Part six: 1950-2000
As long as you are south of the Canadian border, you are South. – Malcolm X
1950: Congress bars immigration by communists or fascists, (by now, the Nazi scientists have all been naturalized) requires communists to have their literature stamped as propaganda, bans them from holding passports or government jobs and establishes a board to investigate persons suspected of joining their groups, members of which cannot become citizens. Immigrants found in violation can have their citizenship revoked. The government builds six concentration camps to hold anyone deemed a threat during state emergencies. Truman appoints a former head of the Japanese internment camps as Commissioner of Indian Affairs. Amendments to the 1948 Displaced Persons law eliminate the preference for farmers and extend the total allotment of visas to 400,000, including 80,000 Jews. The State Department allows war criminals to remain U.S. citizens. When Soviet bloc countries request their extradition, Washington refuses. A 1954 revision of the law will eliminate the critical prohibition that had made suspected war criminals ineligible for U.S. visas. California requires state employees to subscribe to a loyalty oath that specifically disavows radical beliefs. The University of California fires 31 faculty members who refuse to sign it. They sue and are rehired. Louisiana erects a monument near the site of the 1873 Colfax Massacre. Its inscription claims that the mob violence that killed 150 Blacks “ended carpetbag misrule” in the state.
1950-Present: The median household in public housing earns 57% of the national median income. That number will fall to 41% by 1960, 29% by 1970 and 17% by the 1990s, when, relatively speaking, residents will be three times as poor as they had been in the 1950s. The G.I. Bill finances 90% of the 13 million houses constructed in the 1950s. Southern politicians ensure that 98% of those homes go to whites, even in the North. Only one Black family can buy a home between 1950 and 1960 in the white neighborhoods that dominate California’s San Fernando Valley. Of 350,000 federally subsidized homes built in Northern California between 1946 and 1960, fewer than 100 go to blacks, as do none of the 82,000 homes built in Levittown, New York. People of color remain locked in the inner cities, their dwellings and businesses often torn down to make room for the interstates that will shuttle whites to the suburbs. Over 100 Black churches will be bombed or burned across the South.
1951: Pope Pius XII first uses the phrase “right to life”, launching the modern anti-abortion movement. State restrictions grow tighter, leading to a black market in abortions. Truman establishes a committee to ensure that employers working for the federal government comply with all previous non-discrimination laws. The Martinsville Seven, a group of young black men, are accused of raping a white woman. When the Supreme Court twice refuses to hear the cases, they are executed. They will be pardoned 70 years later.
1952: Congress abolishes all racial immigration restrictions and allows Japanese and Korean Americans to naturalize. However, these countries receive only small annual quotas. The law defines three types of immigrants: those with special skills or relatives of U.S. citizens who are exempt from quotas; average immigrants; and refugees. It again bars suspected subversives, even those who had not been active for decades. The Supreme Court rules that alien land laws in over a dozen states are unconstitutional. The Air Force is the first branch of the military to fully integrate.
1953: The Refugee Relief Act admits more Southern Europeans, including 60,000 Italians, 17,000 Greeks and 45,000 from communist countries, after thorough security screening and proof of guaranteed homes and jobs. President Eisenhower fires 5,000 federal employees as suspected homosexuals. Congress begins a 13-year period of disbanding Native tribes and selling their lands. The largest tribes terminated are the Menominee Nation in Wisconsin and the Klamath in Oregon. Over a hundred Native groups in California lose federal protections and services. Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, Jews convicted of spying for the Soviet Union, are executed. Illegal abortions are not reported, but the Kinsey Report asserts that 90% of premarital and 24% of married pregnancies are aborted. Vice President Richard Nixon imposes on government contractors the primary responsibility for desegregating their own companies, thus ensuring minimal outcomes.
1953-1973: The CIA, working with the Bureau of Prisons and the Public Health Service, begins Project MK-Ultra, an illegal human experimentation program that administers hallucinogenic drugs to hundreds of unsuspecting men, generally African Americans.
1954: Ellis Island closes. Operation Wetback deports over 250,000 Mexicans annually. The Border Patrol changes its language from “policing unsanctioned laborers” to “policing criminal aliens.” Agribusiness, however, continues to recruit cheap labor. The continuation of illegal immigration, along with public outcry over many U.S. citizens removed, dooms the program.
