Race and Racism: Case Study from Newark, NJ

Race and Racism: Case Study from Newark, NJ

Race and racism ideology functions on a socially fashioned belief that humans are naturally grouped according to biologically discrete and exclusive categories based on cultural and physical traits. The ideology is intricately linked to the ideas of white supremacy that became concretized during the enslavement of Africans and the American colonization. The current essay analyzes the concept of racial justice based on July 12, 1967, unrest in Newark that left approximately 26 lives lost. On the said date, residents of Newark saw a black taxi driver severely beaten and harassed by police officers and followed them to the police station, at Fourth Police Precinct house. The angry residents disregarded appeals for peaceful protest forcing the police to respond in force.

The situation was very apprehensive in Newark before the incidence. There were race and class rivalry in the city, but race predominated since the police brutality in the town was happening to everybody irrespective of the class. Police were representatives of subjugation, and the political system was hell-bent in protecting the people. The few days of the protest made the people believe that it was the kind of belief and the release that the black community needed. However, as the rally continues, the police units across the town; the National Guard, the local and state forces combined and were fully deployed everywhere, raising tension and fear due to police riot. The police rioted, as a way of seeking retribution against the citizens for the slightest infraction, leaving approximately 26 people dead (Rojas, & Atkinson, 2017). Newark is the most populous city in New Jersey. The city is the second-highest rated in terms of poverty according to the U.S. 2010 census.

The central theme of the protest was “Black Lives Matter.” The focus was on the black people killed by racist terror. Such as the case of Sandra Bland and Chapman who found dead in the police cells and many other African-Americans in Newark who lost their lives in the hands of the police (Rojas, & Atkinson, 2017). Family members and residents who lost their live ones because of police brutality spoke with intense emotion during the protest.

Police brutality is a deadly problem even in the contemporary United States of America. It entails the several incidences of underserved and unjustified murder unarmed civilians, violation of people’s rights as enshrined in the constitution, use of excessive force by the police, discrimination and racism practices and failure by the U.S. criminal justice systems make the police units accountable for misconducts. The brutality by the police is not an isolated challenge. The problem has a historical background with pedigrees that are deep in the American social fabric. The idea of police brutality is viewed in the context of racial, inequality and economic injustices (Thompson, 2010). While police brutality cuts across all ethnic groups, the vast majority of the victims are African and Native Americans, Latinos and other communities of color. The groups are tremendously poor working class.

The failure in the American criminal justice system to charge and prosecute police for the killings is causing more political disaster in the country. People are discovering that vast police cases of police brutality go without punishment. Police kill civilians but are prosecuted, and several grand juries have failed to indict police officers (Thompson, 2010). The act is perpetuating the belief that the criminal justice system in the United States is racist and illegitimate.

The political challenges facing the city of Newark are mirrored in the study by the Government select committee to probe the rising cases of civil disorder in the state of New Jersey. The research which concentrated in the understanding the attitude of the Newark residents and the adjacent communities established a glaring polarization of the Negro and white feeling on key social-political issues. The study concluded that leading cause of the tension was a call to improve the social-economic status of the Negros in terms of schooling, job training and increased government attention of the problems facing the minority population (Thompson, 2010). The majority of the blacks hold a belief that they are denied opportunities, with the whites overwhelmingly refuting the claim. Similarly, most of the Negros attributed discrimination as the primary cause of their lack of progress, while the whites believed that lack of effort was the cause.

However, the socio-economic and political challenges that tormented Newark must be looked at against the context of a long history of government problems and the shift in population. Several attempts to reform the city’s administration failed to produce the desired results by the reformers. The first government of Newark was a town conference pioneered by Robert Treats and others Puritan pioneers in 1666 to aid in advancing their theocracy. The town was incorporated as a city within 1836 headed by an active mayor-council form of administration. A reform movement in 1917 transformed the city’s administration in a commission structure of government with a committee comprising of five elected commissioners to run the Newark (Dollery, Garcea, & LeSage, 2008). The structure was successful until in the 1920s when the pioneer businessmen who were behind it started to move outside the city and lost influence and control of the government.

The commission structure of the government became unpopular in the 1950s leading to the re-establishment of the city council with a stable mayor form of government. A former teamster, Leo Carlin was elected the first mayor under the charter and served for two terms after which he was defeated in 1962 by Addonizio, a Congressman. The names of those holding the city governorship since 1917 reflected a change in ethnic pattern. In the first commission election, for example, there were three candidates from the Irish origin. A Jewish candidate’s name Meyer Ellenstein appeared in the 1929 election and 1933; the first Italian-America was elected to among the commission (Dollery, Garcea, & LeSage, 2008).

