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UMKC Interpreting Visible Identities Synthesis Essay Writing Help

Your assignment involves producing a maximum five (5) page paper (12 point font, double-spaced, one-inch margins) over one of the following prompts. In order to be eligible for grading, the paper must be largely free of grammar and syntax errors and it must also include proper documentation (internally: parenthetical notations or footnotes; externally: a bibliography). A paper that does not meet all of these minimum criteria will not be graded.You may choose to write on one of the following topics. They have been outlined here to help you structure your argument:1) A. Describe the idea of “traversing race and culture” as it applies to global consumption (of food, of beauty, of brands, of labor, of science, etc.). B. Provide three different examples of how this happens from three different readings, demonstrating your comprehension of those readings.C. Nextprovide some observations about what these readings (and the class more generally) might help us conclude about the categories “race,” “gender,”and “culture.”2) Alcoff argues that, “Identity does not determine one’s interpretation of the facts or constitute a fully formed perspective; rather, to use the hermeneutic terminology once again, identities operate as horizons from which certain aspects or layers of reality can be made visible” (43).” A) Discuss how an aspect of identity that was once not visible might become visible when examined from a “new” horizon.B) Provide three examples of this from three different readings OUTSIDE OF ALCOFF to support your argument in A, demonstrating your comprehension of those readings.C) Finally, provide some conclusions about the nature of identity based on the readings you chose.I choose question number 2 and the three reading I have Them too

The New Jim Crow1
Michelle Alexander
The subject that I intend to explore today is one that most Americans seem
content to ignore. Conversations and debates about race—much less racial caste—
are frequently dismissed as yesterday’s news, not relevant to the current era.
Media pundits and more than a few politicians insist that we, as a nation, have
finally “moved beyond race.” We have entered into the era of “post-racialism,” it
is said, the promised land of colorblindness. Not just in America, but around the
world, President Obama’s election has been touted as the final nail in the coffin of
Jim Crow, the bookend placed on the history of racial caste in America.
This triumphant notion of post-racialism is, in my view, nothing more than
fiction—a type of Orwellian doublespeak made no less sinister by virtue of the fact
that the people saying it may actually believe it. Racial caste is not dead; it is alive
and well in America. The mass incarceration of poor people of color in the United
States amounts to a new caste system—one specifically tailored to the political,
economic, and social challenges of our time. It is the moral equivalent of Jim
Crow.
I am well aware that this kind of claim may be hard for many people to
swallow. Particularly if you, yourself, have never spent time in prison or been
labeled a felon, the claim may seem downright absurd. I, myself, rejected the
notion that something akin to a racial caste system could be functioning in the
United States more than a decade ago—something that I now deeply regret.
I first encountered the idea of a new racial caste system in the mid-1990s
when I was rushing to catch the bus in Oakland, California and a bright orange
poster caught my eye. It screamed in large bold print: THE DRUG WAR IS THE
NEW JIM CROW. I recall pausing for a moment and skimming the text of the
flyer. A radical group was holding a community meeting about police brutality,
the new three-strikes law in California, the drug war, and the expansion of
America’s prison system. The meeting was being held at a small community
church a few blocks away; it had seating capacity for no more than fifty people. I
sighed and muttered to myself something like, “Yeah, the criminal justice system
is racist in many ways, but it really doesn’t help to make such absurd comparisons.
People will just think you’re crazy.” I then crossed the street and hopped on the
1
This article is adapted from two speeches delivered by Professor Michelle Alexander, one
at the Zocolo Public Square in Los Angeles on March 17, 2010, and another at an authors symposium
sponsored by the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and the Open Society Institute
on October 6, 2010.

Michelle Alexander is an associate professor of law at The Ohio State University Moritz
College of Law, where she holds a joint appointment with the Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race
and Ethnicity.
7
8
OHIO STATE JOURNAL OF CRIMINAL LAW
[Vol 9:1
bus. I was headed to my new job, director of the Racial Justice Project for the
ACLU in Northern California.