The Supreme Court declares racial segregation in public schools unconstitutional, overturning the “separate but equal” doctrine. Two months later, the first White Citizens’ Councils form in opposition. By 1957, these councils, operating in 30 states with 250,000 members, will use social pressure and economic retaliation to intimidate supporters of integration. The massive resistance successfully prevents integration as parents transfer over 500,000 children to private schools, or “segregation academies”. In the five Deep South states, all 1.4 million Black schoolchildren will attend segregated schools until 1960. By the 1964-65 school year, fewer than 3% of the South’s black children will attend school with white students, and in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Mississippi, and South Carolina that number will be below 1%.
1955: The Southern states phase out the use of chain gangs. Martin Luther King Jr. leads a bus boycott in Montgomery, Alabama. Emmett Till is murdered. Congress designates all Border Patrol officers as customs inspectors and gives the organization primary authority over drug interdiction between official ports of entry. The INS begins to strip-search all detainees upon entrance to immigrant detention facilities and detains migrants for longer periods to run criminal background checks on all deportees. Testing Enovid, the first birth control drug, doctors conduct unethical experiments on Puerto Rican women without consent or full disclosure of risk. Many experience severe side effects and three die.
1956: King’s home is bombed. A mob blocks school integration in Mansfield, Texas. The original GI Bill ends, having supported nearly 8 million World War II veterans with education and 4.3 million home loans worth $33 billion. As employment, college attendance and wealth surges for whites, disparities with their black counterparts widen. The first Mexican American in 36 years is elected to the Texas legislature.
Construction of the Interstate Highway System begins, frequently through minority neighborhoods, allowing more whites to retreat to the suburbs. Detroit will lose 60% of its population. In Los Angeles, a single freeway cutting through the mixed-race Boyle Heights will destroy 2,000 homes. In Beverly Hills, whites will successfully block construction of another freeway. Land values in neighborhoods bisected by freeways plummet, adding to generational wealth disparities, while communities suffer from air pollution. Those (mostly minorities) who lose their houses are not entitled to assistance from the government in relocating to new homes. The government will not require that new housing be provided for those forced to relocate by future interstate highway construction until 1965. But by then the interstate system will be nearly complete. The Border Patrol reinvents immigration control as crime control. Officers are instructed to substitute the term “wetback” with “criminal alien”. The Narcotics Control Act imposes life imprisonment and even the death penalty for certain offenses and makes drug conviction a trigger for deportation for immigrants.
1956-1958: California terminates 41 Native Rancherias. Long-term FHA policies that guaranteed loans to builders of working-class suburban subdivisions – with explicit requirements that blacks be excluded – result in a situation in which housing projects for whites have many unoccupied units, while those for blacks have long waiting lists. Eventually, as whites continue to leave the inner cities, almost all public housing will be opened to blacks. But industry such as automakers close many downtown assembly plants and relocate to rural and suburban areas to which black workers have less access. Good urban jobs become scarcer and public housing residents become poorer. Every metropolitan area in the nation suburbanizes, with all-white subdivisions surrounding an urban core where African Americans are concentrated.
1957: Utah becomes the last state to permit Native Americans to vote. Construction of the Kinzua Dam floods Seneca traditional lands protected by treaty. In a suburb of Chicago 6,000 whites attack 100 blacks picnicking in a portion of a park that had previously been white-only. Congress establishes a Civil Rights Division in the Justice Department. Raphael Cruz (who will later be father to Ted Cruz) leaves Cuba and obtains political asylum in the U.S.
1958: 94% of whites disapprove of inter-racial marriage. Residents of Little Rock, Arkansas vote to close their public schools rather than comply with federal desegregation orders. Eisenhower will deploy federal troops to escort the students to school. A Virginia court sentences Mildred and Richard Loving to a year in jail for their interracial marriage. They appeal, ultimately to the Supreme Court.
1959: Twenty-one black teenagers burn to death in an Arkansas reform school. Organizers of an American fashion show in Russia remove scenes that feature black and white models together after forty fashion editors protest the representation of racial integration. Eleven of the top twenty-five TV shows are westerns, which comprise a quarter of all prime-time network hours.
1960: A mob riots against integration of a New Orleans elementary school. Landowners in Greene County, Alabama evict 75 black families attempting to register to vote. In Fayette County, Tennessee, 700 blacks who register are evicted. Yale ends its unwritten policy to restrict its Jewish student body at 10%. Interracial marriage is illegal in 31 states.
