By Talia Floyd
According to the census bureau, a millennial is anyone born between 1982-2000. This is the second time the census bureau has tracked a generation. They also tracked the baby boomers who encompass all births from 1946 to 1964. The age range was not computed by the end of the last generation; it only came out in 2015. Every generation before or since has been defined and assigned characteristics more organically, and arguably millennials are not so different. There is no clear or agreed upon definition of what constitutes a generation, and there is no official naming committee which administers official titles. No one, not the state, not a university, a committee, or a board, is in charge.
During the Jim Crow era, segregation was enforced by the law, and African Americans, particularly men, were deprived of basic civil rights. They were also arrested for arbitrary crimes, and sent off to prison-another form of slavery.
Fast forward to modern times, statistics show that people of color, especially African Americans, disproportionately makeup the prison demographic across the country. Their offenses included drug related crimes and the punishments stemmed from the war on drugs.
Alexander writes, “Quite belatedly, I came to see that mass incarceration in the United States had, in fact, emerged as a stunningly comprehensive and well-disguised system of racialized social control that functions in a manner strikingly similar to Jim Crow.” In other words the system set in place to punish offenders is really designed to oppress people of color.
Is there something wrong with that system?
Some do not think so. Last year federal prosecutor Stephen H. Cook was recorded saying, “The Federal Criminal Justice system simply is not broken. In fact, it’s working exactly as designed. In the mid-eighties we were facing a spiraling violent crime problem across the country.” He also mentioned how Congress said they were going to focus on high level drug traffickers and put them in prison.
When Cook mentioned the mid-eighties, he was referencing the war on drugs declared by President Ronald Reagan.
Reagan knew that he couldn’t outright say that he was going to arrest people because they were African American, or Latino. He and his administration had to have a reason to arrest them. Could this history be repeating itself with the Trump administration? Trump has promised to restore law and order, rhetoric similar to that of Ronald Reagan.
In the article “How Jeff Sessions wants to bring back the war on drugs,” Sari Horwitz writes, “Attorney General Jeff Sessions has brought [Stephen H.] Cook into his inner circle at the Justice Department, appointing him to be one of his top lieutenants to help undo the criminal justice policies of Obama and former attorney general Eric H. Holder Jr.”
In the article “‘New Jim Crow’ author Michelle Alexander has a warning about Trump’s America,” Collier Meyerson quotes Michelle Alexander saying, “It’s not as though we were on the cusp of ending mass incarceration before Trump got elected….Trump has declared himself a law-and-order president, and has endorsed practices like ‘stop-and-frisk’ that we were close to winning the public debate on. And because he’s taken such an aggressive and arrogant posture that any criticism of the police is unpatriotic or un-American, we are in a very different political environment than most of us expected to be in.”
While it’s not likely that we can predict all of President Trump’s actions, judging from the ones he’s taken so far, particularly against people of color and the countries of their lineage, Michelle Alexander may not be far off with her predictions.