Thursday, February 23, 2017

Mass Incarceration perpetuates racial caste system

Alexander defines “racial caste” as a racial group locked into an inferior position by law and custom. She asserts that Jim Crow and slavery were caste systems, and that our current system of mass incarceration is also a caste system. She gives us many reasons to persuade us that mass incarceration perpetuates the racial caste system nowadays after civil rights movement even though it achieved abolishing Jim Crow.

First, Alexander believes that mass incarceration was created due to the same reason that Jim Crow was invented, which is the “desire among white elites to exploit the resentments, vulnerabilities, and racial biases of poor and working-class whites for political or economic gain.” (Lesson 9, 1) Second, Alexander states that both Jim Crow and mass incarceration legalize discrimination against black people. Specifically, through the mass incarceration, white elites are able to build up a connection between black people with criminals. Through the legal system, black people trapped into relatively more serious punishment in terms of their crimes. Through this system, it makes people legally discriminate black people in terms of their “potential criminal figures.” And this is exactly how our current racial caste work to lock black people into an inferior position by law. Furthermore, white elites make the law to eliminate black people’s voting opportunities and even deny their voting rights in many ways, such as felon disenfranchisement laws, banning criminals’ voting rights for a long time period. The failure of our legal system to eradicate all of the tactics adopted during the Jim Crow era to suppress the black vote has major implications today. Therefore, it perpetuates the racial caste system. More claims and evidences given by Alexander, she states that the exclusion of black people from juries resulted in an enforcement of mass incarceration, and there are “30 percent” of black men who are automatically excluded from jury. Overall, mass incarceration perpetuates racial caste system after civil rights movement and it is a disguised “Jim Crow” that serves to suppress black people and lock them into a more disadvantaged position by law and custom.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017


The Age of Colorblindness refers to the time period began from the end of civil rights movement till now, especially War on Drugs period, which is no longer “socially permissible to use race, explicitly, as a justification for discrimination, exclusion and social contempt.” (Alexander, 1) And this practice of racial control may last till now. In her book, The New Jim Crow, Alexander indicates that the U.S. criminal justice system is functioning as a system of racial control through the War on Drugs and mass incarceration. In contemporary era, it’s not justified to use race explicitly for discrimination and exclusion, yet it is totally reasonable to “discriminate against criminals in nearly all the ways that it was once legal to discriminate against African Americans.” (1)

Alexander concludes that the War on Drugs plays a crucial role in forming the racial caste system because “convictions for drug offenses are the single most important cause of the explosion in incarceration rates in the U.S.” (Chapter 2, 1) She clarifies two myths of the War on Drugs, one is that the war is “aimed at ridding the nation of drug ‘kingpins’ or big-time dealers, the other one is that the drug war isn’t principally concerned with dangerous drugs.” (Chapter 2, 1)  The absence of significant constraints on the exercise of police discretion is a key feature of the drug war’s design. The “stop-and-frisk rule” is constitutionally permissible to stop, question, and frisk him or her - even in the absence of probable cause. Therefore, the police officers can stop and arrest people on the street without any reasonable suspicion. Because police officers had this implicit bias towards African American, under their discretion, a huge amount of African American were arrested and convicted for small crime, such as possession of drugs, not even selling drugs. In a long run, Drug War successfully built up a connection between black people with drug users and criminals. Therefore, black people were oppressed by this invisible color blindness, and resulted in an enforcement of White Privilege. Especially, implicit racial bias can’t be proven as a factor affected the unequal convictions of black people, it therefore acts as a protection of white supremacy, and facilities White people to further suppress black people on a moral ground.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Law and Order Rhetoric


         Law and order referred to the demands for a strict criminal justice system. In the rebirth of Mass Incarceration period, despite many other influential factors, such as rising unemployment rate, more complicated economic and demographic factors, Conservatives simply utilized the fact of increasing criminals as an evidence of the “breakdown in lawfulness, morality and social stability in the wake of the Civil Rights Movement.” (Alexander, 1) Moreover, the racial imagery associated with the riots gave “fuel to the argument that civil rights for blacks led to rampant crime.” (1) Thus, Conservatives utilized this chance to “ turn back the clock ” on racial progress in the United States. The way they did this is that they disguised the racial motivations behind the law and order rhetoric and the harsh criminal justice legislation. By using the rhetoric of “cracking down on crime”, Conservative politicians purposefully confused people in distinguishing between the “direct action tactics of civil rights activists, violent rebellions in inner cities, and traditional crimes of an economic or violent nature …” (2) In practice, law and order was effectively appealing to poor and working-class whites. The racial association between black people and criminals effectively created low and low-middle class white people a sense of “bribe”, which white people, even poor white people are superior of criminals, which turned out to be black people. This new racial bribe that distinguished white people and criminals effectively segregated working class whites and blacks.