1960-1980: The 1960s will see 160 riots. Of the one million persons displaced from their homes by the Interstate Highway Program, 3/4 will be black. A fifth of all black housing in the nation is destroyed for highways even as the government expands housing for whites. As public schools in the Deep South desegregate through federal court orders, private school enrollment increases by over 200,000. The South’s 11% share of the nation’s private school enrollment increases to 24%.
1961: Residents of largely black Washington receive the right to vote in presidential elections but can only elect a non-voting delegate to Congress. Whites riot when the University of Georgia integrates. Mobs attack the freedom riders in Alabama. A Virginia judge upholds racial segregation in courtrooms. Birmingham closes its parks rather than permit integration. President Kennedy establishes yet another committee to force companies to comply with anti-discrimination orders, and a Commission on the Status of Women.
1962: New Mexico allows natives to vote in state elections. Chicago has over 100 “blockbusting” real estate companies actively changing the racial status of two blocks/week. Readers Digest and Look publish sensational stories about welfare cheaters. Illinois is the first state to decriminalize sodomy. New Orleans segregationists bus Blacks to New York as the “Reverse Freedom Riders”. The Supreme Court strikes down an anticommunist loyalty oath in Florida.
1963: Over 700 Black children protest segregation in Birmingham, beginning a movement that sparks widely publicized police brutality. All the white students withdraw from the newly integrated Tuskegee High School. Five days later, terrorists bomb a Birmingham church, killing four Black girls. Such bombings are so common that some nickname the city “Bombingham.” The next month, hundreds of Black Selma residents attempting to register to vote are met with violence by state and local officials. Louisiana merchants protesting integration deny service to all members of the military, regardless of their race. Dr. King comments: “The most segregated hour in this nation is Sunday at 11:00 am”. The March on Washington is the decades-long culmination of a mass movement against racial and economic injustice.
1964: The 24th Amendment bans poll taxes. Two-thirds of California voters support Proposition 14, which allows property sellers and landlords to openly discriminate. Integrated groups of pastors attempting to enter segregated churches on Easter Sunday in Mississippi are beaten and jailed. Three civil rights workers are murdered in Mississippi. Over 7,500 whites protest integration of New York City schools. Patsy Mink is the first woman of color elected to Congress. President Lyndon Johnson pressures defense contractors to sign voluntary affirmative action agreements; many corporations in the South largely ignore him. The Civil Rights Act aims to end discrimination in all firms with 25 or more employees, as well as public schools, hospitals, libraries, etc. It has 70% public approval. Johnson’s War on Poverty funds welfare and employment programs, food stamps, Head Start, Medicare and Medicaid. The Supreme Court strikes down two state loyalty oath requirements. Similar decisions will follow in 1966 and 1967.
1965-1982: More Americans will go to prison than between 1865 and 1964.
1965: The Voting Rights Act enfranchises racial minorities. The Immigration and Nationality Act abolishes “national origins” as the basis for quotas and welcomes immigrants from Asia, Africa, and the Middle East. It gives priority to relatives of U.S. citizens, legal permanent residents and professionals and other individuals with specialized skills, but for the first time it limits immigration from Mexico to 20,000/year. This results in the beginning of large-scale illegal immigration. The INS continues to deny entry to homosexuals on the grounds that they have a “constitutional psychopathic inferiority.” Blacks riot in Watts (Los Angeles). Malcolm X is assassinated. Cezar Chavez and Dolores Huerta lead the United Farm Workers in their first agricultural strike. Alabama State Troopers and the Ku Klux Klan attack 300 nonviolent protesters on a bridge in Selma. The Supreme Court declares sex a private affair. The government lists 235 deaths from abortion attempts. In the last major literary censorship battle, Boston bans W.F. Burroughs’ Naked Lunch.
No longer needing to appear to have Anglo-Saxon names, film actors begin to use their real, ethnic names. At its peak, urban renewal displaces 50,000 families annually.
