In today’s America, we’re on the precipice of a really dangerous backslide. In the time since Donald Trump was elected President of the United States, incidents of overt racism have soared. Threats against the Jewish community are up drastically. One Senator made remarks that were lauded by a former member of the Ku Klux Klan. In short, things in the United States are bad and they’re not looking up … at least for four more years. It’s a story that’s all too commonplace for minority residents of the US, one that’s been woven into the fabric of American society since the country’s birth. Take, for example, one of the nation’s darkest time periods, the Jim Crow era, a period of more than 75 years in which there were laws on the books that enforced segregation and the general oppression of nearly half of the United States’ citizens. Though the times (and targets) have changed a little bit, there are still policies in play that seem to have been recycled from the Jim Crow era.
The Real Beginning of Jim Crow
In spite of the passing of the Thirteenth Amendment and the Fourteenth Amendment, the two Constitutional add-ons that were meant to level the playing field for America’s minorities and former slaves, things still weren’t very equal. In 1875, however, the Civil Rights Act was narrowly passed in order to insure that the South’s former slaves were properly integrated into American society. Then, in 1883, the Supreme Court ruled 8-1 that the Civil Rights Act of 1875 wasn’t Constitutional, because, a) the Thirteenth Amendment protected citizens from institutional slavery, but not institutional bigotry, and b) that the Fourteenth Amendment guaranteed minorities the right to Federal equality, but the states had their own say on how everything else was handled. In short, the Federal government washed its hands of the nation’s minorities for the next several decades until the Supreme Court stepped in once more to make things right.