii] http://www.gse.harvard.edu/news_events/features/1999/orfielddeseg06081999.html,

[iv] Are Emily and Brendan More Employable than Lakisha and Jamal? http://www.chicagobooth.edu/pdf/bertrand.pdf,

 

[v] “Discrimination in Low Wage Labor Markets.” http://paa2005.princeton.edu/papers/50874

 

[vi] Racial Disparities in the United States Criminal Justice System, http://sentencingproject.org/doc/publications/rd_ICCPR%20Race%20and%20Justice%20Shadow%20Report.pdf

[vii] Racism matters http://www.thirdworldtraveler.com/Prison_System/Masked_Racism_ADavis.html

 

Chiraq’s Child Soldiers

Think back to when you were nine years old. At this age, most kids in America are able to live care free, jovial lives contemplating about what cool new gadget they want from Santa for Christmas. For African-Americans in urban areas throughout America, their experience is totally different. When Robert ‘Yummy’ Sandifer was only nine years old, he had already been in and out of jail multiple times, deeply involved in the South Chicago street life, committing a series of armed robberies and arsons. Yummy, hadn’t even reached his teenage years before he began carrying out murders for his local gangs. Worse yet, he didn’t even live to reach his teenage years[1].

At 4’6, he was armed with loaded guns and not even remotely afraid to use them. He received the nickname ‘Yummy’ due to his love for junk food.  He lived his life as a drug dealer causing terror in his community by breaking into houses and stealing cars. Before reaching 5-feet tall, he was already putting people 6 feet in the ground. He committed recorded 23 felonies and 5 misdemeanors while carrying out his missions for his local gang.  The only picture available of him available of him on the net is a Mugshot—a photo that showcases pain, anguish, and depression. This same face and mentality can also be seen in Chief Keef rap videos[2].

This should come as no surprise. Both Chief Keef and Yummy are from the same Southside neighborhood in Chicago, and both are
members of the Black Disciples. Yummy was killed in 1994, about a year before Chief Keef was born in mid-1995.The same narrative of drug leading, shooting, and criminal activities that are found in many of Chief Keef’s videos and other Hip-Hop lyrics are the only imagery that Yummy knew his entire life.

From uppitynegronetwork.files.wordpress.com

After Yummy shot and killed a fourteen year old, child police went on a manhunt searching relentlessly for him. It was soon discovered that members of his own Black Disciple Gang executed him fearing that he would become a snitch to the police and reveal secrets about their drug trade.

This is what the conditions of poverty fostered by racial segregation produce.

Rapper Tupac Shakur was deeply touched by Yummy Sandifer’s story.  In his ‘White Man’s World” song Tupac gave his condolences by Yummy:

“Rest in Peace to Latasha, Little Yummy, and Kato. Too Much for this cold world to take, ended up being fatal.”  [3]

  

The song then ends with a beautiful, eloquent excerpt of a speech by Louis Farrakhan stating that “the seal and the constitution reflect the thinking of the founding fathers that this was to be a nation by white people and for white people. Native Americans, Blacks, and all other nonwhite people were to be the burden barriers for the real citizens of this nation.”

The truth is Yummy Sandifer never had a chance to succeed in this white man’s world, even in the post-Civil-Rights Era. Yummy was born to a 15 year old crack addicted prostitute and an incarcerated father.

That crackhead, or drug junkie, you see on the streets started off life no different from me or you.   That person also had dreams, aspirations, goals, hopes, and loved ones at one point in their life.    People in urban areas often turn to Marjuana, Cocaine, Crack and alcohol in an attempt to help them cope with or temporarily relieve themselves of the stresses and pains that they face every-day under this capitalistic society[4].  This is a reason why ‘loud a type of Marjuanna’ is such a huge subject of Chief Keef rap videos.

Yummy was abused from an early age, having over 40 scars and parts of his skin burnt from cigarettes.  He was eventually placed under the care of the state; once he escaped from his governmental mandated foster home he quickly took to the streets. [5]

Hardaway, who was convicted for Yummy’s murder at fourteen years old, had this to say from prison:

“Yummy was the average black kid growing up in a drug infected community. It’s millions of Yummy’s it’s just that Robert Sandifer gained national attention. He was an impressionable kid who looked up to everyone that was in the streets. I knew him but he was a kid to me. I was a kid myself but I was older and involved in a lot more stuff.” [6]

Indeed, there are millions of black children in urban areas throughout America, especially in the Southside of Chicago, who hang out on street corners, looking up to nobody but gang members and the illegal drug economy as the only mechanism to attain things that most whites have handed to them at birth— things like food, clothing, and shelter.  Like Yummy, Hardaway is also a victim; a victim of a racist, capitalist society that created the conditions where an illegal economy was the only way to provide for loved ones and have the basic necessities of life.  You can tell by the tone of Hardaway quote that he is fully capable of being rehabilitated, becoming a productive member of society.