1966: Congress allows Cuban immigrants and their immediate families to become permanent U.S. residents in one year, while other immigrants must wait five years to apply. “White Supremacy” is the motto of the Alabama Democratic Party. Huey Newton and Bobby Seale found the Black Panther Party in Oakland. When Panthers march armed in Sacramento, California quickly passes strict gun control. Alabama forbids school desegregation. Blacks are assigned to combat units in Vietnam in greater numbers than their percentages in the population. Making up 11% of the forces, their casualties are over 20%. Black leaders convince Johnson to order that Black participation be cut back. By 1969, Black casualties will drop to 11.5%. Medicare functions as an effective integration tool; within a year of its passage, no American hospitals or doctors’ offices are segregated. The Supreme Court prohibits tax payment and wealth requirements for voting in state elections.
1967: In Loving vs. Virginia the Supreme Court rules that Virginia’s interracial marriage ban violates the 14th Amendment, but interracial marriage is still illegal in 16 States. The Court justifies qualified immunity for police officers from being sued for civil rights violations. The Detroit uprising is the worst of sixteen major race riots. Police arrest 7,000 people. The Bracero Program ends. Thousands of “Sundown Towns” still exist.
1967-1973: Twelve states liberalize their abortion laws. The FBI spends years monitoring Aretha Franklin.
1968: Dr. King is assassinated; 125 riots follow across the country. Two days later, Oakland police murder Black Panther Bobby Hutton. The Supreme Court prohibits racial discrimination, including blockbusting, in private housing markets. The Fair Housing Act declares housing covenants illegal and permits blacks to access previously white neighborhoods. But it prohibits only future discrimination, without undoing the previous 35 years of government-imposed segregation. William Shatner and Nichelle Nichols perform American TV’s first interracial kiss on “Star Trek”. The Young Lords model themselves after the Panthers as a civil and human rights organization for Puerto Ricans and other Latinos. Spreading to thirty cities, they will be repressed by the COINTELPRO program. Congress increases the FBI’s budget by 10% to fund police training, mostly for riot control, and prohibits interstate firearms sales except by licensed manufacturers and dealers. Over a third of Puerto Rican women have been sterilized, often without their knowledge or consent.
1969: President Nixon’s Operation Intercept requires customs agents to search every vehicle entering the U.S. for drugs. It throws border crossings into chaos and ends after three weeks. The Stonewall riots in New York begin the modern fight for LGBT rights. HUAC becomes the House Committee on Internal Security. FBI Director Hoover describes the Panthers as “the greatest threat to the internal security of the country” and covertly sabotages them with surveillance, harassment and the assassination of Fred Hampton. By 1982, at least 20 Panthers will be dead. The administration lobbies against expanding welfare and proposes a Family Assistance Plan requiring all welfare recipients except mothers with children under age three to find work.
1970-1980: Newark, Dayton, Tallahassee, Cincinnati, Detroit, Los Angeles, Washington and New Orleans elect their first black mayors.
1970: Congress passes the Equal Rights Amendment and sends it to the states with a seven-year deadline to acquire ratification. The Family Planning Services and Population Research Act is intended to assist poor people with limiting the size of families. But over the next six years the Indian Health Service will single out full-blooded Indian women of childbearing age, sterilizing 3,400 of them, often without their knowledge. Mississippi police open fire at Jackson State College, killing two black students and injuring dozens. The 1970s will see 16 riots. Hawaii is the first state to legalize abortion. Los Angeles police riot against the Chicano Moratorium, killing four.The IRS removes tax-exempt status from segregated private schools. To retain that status, schools must publish non-discrimination policies and not practice overt discrimination. Many refuse to comply. Native Americans in Massachusetts found the first National Day of Mourning as a counter-celebration to Thanksgiving.
1971: Massacre at Attica prison. The 26th Amendment lowers the voting age to 18. Alaska Natives contest the state’s violation of native land rights by opening their lands for lease to private oil companies. Congress ultimately gives them a land grant of 44 million acres and $962 million in compensation for giving up claims to nine-tenths of Alaska. For the first time since 1902, the five “Civilized” tribes win the right to elect their own leaders and reconstitute their own tribal government systems.
Nixon declares a “War on Drugs,” which will shape crime policy and – through the loss of voting rights for ex-offenders – every presidential election for the next half century. The prison population will increase from 200,000 to 2.2 million, 60% people of color. Blacks will be incarcerated in state prisons at five times the rate of whites. With only 5% of the world’s population, the U.S. will have 25% of the world’s prisoners, nearly half for nonviolent drug offenses.