When I began my work at the ACLU, I assumed the criminal justice system
had problems of racial bias, much in the same way that all major institutions in our
society are plagued to some degree with problems associated with conscious and
unconscious bias. As a civil rights lawyer, I had litigated numerous class-action
employment discrimination cases, and I understood well the many ways in which
racial stereotyping can permeate subjective decision-making processes at all levels
of an organization with devastating consequences. While at the ACLU, I shifted
my focus from employment discrimination to criminal justice reform, and
dedicated myself to the task of working with others to identify and eliminate racial
bias whenever and wherever it reared its ugly head.
By the time I left the ACLU, I had come to suspect that I was wrong about the
criminal justice system. It was not just another institution infected with racial bias,
but rather a different beast entirely. The activists who posted the sign on the
telephone phone were not crazy; nor were the smattering of lawyers and advocates
around the country who were beginning to connect the dots between our current
system of mass incarceration and earlier forms of social control. Quite belatedly, I
came to see that mass incarceration in the United States had, in fact, emerged as a
stunningly comprehensive and well-disguised system of racialized social control
that functions in a manner strikingly similar to Jim Crow.
I state my basic thesis in the introduction to my book, The New Jim Crow:
What has changed since the collapse of Jim Crow has less to do
with the basic structure of our society than the language we use to justify
it. In the era of colorblindness, it is no longer socially permissible to use
race, explicitly, as a justification for discrimination, exclusion, and social
contempt. So we don’t. Rather than rely on race, we use our criminal
justice system to label people of color “criminals” and then engage in all
the practices we supposedly left behind. Today it is perfectly legal to
discriminate against criminals in nearly all the ways it was once legal to
discriminate against African Americans. Once you’re labeled a felon,
the old forms of discrimination—employment discrimination, housing
discrimination, denial of the right to vote, and exclusion from jury
service—are suddenly legal. As a criminal, you have scarcely more
rights, and arguably less respect, than a black man living in Alabama at
the height of Jim Crow. We have not ended racial caste in America; we
have merely redesigned it.2
I reached this conclusion reluctantly. Like many civil rights lawyers, I was
inspired to attend law school by the civil rights victories of the 1950s and 1960s.
2
MICHELLE ALEXANDER, THE NEW JIM CROW: MASS INCARCERATION
COLORBLINDNESS 2 (2010).
IN THE
AGE
OF
2011]
THE NEW JIM CROW
9
Even in the face of growing social and political opposition to remedial policies
such as affirmative action, I clung to the notion that the evils of Jim Crow are
behind us and that, while we have a long way to go to fulfill the dream of an
egalitarian, multiracial democracy, we have made real progress. I understood the
problems plaguing poor communities of color, including problems associated with
crime and rising incarceration rates, to be a function of poverty and lack of access
to quality education—the continuing legacy of slavery and Jim Crow. I
strenuously resisted the idea that a new caste system was operating in this country;
I was nearly offended by the notion. But after years of working on issues of racial
profiling, police brutality, drug law enforcement in poor communities of color, and
attempting to assist people released from prison “re-enter” into a society that never
seemed to have much use for them in the first place, I had a series of experiences
that began what I call my “awakening.” I began to awaken to a racial reality that is
so obvious to me now that what seems odd in retrospect is that I was blind to it for
so long.
Here are some facts I uncovered in the course of my work and research that
you probably have not heard on the evening news:
*
*
*
More African American adults are under correctional control
today—in prison or jail, on probation or parole—than were enslaved
in 1850, a decade before the Civil War began.3
In 2007 more black men were disenfranchised than in 1870, the year
the Fifteenth Amendment was ratified prohibiting laws that
explicitly deny the right to vote on the basis of race.4 During the
Jim Crow era, African Americans continued to be denied access to
the ballot through poll taxes and literacy tests. Those laws have
been struck down, but today felon disenfranchisement laws
accomplish what poll taxes and literacy tests ultimately could not.
