If your students are unfamiliar with the history of Black Codes and the Reconstruction era, you may want to start by sharing a few bullet-points with historical context. For example:
The myth of racial hierarchy—the belief that Black people are inferior—was created to justify the enslavement of Black people. Enslavement could not be sustained as legitimate without a false narrative about Black people being less human or worthy of freedom that would make it justifiable.
That racist belief survived the formal abolition of slavery and evolved to include the belief that Black people are dangerous criminals. This was reinforced during the decades of racial terror lynchings that followed enslavement when white people defended the torture and spectacle murder of Black people as necessary to protect their property, families, and way of life from Black “criminals.”
Criminalizing Black people was the basis for convict leasing, a system created to provide cheap labor after slavery was abolished. Southern lawmakers passed “Black Codes” so that African Americans could be arrested for “crimes” like loitering and forced to work in white-owned businesses and plantations throughout the South.
States passed laws to segregate Black people, banning them from sharing public accommodations, barring them from interracial relationships, and humiliating them by restricting them to marginalized spaces.
To this day, we have not adequately confronted the legacy of racial injustice and instead have let it evolve into the widespread presumption that people of color are suspicious, dangerous, and criminal—that young Black men are to be feared, monitored, and even hunted.
New language has emerged for the non-crimes that have replaced the Black Codes—driving while Black, napping while Black, jogging while Black. All reflect incidents in which African Americans were mistreated, assaulted, or arrested for conduct that would be ignored if they were white.