The Supreme Court rules that federal courts can integrate schools, sometimes requiring the racial composition of individual schools to reflect the composition of their districts. This is generally achieved by busing. White families respond by moving to the suburbs, while many others transfer their children to private or parochial schools. These effects further increase the non-white percentages in many urban schools.
1972: Police arrest a group of activists known as the “Abortion Seven.” Nixon integrates the construction workforce on federally regulated projects. Construction unions protest. The U.S. experiences over 2,500 domestic bombings in just 18 months. In the last major loyalty oath case, the Supreme Court upholds a requirement that State of Massachusetts employees swear to uphold and defend the Constitution and to “oppose the overthrow of the [government] by force, violence, or by any illegal or unconstitutional method”.
1973: Enrollment at Indian boarding schools reaches its highest point, 60,000. American Indian Movement (AIM) activists occupy the Wounded Knee massacre site to support Oglala traditionalists against corrupt tribal leaders. Over 2,000 Indians resist a siege by the FBI, U.S. Marshals and eventually the army, who fire over half a million rounds of ammunition and arrest over 1,000 people. The 10-week standoff ends with 185 Native people indicted on federal charges. Los Angeles County first acknowledges the existence of a gang with 47 members within the Sheriff’s Department. In magazines depicting welfare, 75% of pictures feature African Americans even though they make up only 35% of welfare recipients. Louisiana changes its life-in-prison sentences from “10/6” to a 20-year minimum. Nixon creates the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and blames the anti-Vietnam War movement and leaking of the Pentagon Papers on Jews. The Supreme Court legalizes abortion and bans federal agencies from discriminating against disabled candidates.
1973-2005: 413 women will be arrested for self-induced abortions and other claims of fetal harm.
1974: In the largest Indian removal since the 1830s, Congress forces relocation of 12,000 Dine’ who are blocking strip-mining interests. North Carolina is the last state to end its sterilization policy. The government compensates survivors of the Tuskegee experiment. Residents of the District of Columbia regain the right to vote for mayor and city council but still lack voting representation in Congress. The Supreme Court first addresses the issue of school busing, confirming that segregation is allowed if it is not considered an explicit policy of each school district. The Boston School Committee disobeys orders to develop a busing plan. Boycotts and over 40 riots ensue.
1975: The Pine Ridge shootout occurs. Congress ends the House Committee on Internal Security and calls for decentralizing students from Indian boarding schools to community schools, but many large boarding schools will remain open until the early 1990s. The Civil Services Commission announces that it will consider applications by gay people. Congress restores full citizenship rights to Robert E. Lee. In addition to establishing a permanent ban on literacy tests and other discriminatory voting requirements, amendments to the Voting Rights Act require districts with significant numbers of non-English-speaking voters to be provided with assistance in registering and voting. Latina women initiate a federal class action lawsuit involving large-scale sterilization that occurred without informed consent or through coercion. The Senate’s Church Committee reveals extensive abuses against U.S. citizens by the FBI and CIA, but no one is prosecuted. California allows prison inmates the right to marry, bring civil lawsuits, make wills, and create powers of attorney.
1976: President Gerald Ford terminates Roosevelt’s 1942 internment order and apologizes to Japanese Americans. Over 35 years, North Carolina has sterilized 7,600 people, 40% minorities. A third of Puerto Rican women have been sterilized. The Supreme Court rules that political money is free speech, protected by the First Amendment. It also rules that plaintiffs must prove discriminatory intent behind any challenged action, thus reducing constitutional protections due people of color. Kentucky ratifies the 13th Amendment abolishing slavery. The Hyde Amendment bars the use of federal funds to pay for most abortions. The Supreme Court prohibits racial discrimination in private schools and holds that states do not have authority to tax or regulate Native activities on their reservations. Tribes soon open bingo operations. Ronald Reagan speaks of “welfare queens”.
1977: Racists attack a synagogue in St. Louis. The Equal Rights Amendment receives 35 of the necessary 38 state ratifications, but Phyllis Schlafly mobilizes conservative women in opposition and stalls further votes. Five states revoke their ratification.
