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Excerpted from: Marissa Jackson, Crossing the Bridge: African-Americans and the Necessity of a 21st Century Human Rights Movement, 5 Human Rights & Globalization Law Review 56, 62-64 (Fall, 2013-Spring, 2014) (174 Footnotes) (Full Article)

Marissa Jackson

The failure of even the most triumphant civil rights accomplishments to improve the social capital of African-Americans demonstrates that traditional civil rights methods and approaches, and even the civil rights paradigm itself, are increasingly irrelevant. Thanks to the "colorblind" right-wing, civil rights discourse is now disingenuously characterized as divisive and racist, and is therefore of limited effect.  Any complaints of racism from black people are discounted as "playing of the race card" without further thought from conservatives, who are willfully blind to the racist world they intentionally perpetuate.

The prevailing civil rights narrative relies on a black versus white or women versus men dichotomy, resulting in an inherently combative and hostile paradigm, which excludes the experiences of other peoples negatively impacted by racism and sexism. As the realities of race-who is white and who is not-shift over time and according to class, language, location, and various other factors, it becomes increasingly clear that people should not be the object of attack. People raced as white are not the problem; rather, the problem is white supremacy, white privilege, and white empire. People of all races contribute to these social, political, and legal ills, and people of all races can unite to destroy them.

Present-day racism and sexism in the United States-especially those racist and sexist debates being played out in the media, legislative chambers, and courtrooms-have clearly demonstrated that bigotry is not, at its core, about personal feelings of animus, but power.  Bigotry and prejudice are the by-products of racism, and racism itself is a system and a strategy for obtaining and preserving power.  Race and racism are tools that have been used by mankind since antiquity to construct classes in society. They create order, invariably of a hegemonic nature.

Recognizing the true nature of racism and sexism allows one to view most clearly the nexus between these oppressions and the law, and reveals the importance of the law in destroying both. Law, after all, exists to create and maintain order; law is order. Therefore, it is not only those laws that mandate racial segregation or oppression that can be termed "racist" or "sexist", but also those laws created in order to maintain racist and sexist law and order. In the United States, as in many other nations, the order is one of white male supremacy. Insofar as white male supremacy is able to sustain itself in the United States, the law is necessarily complicit in its survival. Conservative law and policy regarding race and gender can be generally understood as those policies that would literally "conserve" a racist and sexist status quo.

The idea that racism and misogyny are the result of ignorance is one of white male supremacy's greatest shields against identification and censure. Bigotry is intentional and strategic: it is the expression of a belief in a pecking order in which women and racial minorities do not leave their lowly place in society, so that those on top maintain their elevated social, economic, and political status. Order is generally not accidental; and where it is accidental, the decision to preserve or destroy that order is most certainly not. Prominent and powerful conservative American politicians and political pundits have, in recent months, been willing to step out from behind the veil of conservative code words to plainly state their disparaging positions on non-white people and women, revealing that racism is a machine that is (still) being operated by the privileged elite. 

Power is the motivation for the maintenance of order. Those invested in white male supremacy are so invested because they wish to maintain control over political, economic, and social resources. "Politics is deeply connected to economics by nature" and racial politics are obsessed with economics.  But for a desire to gain, preserve, and protect wealth (and the power that comes with wealth), it is unlikely that institutional racism would exist. Racism exists as a way of ordering society and distributing power, largely economic power. In short, social and economic power are inherently intertwined, as are ordering demographics such as race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, ethnicity, and, most obviously, class. I have previously written that political persecution in the developing world often stems from the efforts of people to maintain and consolidate power, "which is too often tied to monopolistic control over scarce resources."  Such is the case with race. Racism can be understood as political persecution,  and it is exists precisely in order to do what political persecution is meant to do-particularly in the inner-cities, which are underdeveloped local polities indistinguishable from those found in so-called developing nations. Therefore, when I wrote that political persecution was often tied, at core, to socioeconomic rights,  I could have just as easily been referring to racism, as race and racism, too, are inherently tied to the denial of socioeconomic rights to certain groups of people.

Ultimately, the fundamental limitation of the civil rights paradigm is that it is fundamentally American, and American conceptions of civil rights are themselves the product of the United States' internal colonial empire. African-Americans, like other subjects, have produced labor and wealth for the empire; they are a valuable resource. In order to maintain control over African-Americans, as with other colonial subjects, the empire withholds full citizenship from them and ensures that they remain socioeconomically dependent upon the empire (even as the empire is dependent upon them), all the while attributing that dependence to personal laziness or other character flaws.

What African-Americans have been lobbying for, under a civil rights paradigm, is better treatment as subjects under colonial rule. Over time, and pursuant to various court rulings, the country's colonial administration over Black Americans has been reformed. However, as has become evident, reforms are not always improvements. Mass incarceration, for example, has been substituted for slavery as a new method of managing and profiting from black bodies and labor.  According to Michelle Alexander, the sua sponte killings of African-Americans by white Americans claiming self-defense (which she calls the ""Zimmerman mindset") are a new way of controlling, and disposing of, black bodies.

The goal of the colonized is not improved conditions in the colony, but liberation. Therefore, just as colonized West Indians and Africans lobbied for the definitive end of colonialism and for a new legal, political, and economic framework, African-Americans must pursue a completely new paradigm if they are ever to achieve social, economic, and political equality.