Watching Lester Holt’s series on mass incarceration, I was struck by the time-line: early 70s is when the upsurge in incarceration began and it has affected Black people disproportionately. What else was going on then?
When my wife and I got married, we could buy a house only in South Phoenix, the Black part of town. That was in 1964. Ten years earlier, Brown v Board of Education was decided, opening previously all-White schools to Black children. The Civil Rights Act and other federal legislation brought about a gradual but not too slow end to residential segregation.
I know this personally because my wife and I watched as Black families moved out of South Phoenix, what they called the ghetto then and now the ‘hood. This began in the late 60s. By 1973 my wife and I had taken the plunge and left, too. (Little did we know what a vacuum this exodus would create)
The next few years were replete with instances of White society adjusting to African-Americans in its midst, a new phenomenon. Hispanics began to rent, buy and be hired in places that had seen very few. (20 years later a flood of Hispanics would roll in and over not just Arizona but the whole country).
Am I paranoid to think that the defenders of White society, Christian civilization, the West World, whatever you hear it labeled, engineered a way to take as many Black males out of society as possible? Not consciously, of course, but the war on drugs, the war on crime, came at a time, 1971, when White Americans found themselves beset by African-Americans stepping into roles that had seldom if ever been filled by them in the past. Entertainers? Yes. Menial workers? Yes. But not much else.
We, my wife and I, have the personal memories of White people’s (and some Hispanics’) reactions to her and other Blacks occupying these roles. We must now ask ourselves this question: is Trump’s election just one more spasmodic response to the unwelcome presence of African-Americans in positions previously barred to them?