1978: The Supreme Court allows corporations to contribute to ballot initiative campaigns. President Jimmy Carter approves $4.3 million to build a fence on the U.S.-Mexico border. White supremacist groups establish camps and train hundreds of vigilantes. Federal authorities ignore them, accost migrants in the desert and investigate the Sanctuary Movement. The militia camps will expand well into the 21st century. The National Socialist Party of America seeks a parade permit in Skokie, Illinois because of the many Holocaust survivors residing there. Skokie refuses to allow it, but the American Civil Liberties Union intercedes on behalf of the Nazis, who march in Chicago. Congress restores full rights of citizenship to Jefferson Davis, 30 years before apologizing to African Americans for slavery. Congress restores basic civil liberties to Native Americans, Inuits, Aleuts and Native Hawaiians, allowing them to practice traditional religious rites and cultural practices. The Mormon Church allows blacks to be priests. The Supreme Court upholds affirmative action in college admission policy but rules that specific racial quotas are impermissible. Congress finally facilitates the prosecution and deportation of Nazi war criminals and collaborators hiding in America.
1979: The Equal Rights Amendment fails to receive enough support in the states before its deadline. The largest nuclear accident in the U.S. occurs on the Navajo (Dine’) reservation in Church Rock, New Mexico. The contaminated river groundwater spreads through the Rio Puerco alluvium and the cleanup continues to this day. Klansmen and neo-Nazis murder five members of the Communist Workers Party in Greensboro, North Carolina. Carter requires government agencies to take affirmative action in support of women’s business enterprises. Job growth in the U.S. peaks and begins to decline. Boston attempts to ban the film Caligula. Louisiana removes parole eligibility for anyone with a life sentence.
1980-1990: The Supreme Court repeatedly employs the 14th Amendment’s equal protection clause to support white claims of reverse discrimination from affirmative action programs while demanding proof of intent to discriminate before supporting black plaintiffs. A federal court forces Mississippi to stop using “Lost Cause” history textbooks in its schools.
1980-2000: Successive administrations will allow massive immigration of Cubans while turning back those escaping fascism in El Salvador and Guatemala. Defining the Haitian boat people (as opposed to Vietnamese boat people) as economic rather than political refugees allows the government to refuse asylum to thousands. Israelis are another special case, with unlimited immigrant privileges, unique among Middle Eastern countries.
1980: A commission concludes that the internment of the Japanese Americans occurred because of “race prejudice, war hysteria, and a failure of political leadership” and that the military had lied to the Supreme Court. The Mariel Boatlift brings 100,000 Cubans to the U.S. and solidifies Republican control in Florida. The Government offers compensation to the Sioux for taking the Black Hills. The Sioux refuse the award, valued at over $1 billion as of 2011, because acceptance would legally terminate their demand for their return. Calling affirmative action “reverse discrimination”, Reagan reduces funding for equal employment opportunities. However, courts continue to reaffirm hiring quotas.
1981: Reagan cuts welfare (AFDC) spending and allows states to require recipients to participate in workfare programs.
1982: Congress enacts a 25-year extension of the Voting Rights Act. The Supreme Court makes voting easier for people with disabilities. Reagan expands the war on Drugs, further fueling mass incarceration, particularly in targeted Black communities. He triples the federal drug enforcement budget, hires 4,000 additional prosecutors, triples the number of drug cases prosecuted, and doubles the conviction rates for drug crimes. Albert Sabo, the judge in the Mumia Abu-Jamal trial, is overheard saying, “I’m gonna help ’em fry the nigger.”
1982-1992: The crack cocaine epidemic results in a doubling of the homicide rate for young Black males. Eleven Southern states enroll 675,000-750,000 white students in private schools. An estimated 65-75% of them attend schools in which 90% or more of the student body is white.
1982-2000: California builds 23 new prisons, compared to twelve built between1852 and 1964.
1983: Corrections Corporation of America becomes the first for-profit prison company, managing 65 correctional and detention facilities. Louisiana repeals its “Negro” definition of “one thirty-second Negro blood”. Over 3,500 segregated private academies operate in the country, with over 750,000 children enrolled.
1985: Reagan attempts a partial border closure with Operation Intercept II. Philadelphia police fire 10,000 rounds of ammunition into a house occupied by MOVE, a black liberation group, before dropping a bomb from a helicopter, igniting a fire that destroys an entire black neighborhood, killing eleven and destroying 61 homes.
