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Jim Crow Laws: The Rules of a New System

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Introduction/thesis statement

The United States has gone through major demographic transformations over the past hundred years, one of which is its racial and ethnic composition. Sociologists theorize that racial and ethnic diversity continues to be an important feature in American society to date. As racial inequality continues to affect American societies, we see major shifts in political roles that favor whiteness. Especially with president Donald Trump being elected in 2016, with his main campaign being to build a wall in our southern borders to stop migration of other ethnic groups. Negative racial ideologies remain the same and white privilege continues to shape social conditions and life chances of the population. Through these transformations of racial and ethnic demographics in the united states, we begin to see different forms of racism that are as affective as the Jim Crow laws.

Major arguments and evidence from course materials

In order to look at the demographic changes in the United States, we must understand the changes in the meaning of race and ethnicity. The U.S. has gone through several changes in diversity, especially during the Jim Crow laws, when discrimination was popular in the American culture. Race and ethnicity were very extreme on their definitions and their power over other ethnic groups. For example, in the Cornell & Hartmann reading, Ethnicity and Race: Making identities in a changing world, they state “race has been the most powerful and persistent group boundary in American history, distinguishing, to varying degrees, the experiences of those classified as non-white from those classified as white, often with devastating consequences” (Cornell & Hartmann 2007). This explains how race has played a key role in making whites the dominant group in societies. They created a privileged class that undermines all other ethnic groups, which made other race believe they were different from the whites and everyone else. These differences made people believe an ideology that makes them inferior. Americans created this system and passed laws that allowed discrimination against other groups to be legal to maintain white supremacy. For example, Cornell & Hartmann states, “In the United States, some ethnic groups have been privileged over others at various times in history, whiteness-a racial category-has been consistently privileged over non-whiteness, with persons of color consigned to the margins of American society and culture” (Cornell & Hartmann 2007). When looking at the terms race and ethnicity, we need to look at the extreme moments in history to really understand the changes in demographics. An Extreme moment in the U.S.’s history was during the Jim Crow laws, from 1960s-1970s, when segregation was a law and forced upon everyone. If we compare the era to current time, we can understand how the United States has changed demographically in terms of race and ethnicity. To understand the path created through the abolition of the Jim Crow laws, we turn to a quote by Bonilla-Silva in the Intersections of Gender, Race, and Class, he states “Hence the racial order had to be effectively transformed. That was the role fulfilled by the civil rights movement and the other forms of mass protest by blacks that took place… the over three-hundred racial riots in the 1960s were the catalysts that brought down Jim Crow white supremacy’ (Bonilla-Silva 2007). The civil rights movements caused a major shift in demographics because the power of race and ethnicity were no longer in the favor of whites. However, whiteness, prejudice thoughts and racism still mattered in the United State. In order to understand how whiteness still matters to date, we need to look at Bonilla-Silva’s theory of “new racism,” in the Intersections of Gender, Race, and Class which explains the differences in racism and how it is still as affective as Jim Crow laws. Bonilla-Silva states, “I have labeled this new kinder and gentler, white supremacy as the ‘new racism’ and have argued that it is the main force behind contemporary racial inequality. Although the ‘new racism’ seems to be racism lite, it is as effective as slavery and Jim crow in maintaining the racial status quo” (Bonilla-Silva 2007). Silva introduces his theory as a kinder racism because of the large amounts of civil rights movements caused by heavy discrimination. White Americans stopped discriminating against other races in extreme ways to stop them from revolting. However, this still didn’t stop them from keeping their hierarchy, they kept a sense of dominance over other ethnic groups. According to Silva, through this “new racism” whiteness remains popular in American culture by “the increasingly covert nature of racial discourse and practices; the avoidance of racial terminology and the ever-growing claim by whites that they experience ‘reverse racism’; the invisibility of most mechanisms to reproduce racial inequality; the incorporation of ‘safe minorities’ to signify the nonracialism of the polity; and the rearticulation of some racial practices characteristic of the Jim Crow period of race relations” (Bonilla-Silva 2007). This is Silva’s “new racism” theory which explains how whites continue to keep whiteness, prejudice and racism to matter in the United States. In this “new racism” we see whites playing the blame victim and averting themselves from the actual problem, making it taboo to even talk about inequality because ‘’we used to have a lot of racism, but things are so much better today!’” (Bonilla-Silva 2007). By creating a sense of taboo when talking about racial inequality, whites take away the power from other ethnic groups by forgetting about the strong black people who started civil rights movements and stopped further extreme racism. Whites are discouraging other ethnic groups to rise against the ruling ideas through the incorporation of the “safe minorities,” they force “minorities” to assimilate to their culture by following the rules implemented for whites. Through these transformations of racial and ethnic demographics in the united states, we begin to see different forms of racism that are as affective as the Jim Crow laws. As seen through Bonilla-Silva’s theory on “new racism,” race and ethnicity highlight the importance of culture, social class, and economic factors in determining social conditions by race and ethnicity.

