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Race and Criminalization: Black Americans and the Punishment Industry

by Angela Y. Davis
The House that Race Built ()

Abstract

"Public debates about the role of the state that once focused very sharply and openly about issues of 'race' and racism are nwo expted to unfold in the absence of any direct acknowledgement of the persistence--and indeed further entrenchment--of racially structured power realtionships" (61) converges with the ideal equoivocation about the end of racism "the relegation of race to matters of the ehart tends to render it increasingly difficult to identify the deep structural entrenchment of contemporary racism. (62) "When the structural character of racism is ignored in discussions about crime and the risisng population of incarcerated people, the racial imbalance in jails andprison is treated as a contingency, at best as a product of the "culture of poverty," and at worst a proof of an assumed balck monopoly on criminality. The high proportion in the criminal justice system is thus normalized and enither the state nor the general public is required to talk about and act on the meaing of that racial imbalance." (62) "Crime is thus "one of hte masquerades behin which 'race,' with all its meancing idoelogical complexity, mobliizes old public fears and creates new ones. (62) "The real human beings--a vastly disproportionate number of who are lback and Latino/a men and women. . .are deemed fetishistically exchangeable with the cirmes they ahve already committed or will allegedly commit. The real impac of imprisonment on their lives never needs to be examined. The inevitable part played by the punishment industry in the reproduction of crime never need be disc ussed. The dangerous and indeed fascistic trend towar rogressively greater numbers of hidden, incarcerated humana populations is itself rendered invisible" if one follows commonsense (63) "The figure of the 'criminal' --the racialzled figure of the criminal--has come to present the most meancing enemy of 'American society.' Viritually anything is acceptable--troture , brutality, vast expenditures of public funs--as long as it is done in the name of public safety" (66)

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