Disenfranchisement Yesterday and Today

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The great American crime against humanity that was chattel slavery in the Southern United States has officially been banned since 1863. However, it wasn’t until 1968 that African Americans were granted full political protection of their civil rights. Between these 100+ years African Americans were subjected to violent racial discrimination such as lynching and public humiliation, as well as institutionalized racism that quarantined them from white businesses and white neighborhoods. Even in the present day, the unemployment rate is triple the size of the rate for White Americans, as is the poverty rate. With these facts in mind, its easy to see that economic emancipation for African Americans has yet to be obtained. This apparent racial disparity in economic fortune has been the subject of many African American writers, poets, and musicians, including African American novelist Octavia Butler. In her novel Kindred, Octavia Butler uses Rufus’ relationship with Alice and Dana and Kevin’s relationship with Dana as an allusion to how the American society dominated by whites keeps African Americans in a position of subordination and disenfranchisement. This allusion is important because it highlights that we have not yet fully eradicated the social structure of slavery and that the institution of slavery has very real implications in the present day. Rufus was not always a clear antagonist in Kindred, as Dana made attempts to teach him that the institution of slavery is inhumane. However, him and his father made very appalling but common choices for slave owners at the time. A good example of this is when Rufus tells Alice that he has sold their children, and Alice was driven to commit suicide as shown in this quote, “‘He did it!’ sh... ... middle of paper ... ... reminiscent of the many police officers and bosses that have exerted racial domination of the people of color around them. The novel shows that anyone is capable of racism, and that the institution of slavery still has remnants that are in place today. These are best shown in the economic areas of American social stratification, where Blacks are severely disenfranchised compared to whites. The book helps show that even the smallest subtleties of racism are extremely evil and unequivocally wrong. Butler’s narrative forces the reader to make connections of the blatant racism in the novel and face the subdued but nonetheless present examples of racism that surround us everyday. When these inequalities are realized, the reader becomes another piece of the puzzle that when completed will make the United States a racially aware society that will strive for egalitarianism.

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