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Analysis and evaluation/comparisons

With current trends in pop culture, I can see Bonilla-Silva’s forecast for the future of U.S. racial inequality to be true because we experience inequality through structural racism. Ethnic groups become segregated from whites through redlining, an invisible mechanism to reproduce inequality. Most families cannot buy homes in nicer areas where education is highly funded, crime rates are low and job security is high. Bankers and real estate owners are responsible for this kind of racism because bankers have maps of areas that are marked red. Which indicate that the houses that are available cannot be sold to someone who is not white. Real-estate owners show people of ethnic backgrounds only houses and apartments in rural areas because they don’t want them moving into neighborhoods that are predominantly white. I have experienced “new racism” through the fraternity and sorority life organization I am in at Cal State Long Beach. I can see this line of racism through the idea of dominant groups and being the top fraternity on campus. First, I saw this through a fraternity named Pi Kap. They consider themselves “top house” because they have the greatest number of white males in their fraternity, which creates this ideology among other fraternities that we must be white to be the best. However, this is false because the only reason Pi Kap is among the “top houses” is because they have wealthy parents who saved up college funds for them to spend and enjoy college. My fraternity members fell victim to this stigma of white supremacy as they started to speak in our group chat around rush week saying “rush more white guys! They pull harder (gets more girls)!” or “rush more white guys they have money and friends who are rich too!” When my friends said that, I realized that I was seeing the “new racism” theory Bonilla-Silva was describing. Although this was not an extreme case, it still has a sense of gentle racism Silva speaks of. They are hinting at them being a better fraternity through their race. As other members of fraternity life begin to believe this, they create a structural barrier that causes fraternity members to only rush white males instead of any other ethnic groups.


Although the United States has gone through dramatic demographic changes, we still see racism that is as affective as extreme racism. We see this through structural and contemporary racism by which is explained by Silva as the “new racism” in terms of race and ethnicity. Through these transformations of racial and ethnic demographics in the united states, we begin to see different forms of racism that are as affective as the Jim Crow laws. As seen through Bonilla-Silva’s theory on “new racism,” race and ethnicity highlight the importance of culture, social class, and economic factors in determining social conditions by race and ethnicity. Through the reading of Bonilla-Silva, I will try to create my own foundation that will go against this line of “new racism” that will help those being discriminated against. This gentle racism is as dangerous as extreme racism because you put this pressure on other ethnic groups that they must be someone they are not. That they must be white in order to be someone important or amazing.


  1. Eduardo Bonilla-Silva “’New Racism,’ Color-Blind Racism, and the Future of whiteness in America” June 26, 2018, reprint edition Beacon Press Taylor and Francis Books, Inc 15 pages Pp. 3-4 and 6-8
  2. Stephen Cornell and Douglas Hartmann “Ethnicity and Race: Making Identities in a changing world” December 15, 2006 Pine Forge Press A Sage Publications Company 29 pages Pp. 8

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Jim Crow Laws: The Rules of a New System. (2022, March 17). Edubirdie. Retrieved February 1, 2023, from
“Jim Crow Laws: The Rules of a New System.” Edubirdie, 17 Mar. 2022,
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