It was not until 1953 that a Negro, Irvine Turner was elected to the position of a councilman to represent the Central Ward. The Negros are regarded as the first non-English population to occupy Newark, and many came as slaves. The French, Germans, Irish families mostly arrived at the beginning of the 19th century. The Negros were poorly treated. The poor treatment was as a result of the antislavery movement in Newark that characterized the first half of the 19th century, resulting in mob violence by pro-slavery groups. Theodore Frelinghuysen, the second mayor of Newark, attempted to salvage the Negros when he ran for the office of the U.S. vice president in 1844; the newspaper termed him the Negro lover (Dollery, Garcea, & LeSage, 2008).

When Mr. Addonizio took over the position of the City major in 1962, the Negros thought that who point the blacks into responsible position to get experience to take over the city when a black mayor is elected. However, the Negros established immediately after the election that agreement did not exist even after supporting Mr. Addonizio’s vote. Many of the blacks felt that one of their own Harry Wheeler, a school teacher would be appointed into a responsible position, but he did not feature in Addonizio’s administration (Thompson, 2010). Newark city governance was racial-based with the blacks being the least considered groups when it comes to a government position.

In 1962 for instance, Mayor Leo Carlin from the Irish origin paves the way for Hugh Addonizio, an Italian. The blacks were used as voting machines but excluded from the real control of the city. The exclusion of blacks was viewed by many as a form of racial discrimination. The opposition against the prejudices started growing with the intense activities of the Congress of racial equity (CORE) activists. The CORE activities took a harder stance in their quest for racial equality than the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) leading to the successful mobilization of people in the 1967 mass protest. During the first night of the 1967 rebellion, mayor Addonizio offered to appoint an African-American to the position of the police inspector, though the Protestants found the move inadequate (Thompson, 2010). The progress my mayor Addonizio on the night of the protest to deciding to appoint the first black as a police inspector is a clear indication that political misrepresentation along the racial line pioneered most of Newark’s challenges. The problem was mainly because of racial formation and the shifting racial ideologies.

Golash-Boza (2015), explains that a racialized social system produces racial ideologies with a necessary foundation. Racial ideology refers to a set of principles that divide categorizes people into racial categories but only serve the interest of one group. The doctrines are developed by the dominating group to advance its interest. Racial ideologies change according to the needs and the benefits of the elites. There is a census among scholars that the racial ideologies in the post-1965 era is distinct and applies various approaches to describe the new forms of racism. Scholars (Omi and Winant, 2014), used the Gramscian analogy of war of position and maneuver to describe the transition in the U.S. from a place where the political voices of non-whites could not be heard to where people of color started attaining some political gains. The scholar argues that while at some point the state could be blatantly violent towards the people of color, the post-civil war was marked by the state seeking supremacy. The racial state could not just dominate during this period with hegemony, thus explaining the rampant cases of police brutality in the 1960s.

Race and racism are socially fashioned belief that people are clustered according to biologically discrete and fashionable categories based on cultural and physical traits. The 1967 rebellion by the blacks against oppression by Newark police and racial injustices has attributed the shift to the widespread of black movement and its associates that characterized the post-1965. The notion is that racial dynamics are directly promotional to political pressure from the antiracist movements. There are two significant consequences of racist ideology. Such include propagation of racial stereotype and prevalence of ethnic identities.  The facets form the white supremacy which dominated a substantial part of the 1960s and was used to advance hegemony ideology.




Dollery, B., Garcea, J., & LeSage, E. C. (Eds.). (2008). Local government reform: A comparative analysis of advanced Anglo-American countries. Edward Elgar Publishing.

Golash-Boza, T. M. (2015). Race & racisms: A critical approach (p. 502). New York: Oxford University Press.

Omi, M., and Winant, H. (2014). Racial formation in the United States. Routledge.

Rojas, R and Atkinson, K. (2017 July). 50 YEARS AFTER THE UPRISING: Five Days of Unrest That Shaped, and Haunted, Newark. New York Times

Ross, D. L. (2014). Civil liability in criminal justice. Routledge.

Thompson, H. A. (2010). Why mass incarceration matters: Rethinking crisis, decline, and transformation in postwar American history. The Journal of American History97(3), 703-734.