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The New Jim Crow; Helpful History of Racism in America

Sarah's picture

I'm only part way through the reading for "The New Jim Crow" but I really wish this had been the texts for one of my American history classes in high school (for some reason, we did 1 year of world history, 2 years of American, and the last year was government).   It's ironic that even though I was exposed to two years of US History, a lot of the flaws of Americas past were left out; slavery was talked about in a very distant, unemotional way and to refer to something like the Trail of Tears as genocide would have been outrageous.  I went to a very racially diverse high school (although we were greatly segregated by AP and honors tracking), but when slavery was discussed a lot of white people complained: "What does this have to do with us? I hate when people say I'm racist just because I'm white, it's not my fault my great great grandfather owned slaves" and so on.  If you accused anyone of saying something racist, they thought you were being overly sensitive.  For example, in New England/Massachusetts, brown ice cream sprinkles are refered to as "jimmies".  My brother told me that this refered back to the Jim Crow laws and given it's racist origin, it was not something I should say.  I remember telling some of my whtie friends about it and their reaction was something like "when are people going to GET OVER slavery?".  I would like to think that had we read a book the The New Jim Crow, my peers and I would have been much more aware of how the history of slavery and racism still impacts us today.  I think it would have been especially good because most of the students in my high school were of a working class background.  This text would have illuminated how race was created/used as a tool to separate the classes and keep the minority of wealthy white people in power.  Also, as someone mentioned, this text is really ACCESSIBLE and easy enough to read, but the ideas and message are still very intelligible and important.