In many large urban areas in the United States, the majority of
working-age African American men have criminal records. In fact,
it was reported in 2002 that, in the Chicago area, if you take into
account prisoners, the figure is nearly 80%.5
3
One in eleven black adults was under correctional supervision at year end 2007, or
approximately 2.4 million people. PEW CTR. ON THE STATES, PEW CHARITABLE TRUSTS, ONE IN 31:
THE LONG REACH OF AMERICAN CORRECTIONS 5 (Mar. 2009), available at
http://www.pewcenteronthestates.org/uploadedFiles/PSPP_1in31_report_FINAL_WEB_3-26-09.pdf.
According to the 1850 Census, approximately 1.7 million adults (ages 15 and older) were slaves. U.S.
CENSUS BUREAU, THE SEVENTH CENSUS OF THE UNITED STATES: 1850 9 (1853), available at
http://www2.census.gov/prod2/decennial/documents/1850a-01.pdf; see also University of Virginia
Library,
Historical
Census
Browser,
UNIVERSITY
OF
VIRGINIA
LIBRARY,
http://mapserver.lib.virginia.edu/php/state.php (last visited July 17, 2011).
4
Contribution by Pamela S. Karlan, Forum: Pamela S. Karlan, in GLENN C. LOURY, RACE,
INCARCERATION AND AMERICAN VALUES, 41, 42 (2008).
5
PAUL STREET, CHICAGO URBAN LEAGUE, THE VICIOUS CIRCLE: RACE, PRISON, JOBS, AND
COMMUNITY IN CHICAGO, ILLINOIS, AND THE NATION 4 (2002).
10
OHIO STATE JOURNAL OF CRIMINAL LAW
[Vol 9:1
Those bearing criminal records and cycling in and out of our prisons today are
part of a growing undercaste—not class, caste—a group of people, defined largely
by race, who are relegated to a permanent second-class status by law. They can be
denied the right to vote, automatically excluded from juries, and legally
discriminated against in employment, housing, access to education, and public
benefits, much as their grandparents and great-grandparents were during the Jim
Crow era.
I find that when I tell people that mass incarceration amounts to a New Jim
Crow, I am frequently met with shocked disbelief. The standard reply is: “How
can you say that a racial caste system exists? Just look at Barack Obama! Just
look at Oprah Winfrey! Just look at the black middle class!”
The reaction is understandable. But we ought to question our emotional
reflexes. The mere fact that some African Americans have experienced great
success in recent years does not mean that something akin to a caste system no
longer exists. No caste system in the United States has ever governed all black
people. There have always been “free blacks” and black success stories, even
during slavery and Jim Crow. During slavery, there were some black slave
owners—not many, but some. And during Jim Crow, there were some black
lawyers and doctors—not many, but some. The unprecedented nature of black
achievement in formerly white domains today certainly suggests that the old Jim
Crow is dead, but it does not necessarily mean the end of racial caste. If history is
any guide, it may have simply taken a different form.
Any honest observer of American racial history must acknowledge that
racism is highly adaptable. The rules and reasons the legal system employs to
enforce status relations of any kind evolve and change as they are challenged.6 In
the first chapter of the book, I describe the cyclical rebirths of racial caste in
America. Since our nation’s founding, African Americans have been repeatedly
controlled through institutions, such as slavery and Jim Crow, which appear to die,
but then are reborn in new form—tailored to the needs and constraints of the time.
For example, following the collapse of slavery, the system of convict leasing
was instituted—a system many historians believe was worse than slavery.7 After
the Civil War, black men were arrested by the thousands for minor crimes, such as
loitering and vagrancy, and sent to prison. They were then leased to plantations. It
was our nation’s first prison boom. The idea was that prisoners leased to
plantations were supposed to earn their freedom. But the catch was they could
never earn enough to pay back the plantation owner the cost of their food, clothing
6
See, e.g., Reva Siegel, Why Equal Protection No Longer Protects: The Evolving Forms of
Status-Enforcing Action, 49 STAN. L. REV. 1111, 1113, 1146 (1997) (dubbing the process by which
white privilege is maintained, through the rules and rhetoric change, “preservation through
transformation”).
