The term ‘New Jim Crow’, broadly speaking has been used to denote the Racist system of oppression which has emerged from the synergy between Business and Politics creating punitive Criminal Laws that result in disproportionate Black imprisonment in order to obtain cheap Prison Labour from Inmates serving time within the Prison Industrial Complex.
It is rooted in America’s past segregationist ‘Jim Crow’ Laws.
In order to gain more understanding of the emergence of the ‘New Jim Crow’, we revisit the ‘Jim Crow era’.
Jim Crow Segregation: Post-Civil War Labour ‘Solution’ For Defeated Southern States
‘Jim Crow Laws’ were Laws that enforced racial segregation in the Southern United States until 1965.
They mandated racial segregation in all public facilities in the States of the former Confederate States of America, starting in 1896 with a “separate but equal” status for African Americans. This principle was extended to virtually all public facilities, with facilities for African Americans being consistently inferior to those which were then available to white Americans.
Jim Crow Laws should also be understood in the context of solving the Labour crisis for the defeated and Slave reliant Southern States in a Post-Civil War American Economy. Before the Civil War and abolition of Slavery, Southern States had been heavily dependent on essentially free Black Slave Labour.
After the end of the Civil War, Slaves were now emancipated, and under no obligation to provide free Labour to any Plantation Owner as was the case during Slavery.
Abolition was at the core of the Civil War, and following the defeat of the South, the South’s Labour concerns were addressed through the Jim Crow Laws to ensure that former Slaves although now technically Freemen, remained the cheap Labour Force they always were during Slavery.
The institution of segregationist Jim Crow Laws forced former Slaves to work as exploited Sharecroppers on the same Plantations they had worked as Slaves prior to the abolition of Slavery. They also led to a disproportionaly higher rate of arrest and criminal convictions within the Black community.
These Prison inmates were leased to Private Companies providing droves of cheap, disposable Labourers who could be worked to the extremes of human cruelty as Prison Inmates.
Jim Crow was therefore an extension of Slavery’s Political and Economic logic through the veneer of a Legal system which ensured that Black-American Labour would always come cheap in America even after the abolition of Slavery and the end of a Civil War in which Black American Soldiers had served on the side of the Union on the understanding that their Wartime sacrifice would finally earn them an equal place at the Table as fellow Americans…Alas it was not to be.
The Prison Industrial Complex
The term “Prison–Industrial Complex” (PIC), derived from the “military–industrial complex” of the 1950s, describes the attribution of the rapid expansion of the US inmate population to the political influence of private prison companies and businesses that supply goods and services to government prison agencies for profit.
The Privatisation of Prisons for profits dependent on the exploitation of the cheap Labour of Prison inmates is therefore the chief aspect of the Prison Industrial Complex.
The New Jim Crow
Michelle Alexander’s ‘The New Jim Crow Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness’ is a stunning account of the rebirth of a caste-like system in the United States that has resulted in millions of African Americans locked behind bars and then relegated to a permanent second-class status—denied the very rights supposedly won in the Civil Rights Movement.
Whilst it may not be completely accurate to portray the current Prison Industrial Complex system as identical to Jim Crow, the analogy is useful and drives home the point that the system in place today represents the latest manifestation of the solution to modern America’s Labour problem.
As movements like ‘Black Lives Matter’ raise necessary objections at the display of the ‘side-effects’ of this toxic system, appearing in such forms as the Police Brutality which led to tragic deaths of Travon Martin and Kalief Browder, its clear that the ‘Labour Question’ continues to haunt modern America, and the Prison Industrial Complex continues to expand as a ‘solution’ to it.
Check out the links below for more on Jim Crow, the Prison Industrial Complex and its latest manifestations viewed as ‘The New Jim Crow’ by Michelle Alexander and others. In addition, you can view the featured Oscar nominated Documentary ’13th’ on the evolution of the Prison Industrial Complex as the modern version of Jim Crow directly from our Home Page.
In order to also understand the kind of irrational ‘White hysteria’ that Jim Crow Laws pandered to, the classic 1915 Film ‘Birth of a Nation’ is available on our YouTube Channel’s ‘Film’ Playlist as a disturbing portrayal of prevalent Racist attitudes, particularly in the South as it tried to salvage a perverse sense of honour following its defeat in the Civil War.
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Links & Credits
Jim Crow Laws: http://americanhistory.si.edu/brown/history/1-segregated/white-only-1.html
Jim Crow Laws & Black Labour: http://theconversation.com/exploiting-black-labor-after-the-abolition-of-slavery-72482
Prison Industrial Complex: https://goodmenproject.com/featured-content/what-is-the-prison-industrial-complex/
Black Lives Matter & The New Jim Crow: http://www.thecritique.com/articles/black-lives-matter-part-ii/
New Jim Crow Critique: https://www.blackagendareport.com/content/black-mass-incarceration-it-new-it-jim-crow-prison-industrial-complex-real-and-what-differen
M Alexander Website & Book Link: http://newjimcrow.com/
YouTube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCD0SW5w3aLXj7B3npFLlGug