1985-present: The war on drugs will disenfranchise over six million people, two million of whom will be black. The more blacks a state contains, the more likely it will be to ban felons from voting. The average state will disenfranchise 2.4 % of its voting-age population but 8.4 % of its blacks. In 14 states, the share of blacks stripped of the vote will exceed 10%, and in five states it will exceed 20%. While 75% of whites will register, only 60% of blacks will be able to. In each Senate over the next 35 years over a dozen Republicans will owe their election to these laws.
1986: The Supreme Court upholds Georgia’s sodomy law.
1987: The Supreme Court rejects a Black man’s death penalty appeal grounded in claims of racial inequality and instead accepts proven racial sentencing disparities as “an inevitable part of our criminal justice system.”
1986: Congress gives amnesty to 3 million undocumented immigrants already in the country. As a compromise, it becomes illegal to knowingly hire or recruit illegal immigrants. Thousands of businesses and individuals will ignore the new law. The Anti-Drug Abuse Act creates a significant disparity in the sentences imposed for crimes involving powder cocaine (used primarily by whites) versus crimes involving crack cocaine (used by minorities), with mandatory minimum sentences set at a 100:1 ratio. Black prison populations swell, while there is little change in the number of whites. Disparities in sentence lengths also increase; in 1986, Blacks receive drug sentences 11% longer than whites, but that disparity will increase to 49%. Congress establishes the National Indian Gaming Commission.
1987: Boston’s school district has shrunk from 100,000 students to 57,000, only 15% of whom are white. A federal court rules that it has successfully implemented its desegregation plan, even though 80% of the student population in 13 schools is either white or black. Reagan’s abolition of the fairness doctrine quickly leads to the rise of right-wing talk radio.
1988: Congress pays $20,000 each in reparation to tens of thousands of Japanese American survivors of the internment camps. The government, however, refuses to pay Japanese Latin Americans. California criminalizes membership in street gangs and imposes greater punishments for criminal offenses committed by members. “Gang enhancements” can add 10 years to a sentence. The process for identifying members is notoriously subjective and can include “frequenting gang areas”. Over 85 percent of people validated as gang members in California are Black or Latinx. Southern senators amend the Fair Housing Act to allow landlords to refuse to rent to anyone with a single conviction for drug dealing. Presidential candidate George Bush uses the Willie Horton case as coded racialized language to defeat Michael Dukakis. The Anti-Drug Abuse Act establishes a long list of retroactively applied “aggravated” felonies that trigger deportation for immigrants, including lawful permanent residents.
1989: A white mob murders a Black teen in Brooklyn. Boston police scour Black communities searching for anyone who fits the description provided by a white man who had lied, claiming a Black man had shot his pregnant wife. South Dakota replaces Columbus Day with Native American Day.
1990: Congress prohibits discrimination based on disability and revises all grounds for immigration exclusion, including homosexuality and language requirements. It increases total immigration to 700,000/year for 1992–94, and 675,000/year after that. It provides family- and employment-based visas and a lottery for immigrants from “low admittance” countries. This benefits Salvadorans by also creating temporary protected status for those unable to return home because of ongoing violence. The Border Patrol begins to erect barriers south of San Diego, ultimately erecting fourteen miles of fencing. Congress declares that Native Americans are entitled to use their own languages and requires the Attorney General to collect data on crimes committed because of the victim’s race, religion, disability, sexual orientation or ethnicity. This is the first statute to recognize LGBTQ people. Twelve percent of young people now call themselves multiracial. Lake Forest, Illinois finally ends its anti-Jewish and anti-Black housing covenants.
1990-2019: Fifty predominantly black churches will be bombed or burned across the South. Courts began relaxing judicial supervision of school districts, calling for voluntary efforts to achieve racial balance. Partly due to widespread belief in the “welfare queen” stereotype, 22 states pass laws that ban increasing welfare payments to mothers after they have more children. In order to receive additional funds after the birth of a child, women are required to prove to the state that their pregnancies were the result of contraceptive failure, rape, or incest. Seven states will later repeal these laws.
1991: The Supreme Court lifts a desegregation decree, authorizing one-race schools in Oklahoma City. The Los Angeles Times reports on L.A. Sheriff gangs. Bush prevents an attempt to revive the Fairness Doctrine.
1991-1995: The number of unauthorized immigrants sentenced in federal courts increases by 167%, compared with 13% for citizens.