7
DOUGLAS A. BLACKMON, SLAVERY BY ANOTHER NAME: THE RE-ENSLAVEMENT OF BLACK
AMERICANS FROM THE CIVIL WAR TO WORLD WAR II (2008); DAVID M. OSHINSKY, WORSE THAN
SLAVERY: PARCHMAN FARM AND THE ORDEAL OF JIM CROW JUSTICE (1996).
2011]
THE NEW JIM CROW
11
and shelter to the owner’s satisfaction, and thus they were effectively re-enslaved,
sometimes for the rest of their lives. It was a system more brutal in many respects
than slavery, because plantation owners had no economic incentive to keep
convicts healthy or even alive. They could always get another one.8
Today, I believe the criminal justice system has been used once again in a
manner that effectively re-creates caste in America. Our criminal justice system
functions more like a caste system than a system of crime control.
For those who find that claim difficult to swallow, consider the facts. Our
prison system has quintupled for reasons that have stunningly little do with crime.
In less than 30 years, the U.S. penal population exploded from around 300,000 to
more than 2 million.9 The United States now has the highest rate of incarceration
in the world, dwarfing the rates of nearly every developed country, including
highly repressive regimes like China and Iran.10
In fact, if our nation were to return to the incarceration rates of the 1970s—a
time, by the way, when civil rights activists thought that imprisonment rates were
egregiously high—we would have to release four out of five people who are in
prison today.11 More than a million people employed by the criminal justice
system could lose their jobs.12 That is how enormous and deeply entrenched the
new system has become in a very short period of time.
As staggering as those figures are, they actually obscure the severity of the
crisis in poor communities of color. Professor Loïc Wacquant has argued that the
term “mass incarceration” itself is a misnomer, since it implies that nearly
8
See id.
Key Facts at a Glance: Correctional Populations, BUREAU OF JUSTICE STATISTICS (updated
Dec. 16, 2010), available at http://bjs.ojp.usdoj.gov/content/glance/tables/corr2tab.cfm; JOHN IRWIN,
ET AL., AMERICA’S ONE MILLION NONVIOLENT PRISONERS, THE JUSTICE POLICY INSTITUTE (1999),
available at http://www.hawaii.edu/hivandaids/America_s_One_Million_Nonviolent_Prisoners.pdf;
Robert Longley, U.S. Prison Population Tops 2 Million, U.S. GOVERNMENT INFORMATION,
http://usgovinfo.about.com/cs/censusstatistic/a/aaprisonpop.htm.
10
PEW CTR. ON THE STATES, ONE IN 100: BEHIND BARS IN AMERICA 2008, at 5 (Feb. 2008),
http://www.pewcenteronthestates.org/uploadedFiles/One%20in%20100.pdf.
11
According to data provided by the Sentencing Project, in 1972, the total rate of
incarceration (prison and jail) was approximately 160 per 100,000. See MAUER, supra note 9, at 17.
Today, it is about 750 per 100,000. LAUREN E. GLAZE, BUREAU OF JUSTICE STATISTICS, U.S. DEP’T OF
JUSTICE, CORRECTIONAL POPULATIONS IN THE UNITED STATES, 2009, at 2 (2010), available at
http://bjs.ojp.usdoj.gov/content/pub/pdf/cpus09.pdf. A reduction of 79% would be needed to get
back to the 160 figure—itself a fairly high number when judged by international standards.
12
According to a report released by the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Statistics in
2006, the U.S. spent a record $185 billion for police protection, detention, judicial, and legal
activities in 2003. Adjusting for inflation, these figures reflect a tripling of justice expenditures since
1982. The justice system employed almost 2.4 million people in 2003—58% of them at the local
level and 31% at the state level. If four out of five people were released from prisons, far more than a
million people could lose their jobs. KRISTEN A. HUGHES, BUREAU OF JUSTICE STATISTICS, U.S. DEP’T
OF JUSTICE, JUSTICE EXPENDITURE AND EMPLOYMENT IN THE UNITED STATES, 2003, at 1 (2006),
available at http://bjs.ojp.usdoj.gov/content/pub/pdf/jeeus03.pdf.