         In fact, law and order rhetoric - first employed by segregationists - “would eventually contribute to a major realignment of political parties in the United States.” (2)The success of law and order rhetoric and new racial bribe for working class white people led Conservative Republican believe that they could create a “new majority”, which included “ the traditional Republican base, the White South, and half the catholic, blue - collar vote of the big cities.” (2) As white Democrats had become angered by the Democratic Party’s support for civil rights reforms, such as desegregation and busing, those voters were easily persuaded to switch parties. Many working class white voters were threatened by the sudden progress of African American that was promoted by Democratic Party. Therefore, race became the national issue that “broke up the Democratic New Deal “bottom - up” coalition, which was dependent on substantial support from all voters.” Black and white, at or below the median income. (3) The subsequent presidents inherited this idea and continued to strengthen the implicit racial discrimination and racial bribe for poor whites. The war on drugs announced by Reagan was a series of actions to criminalize black people in terms of illegal use of drugs, it was one of the most oppressing and influential movement against black people. However, Democratic politicians and policy makers were not “attempting to wrest control of the crime and drug issues from the crime and drug issues from Republicans by advocating stricter anti crime and anti drug laws - all in an effort to win back the so-called “swing voters” who were defecting to the Republican Party.” (6) Moreover, as a Democratic President, Bill Clinton even escalated the drug war beyond what conservatives Republicans had imagined, in order to win the votes from working - class white swing voters. Overall, law and order rhetoric intensified racial issue and resulted in breaking down working class black and white people’s alienation, moreover it made both Parties to continue on escalating mass incarceration in order to win votes from working class white people.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Feb. 3 Lesson 4

The Reconstruction era is typically argued as stretching from 1863 when the North freed the slaves by 13th Amendment to 1877, when North abandoned and withdrew the federal troops from the South. At the end of Reconstruction era, Jim Crow, which enforced racial segregation in the south, began. It lasted until the beginning of civil rights movement, which is around 1950s. The death of Jim Crow began with Brown v. Board of Education case, a landmark United States Supreme Court case in which the Court declared state laws establishing separate public schools for black and white students to be unconstitutional. The Civil Rights movement was “brewing, emboldened by the Supreme Court’s decisions and. Shifting domestic and international political environment” (4). The dramatic high point of the Civil Rights movement occurred in 1963, as “ civil rights leaders made it clear that they viewed the eradication of economic inequality as the next front in the “human rights movement.” The Civil Rights Movement began to evolve into a “Poor People's Campaign,” It ends at 1968.

Alexander reveals the idea that racial caste has not completely eliminated or even diminished yet. In the long history of black people fighting for equality and freedom, white supremacy that prevented black people and poor white people's alliance and oppression towards black people have always been existed, just the matter of demeaning black people in what form. As Jim Crow eventually replaced slavery, Alexander believes that mass incarceration is a stunningly comprehensive and well-disguised system of racial social control that functions in a manner strikingly similar to Jim Crow. Therefore, she evokes us to realize it is crucial to recognize the ultimate purpose of Criminal Justice System, as well as other “disguised” system that serves for White elites in social control in terms of race, and treat race - associated issues more comprehensively and rationally.

Racial Bribe && Raciall Caste System

Lesson 3 --- Racial Bribe & Racial Caste System

In the early colonial period, landowners were alarmed at the fact slaves, white and black bond workers were forming alliances and protesting against landowners themselves. So they decided to give special privileges, which is the “bribe” to middle & poor whites to drive out their multicultural alliance. In practice, poor whites were allowed “greater access to Native American lands” after their indentures were done; what’s more, “white servants were allowed to police slaves through slave patrols and militias” (Alexander, 2). By emphasizing white supremacy and giving privilege of discriminating and being hierarchy of black slaves to poor whites, planters successfully stereotyped black people as an underclass, a slave class, which was that black slaves were “ an uncivilized lesser race, perhaps even more lacking in intelligence and laudable human qualities” (Alexander, 2). Therefore, slavery creates race.

The idea of “Racial Bribe” effectively eliminated the risk of future alliances between black slaves and poor whites. While poor whites stood by planters’ side and both groups started to demean black slaves, the system of bond labor had been transformed into a racial caste system, included chattel slavery, Jim Crow, mass incarceration, etc. The emphasis of white supremacy rationalized the enslavement of Africans, even as whites endeavored to form a new nation based on the ideals of equality, liberty, and justice for all. In the founding documents, black people were defined as “three fifths of a human, not a real whole human being.” Therefore, white elites argued “we the people” in constitution can’t apply to black people. Therefore, this racist fiction rests the entire structure of American democracy.

Friday, January 20, 2017

confirmation bias and implicit associations


     Today my post will be a discussing about confirmation bias and implicit association. Confirmation Bias can be simply understood as one’s tendency to interpret new evidence to confirm one’s existing beliefs. It always deals with implicit association, which is a racial or other attitudes that are activated automatically from memory so that many of us may not be aware of our existing implicit stereotypes towards certain group of people. 
      I took the Implicit Association Test (IAT) on association of foreigner vs. American with European American and Asian American. Since both groups are technically American, this test is testing on to what extent we consider certain  group of people to be real Americans. My result shows that I have an a slight automatic association for American with European American and Foreign with Asian American. Even though I got majority questions right, IAT can still detect the implicit association based on how long it takes to answer those questions. My result is shocking to me at first, because I believe I’m totally neutral on racial issue; however, my second thought is that I understand why racial issue is so controversial and problematic, it is because there is no way to completely diminish one’s implicit association.

      Asians have been experiencing exclusion and discrimination for long time in America. There was Chinese Exclusion Act, eliminating all Chinese immigrants, later US Government banned immigration quota for Asians except Japanese and Philippines, etc. Sadly, even though Asians have come to America for a long time, they give birth to their children and nurture them to fit into American society, they have never been truly considered as American. It was the language barrier keeping first generation of Asian immigrants from integrating into American society, but now it is “Asian looking” keeping Asian Americans from fitting into society as well.

      Racial conflict has become the most serious and controversial social issue. Our implicit association that we haven’t realized has strongly impacted our racial attitudes. I wish one day, no matter what races we are, we are paid attention on “what kind of person we are” rather than“where are you truly from? ”