1991 to 2000: The U.S. admits more legal immigrants, (ten to eleven million), than in any previous decade. Criminologists speak of black youth “superpredators” and “crack babies”. Senator Joe Biden introduces the Police Officers’ Bill of Rights
1992: Los Angeles experiences over 1,000 gang-related homicides. A white jury acquits three of the four police officers who beat Rodney King, provoking the Los Angeles uprising. Gangs in Watts establish a peace treaty to challenge police brutality and end the mass violence. After two years, gang violence will drop by 44 percent. Peace treaties spread to 15 cities, despite repeated attempts by police to undermine them. Presidential candidate Bill Clinton, promising to “end welfare as we have come to know it,” wins the election only because George Bush and Ross Perot split the conservative vote. Berkeley, CA is the first city to institute Indigenous People’s Day as a counter-celebration to Columbus Day.
1993: Clinton begins Operations Hold the Line and Gatekeeper, which focus on intercepting illegal entries at the border. Then, with the “Prevention Through Deterrence” strategy, the Border Patrol attempts to control immigrant movement by rerouting it away from urban ports of entry and into wilderness areas, thus heightening the risks. These programs will cause over 7,000 deaths without halting the mass movement of people. Congress requires state motor vehicle agencies to offer voter registration opportunities. States must offer mail-in voter registration applications and opportunities to register to vote at certain offices and maintain accurate voter registration lists. In its first year, over 30 million people update or complete their registration. Washington state passes the first modern “three-strikes” law mandating life imprisonment, followed eventually by 25 other states. Under such mandatory sentencing laws, black offenders will grow from under 10% in 1984 to 28% of mandatory minimum drug offenders by 1990. Congressional acknowledgement of federal involvement in the 1893 overthrow of Hawaii’s government serves inspires the Hawaiian Sovereignty movement. The National Holocaust Museum opens in Washington, years before America’s own historical crimes, such as slavery, will be similarly addressed.
1993-2017: Joe Arpaio, Sheriff of Arizona’s Maricopa County, oversees what the Justice Department will call the worst pattern of racial profiling in U.S. history, including the re-introduction of chain gangs, until he is convicted and removed.
1994: Clinton’s North American Trade Agreement floods rural Mexico with subsidized American corn, bankrupting two million Mexican farmers. The result is a massive increase in migration northward. Following Clinton’s ban on assault weapons mass shooting deaths drop by 43%. California’s Proposition 187, passed by an overwhelming majority of voters, would deny health services, social services and education to undocumented immigrants and mandate that all public employees report anyone seeking services whom they believed might be undocumented. Implementation is halted by the courts.
1995: Clinton institutes the “wet foot, dry foot policy.” For the next two decades, any Cuban caught on the waters between the two nations (with “wet feet”) is summarily returned to Cuba, while one who makes it to shore (“dry feet”) gets a chance to remain in the U.S. and qualify for expedited residency status. Mississippi ratifies the 13th Amendment. Alabama and Arizona re-introduce chain gangs. White flight begins to reverse as returning affluent suburbanites gentrify decayed neighborhoods, raise property values and force poor minorities out.
1996: Clinton authorizes mandatory detention of illegal immigrants. Those convicted of serious felonies are placed in expedited removal proceedings. He also authorizes further border fencing, but environmental concerns slow construction. The number of immigrants in detention increases dramatically.
Congress defines a single conviction of “moral turpitude” or any conviction that carries a minimum sentence of one year as deportable offenses. It also criminalizes online discussion of abortion. Attorney General Janet Reno refuses to enforce the provision, which remains on the books. Nine states begin to ban affirmative action, leading to a 23% drop in the chance of college admission for minority students relative to non-minority students, compared with a 1% drop in other states. The Supreme Court supports racial disparities in conviction rates. Congress replaces AFDC with Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, ending individual entitlement for poor families and signifying that no one can make a claim for assistance just because they are poor. “Work first” programs impact Black women in racialized and gendered ways by emphasizing the need to place employment above all else to qualify for support.
1997: A study finds that “the three-strikes law did not decrease serious crime or petty theft rates below the level expected on the basis of preexisting trends.”
1998: Japanese Latin Americans who had sued for reparations ten years before receive $5,000 each.
1999: A Memphis jury finds that the MLK assassination plot was a conspiracy that included “governmental agencies.”
Read Part Seven here.