A professor at Northern Illinois University passed this video along to me. I found it to be quite compelling. It speaks toward the danger of using one narrative to categorize people.
By Nicholas K. Peart
Published: December 17, 2011
WHEN I was 14, my mother told me not to panic if a police officer stopped me. And she cautioned me to carry ID and never run away from the police or I could be shot. In the nine years since my mother gave me this advice, I have had numerous occasions to consider her wisdom.
One evening in August of 2006, I was celebrating my 18th birthday with my cousin and a friend. We were staying at my sister’s house on 96th Street and Amsterdam Avenue in Manhattan and decided to walk to a nearby place and get some burgers. It was closed so we sat on benches in the median strip that runs down the middle of Broadway. We were talking, watching the night go by, enjoying the evening when suddenly, and out of nowhere, squad cars surrounded us. A policeman yelled from the window, “Get on the ground!”
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Did you ever stop to wonder what life would be like for you if you were a poor black kid? Here’s a hint: you probably wouldn’t be allowed to write about your feelings on the matter for Forbes! Or get a reporter from Forbes to travel to where you live to ask what it’s actually like, because where’s the currency in having access to poor black children? So, we are apparently left with the musings of self-professed “middle aged white guy who comes from a middle class white background” Gene Marks, who writes about “the business of technology” and really should have stuck to that. He says that if he were a poor black kid, he’d just work harder and use CliffsNotes and popular web apps to, you know, conquer the grinding world of institutionalized poverty.
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Michelle Alexander’s book, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness is one of the best read on mass incarceration I’ve read. The book discusses the evolution and present state between people of color (i.e., Blacks, Latinos) and the prison industrial complex. She documents Ronald Reagan’ 1982 defective call for a “War on Drugs” and how the prison movement evolved from it.
She also discusses how the collapse of urban industrial job opportunities, poor public education systems, and crack cocaine ignited the get ‘tough on crime’ campaign that exist today. Thus crime was evil and the drug known as ‘Crack’ was the archenemy of the republic. The author points how the circular negative images of color faces (i.e., Blacks Latinos) on nightly television help middle-class Whites and others join with careless politicians to support paramilitary forces against urban residents and their crime-ridden communities. The crime intervention program was directed at low-level non-violent drug offenders in color neighborhoods across America.
Blacks and Latinos as the author points out became the target of federal, state, and local law enforcement organizations although Whites sold and used more drugs than both groups combine. The author suggested the thirty-five year drug war on non-violent Black/Brown drug offenders has created a permanent undercaste, (i.e., ex-felons). Consequently by being labelled an ex-felons discrimination in housing, employment, education, and health care is perfectly legal.
Although Whites use and sell more drugs, the New Jim Crow system ushered upon color families and communities massive amounts of arrest and incarceration. These families laced with high unemployment, no job training programs, and poor public education became perfect targets for the new undercaste system suggested by the author. Felons are never released from the criminal justice system as their brand follows them across the lifespan. I hope you read the book and reflect how untold numbers of Black/Brown families and communities have become the New Jim Crow system.
The Invisible Dragon
With few exceptions, twentieth century reviews of social stratification and mobility research scarcely addressed punishment. But as U.S. incarceration rates rose to historically unprecedented levels, new work emerged to document this punitive turn and to consider its implications for inequality. Punishment has now grown too big to ignore, with stratification researchers characterizing incarceration as a powerful “engine
of social inequality” (Western 2006, p. 198) that plays a “massive” (Pager 2009,
p. 160) and racialized (Bobo & Thompson 2006) part in the contemporary stratification
system. This review details the changing social conditions that thrust punishment onto
the agenda of stratification researchers and the established and emerging findings from this research.
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