Big L, in his song, ‘How Will I Make It” portrays a similar narrative:

“I’m only at the age of ten and life already seems to me like its heading for a dead end. Cause my moms be smoking mad crack… Nobody know how I feel … I had to steal to fill my stomach with a nice meal… I rob for meat. If I don’t steal I don’t eat. My whole life deserted. Either Imma go to jail or get murdered. All I tried to do was live the one life that I got. But it seems like I can’t get a fair shot.” [8]

From Hip-HopGame.com

Indeed, Yummy, Big L, and millions of unnamed inner-city black youth never had a fair shot in this country, yet America deludes itself as the foremost purveyor of freedom in the world. White Liberals adamantly believe that black people are making ‘steady progress’ in this country often pointing to blacks in ‘high places’ such as Colin Powell, Oprah Winfrey, and, of course, the President Barack Obama. White Republicans, despite being a cesspool for vicious racists, refuse to give credence to the notion that systematic racism severely restricts the social mobility of African-Americans.

Both of these parties believe that the discrimination, oppression, and disenfranchisement of African-Americans was just a misunderstanding rather than a core element of the U.S. capitalist, imperialist system. The reality is that Civil Rights legislation was never passed for altruistic reasons and the condition of black people in urban areas of America has not improved at all since the civil rights legislation was passed – and this is no accident.

White people did not suddenly have a change of heart and decide to give black people rights—the American government acted in their own self-interest.  During the ‘Cold War,’  America and the Soviet Union were battling over competing ideologies both seeking to establish an imperialistic grip on the world. The American government branded itself the epitome of freedom and democracy while casting the Soviet Union as a communist, totalitarianism regime devoid of human rights and freedoms.  [9]

But then  the Soviet Union began to use video footage of African-Americans in the south having their flesh ripped into and eaten by vicious canines. America could no longer tell the world it was the epitome of human rights and freedom while subjugating its black population to this type of open overt torture and suffering without appearing like a hypocritical liar—thus, superficial changes had to be made in the power structure of America and the manner in which it carried out its oppression against black people. This was one factor that contributed to the passage of Civil Rights legislation.  [10]

Another factor that contributed to the decline of overt institutional racism against blacks was the threat of violence from blacks. After the cold blooded assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., [11] blacks in urban areas throughout America were outraged.  The government referred to the actions of African-Americans after King’s death as ‘riots’ rather than what they really were: rebellions!

Thus, something had to be done to appease blacks and quick; as blacks were heading towards a revolutionary path, something had to be down for America to gain an edge in this ideological war against the Soviet Union to not look absolutely ridiculous when proclaiming it was the leader of human rights and freedoms—thus Civil Rights legislation was passed.

Civil Rights legislation did a much better job at pacifying African-Americans than it ever did at putting an end to racial inequality, discrimination, and racism. In every area of American society from housing to health-care to employment opportunities, black people still face discrimination to this day. Civil Rights legislation was never adamantly enforced.  Chicago is among the most segregated cities in America. As whites live lavishly on the Northside, impoverished Blacks have been suffering on both the South and Westside for decades.  [12]

When Dr. Martin Luther King first came to Chicago he did so to protest housing segregation and the substandard housing of Chicago’s black population. White residents threw rocks at him while others held signs in protest, one reading, “Roses are red. Violents are Black. King would look good with a Knife in his back.” They then led a cheer saying ‘Kill Him!, Kill Him. [13]Over 40 years later, Southside Chicago neighborhoods are nicknamed in the streets (and for good reasons) as Terrortown and Killaward – areas that are just as ‘substandard,’ or perhaps more so, than when King took part in his first protest.  When a reporter asked Chief Keef how dangerous the Southside of Chicago was he simply responded with one word: “Chiraq.” Nothing has changed-  nothing.

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1)The Washington Syndicate,True Crime: The Forgotten Story of Robert “Yummy” Sandifer, http://thewashingtonsyndicate.wordpress.com/2011/01/21/true-crime-the-forgotten-story-of-robert-%E2%80%9Cyummy%E2%80%9D-sandifer/

2) All Hail Chief Keef, Public Enemy #1, http://hakeemmuhammad.com/2012/11/28/all-hail-chief-keef-public-enemy-1/

3) Tupac, White mans world, http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/2pac/whitemansworld.html

4) Black Anarcism, Lorenzo Ervin, http://libcom.org/library/anarchism-black-revolution-lorenzo-ervin

5)The Washington Syndicate True Crime: The Forgotten Story of Robert “Yummy” Sandifer

http://thewashingtonsyndicate.wordpress.com/2011/01/21/true-crime-the-forgotten-story-of-robert-%E2%80%9Cyummy%E2%80%9D-sandifer/

6) IBID

7) Bob Avakian, Youth Deserve a better future,  http://www.youtube.com/user/RevolutionTalk

8) Big L, How Will I make It, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BL9l5CojBNQ

9) Bob Avakian, Revolution Talk.  http://www.youtube.com/user/RevolutionTalk

10)IBID

11) Peter Gelderloos,What is Democracy,  http://theanarchistlibrary.org/library/peter-gelderloos-what-is-democracy

12)Chicago Most Segregated City, http://chicagoist.com/2010/10/31/chicago_still_the_most_segregated_c.php

13,MLK, 2009 http://www.secretsocietymusic.org/darcy_james_argues_secret/2009/01/mlk-2009.html