Black Was the First Green

Screen Shot 2017-02-15 at 8.16.17 AM.pngToday, we continue the discussion about how America’s prosperity is built on the dehumanization of people. This extends from slavery to modern criminalization, and both have been based on race. When slavery was racialized in the 16th and 17th centuries, it made Black skin and labor a commodity to itself. This fundamental equivalence has not changed, only the mechanism for exercising it has.

Today’s video, From Slavery to Mass Incarceration, challenges the notion many white people still hold: that slavery died out with the 13th Amendment. As part of the Equal Justice Initiative, narrator Bryan Stevenson partners with artist Molly Crabapple to recount how the system of white supremacy has evolved to maintain a modern-day slavery that disenfranchises millions of Black Americans.

A key point is how notions of Black inferiority and guilt have pervaded society since slavery. Blacks were terrorized throughout segregation yet portrayed in the media as guilty breakers of the law when protesting for basic human rights. This history of implicit bias remains today. Black people are policed harshly; they are six times more likely to be sentenced to prison for the same crime as a white person.

Your suggested reading is Black boys viewed as older, less innocent than whites. The discrimination starts early. Black boys as young as 10 may viewed as older by police officers and courts. And that makes a huge difference:

“Children in most societies are considered to be in a distinct group with characteristics such as innocence and the need for protection. Our research found that black boys can be seen as responsible for their actions at an age when white boys still benefit from the assumption that children are essentially innocent.”

And so we feed a racist pipeline that moves predominantly Black children out of schools and into the juvenile justice and larger justice system.

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