9
12
OHIO STATE JOURNAL OF CRIMINAL LAW
[Vol 9:1
everyone has been subject to the new system of control.13 But, of course that is not
the case. The overwhelming majority of the increase in imprisonment has been
poor people of color, with the most astonishing rates of incarceration found among
black men. It was estimated several years ago that, in Washington, D.C.—our
nation’s capital—three out of four young black men (and nearly all those in the
poorest neighborhoods) could expect to serve time in prison.14 Rates of
incarceration nearly as shocking can be found in other communities of color across
America.15
So what accounts for this vast new system of control? Crime rates? That is
the common answer. But no, crime rates have remarkably little to do with
skyrocketing incarceration rates. Crime rates have fluctuated over the past thirty
years, and are currently at historical lows, but incarceration rates have consistently
soared.16 Most criminologists and sociologists today acknowledge that crime rates
and incarceration rates have, for the most part, moved independently of one
another.17 Rates of imprisonment—especially black imprisonment—have soared
regardless of whether crime has been rising or falling in any given community or
the nation as a whole.18
So what does explain this vast new system of control, if not crime rates?
Ironically, the activists who posted the sign on that telephone pole were right: The
War on Drugs. The War on Drugs and the “get tough” movement explain the
explosion in incarceration in the United States and the emergence of a vast, new
racial undercaste. In fact, drug convictions alone accounted for about two-thirds of
the increase in the federal system, and more than half of the increase in the state
prison population between 1985 and 2000.19 Drug convictions have increased
more than 1000% since the drug war began, an increase that bears no relationship
to patterns of drug use or sales.20
13
See Loïc Wacquant, Class, Race & Hyperincarceration in Revanchist America, DAEDALUS,
Summer 2010, at 74.
14
DONALD BRAMAN, DOING TIME ON THE OUTSIDE: INCARCERATION AND FAMILY LIFE IN
URBAN AMERICA 3 (2004) (citing D.C. Department of Corrections 2000).
15
ERIC LOTKE & JASON ZIEDENBERG, JUSTICE POLICY INSTITUTE, TIPPING POINT: MARYLAND’S
OVERUSE OF INCARCERATION AND THE IMPACT ON COMMUNITY SAFETY 3 (2005) (reporting that in
Baltimore the majority of young African American men are currently under correctional supervision).
Nationwide, one in three black men will go to prison during their lifetime. See THOMAS P.
BONCSZAR, BUREAU OF JUSTICE STATISTICS, U.S. DEP’T OF JUSTICE, PREVALENCE OF IMPRISONMENT IN
U.S.
POPULATION,
1974–2001
(2003),
available
at
THE
http://bjs.ojp.usdoj.gov/content/pub/pdf/piusp01.pdf.
16
BRUCE WESTERN, PUNISHMENT AND INEQUALITY IN AMERICA 30 (2006) (Figure 2.1).
17
See, e.g., MARC MAUER, RACE TO INCARCERATE.23–35, 92–112 (2d ed. 2006); MICHAEL
TONRY, THINKING ABOUT CRIME: SENSE AND SENSIBILITY IN AMERICAN PENAL CULTURE 14 (2004).
18
See, e.g., WESTERN, supra note 16, at 35, 43.
19
MAUER, supra note 17, at 33.
20
MARC MAUER & RYAN S. KING, A 25-YEAR QUAGMIRE: THE WAR ON DRUGS AND ITS
IMPACT
ON
AMERICAN
SOCIETY
2,
4
(Sept.
2007),
available
at
http://www.sentencingproject.org/doc/publications/dp_25yearquagmire.pdf.
2011]
THE NEW JIM CROW
13
People of all races use and sell drugs at remarkably similar rates, but the
enemy in this war has been racially defined.21 The drug war has been waged
almost exclusively in poor communities of color, despite the fact that studies
consistently indicate that people of all races use and sell drugs at remarkably
similar rates.22 This evidence defies our basic stereotype of a drug dealer…

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