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  • DavidReid

    Kay this is amazing! Thank you for writing it!

    • @DavidReid thanks for stopping Daviid — great to see you!

      and yes this piece is so outstandung

    • KayWhitlock

      @DavidReid David, so wonderful to see you, and thank you so much for your kind remark.

      • dopper0189

        @KayWhitlock @DavidReid I linked to it for Black Kos just so you know. Sorry I’ve been lurking here and I don’t sign in enough to say hello!

        • @dopper0189 @KayWhitlock @DavidReid that is wonderful!

          thank you David — i do beive it should be read far and wide

          Gratitude as always for you!

    • @DavidReid Good to see you David!

  • TiMTPost

    Kay, this is brilliant. So many coded stereotypes that never seem to be understood by some even POC call it out. Thank you. Hopefully, this will help the awareness level to them deniers. Excellent work.

    • @TiMTPost ((((((TIMT))))))))!!


      • TiMTPost

        @nancy a heitzeg @TiMTPost Right backatcha my sistah! (((hugs)))

    • KayWhitlock

      @TiMTPost Hello, dearest TiMT! It does my heart and spirit good to see you. I so appreciate your work.

      Thank you.

      • TiMTPost

        @KayWhitlock I know we crossed path on my space but wanted to leave you a big hug here as well. (((((((Kay)))))))

    • @TiMTPost Good to see you (((((((((((((((((TiMT!))))))))))))))))))!!!

      • TiMTPost

        @Seeta the great. A big ol bear hug to you my friend. It has been a long time.

        • @TiMTPost hey you!! folks really need to check out your blog: http://timtpost.com. I am a daily reader. Love the way you break it down, my dear friend!

        • TiMTPost

          @Seeta thank you sista seeta. I appreciate the support. It is a full time job after another full time job at work and at home. You know, lol. Anyway, thank you. I have a new post about incarceration and has redirected traffic to read CMP. You have a lot of good stuff that ought to reach many readers. Happy Friday!

        • @TiMTPost I hear ya! Excellent post day and especially the one on the Virginia state rape law. Btw, just left a comment over there in response to one of the trolls who evidently didn’t take a civics course in grade school. Hugs!

  • Thank you again Kay for beginning this crucial conversation..It is excellent tool for analysis and

    These criminalizing archetypes are old and deep and for many, operate at subconscious level — exposing them is the first step to challenging hteir power

    i would like to specifically recommend the background provided by the New Jim Crow Museum, cited above



    • KayWhitlock

      @nancy a heitzeg Thanks, Nancy. I’m very glad you’ve just emphasized the Jim Crow Museum – Ferris University has done an outstanding job of putting the museum online.

      I think we need to be bold and go deep with this analysis, which draws on the work and experiences of so many people and communities, because I do think these narratives touch many people – for the worse – at levels they do not realize. This is not to excuse racism; it is to say we need to deeply address the archetypal resonance, usually unconscious, of criminalizing narratives which, in this country, are intrinsically framed by racism.

  • Domino14

    This whole deal is just mind boggling to me… even though I am Canadian I do think that Barack Obama is one of/or the best president/s the U.S. has ever had… am I wrong??

    • @Domino14 He is but……………

      Once you understand the the long deep historical foundations of Racism USA, then it all is, quite tragically, highly predictable

      • Domino14

        @nancy a heitzeg

        I get that…

        I know what I said isn’t that simple – but it should be.

    • KayWhitlock

      @Domino14 Domino, I understand what you’re saying, and I think President Obama has done a remarkable job, given the myriad messes (and layers of same) he inherited. I certainly am working for his re-election, and donating, as well.

      I hope you will understand my saying that I never assess any president as best or worst. I think there is always a constellation of person, time, zeitgeist, economy, culture, all kinds of intersecting factors that influence what a president does and how she/he does.

      I believe President Obama is a fine president. I do not, however, agree with all of his actions or positions. But I recognize that whether he ultimately succeeds with a more liberal/progressive agenda depends so much on us here in the U.S. What are we doing at a grassroots community level to help create the kind of deep and broad-based community voice and support any office-holder needs to challenge the status quo and help create lasting change that cannot be overdone by a resurgence of the Right. To prevent that, we have to be chipping away at the support the Right receives – and strengthening our ability to mount powerful, compelling counternarratives that have real ethical integrity.

      • KayWhitlock

        @Domino14 Ack! I meant “cannot be overturned.”

      • Domino14


        To me he would seem to be the best but that is just my opinion…

        other than that I am in agreement with you Kay.. that is why I am here… and even though I have learned a lot I am fully aware that my knowledge of US politics is lacking..

        I fully support this

        ” To prevent that, we have to be chipping away at the support the Right receives – and strengthening our ability to mount powerful, compelling counternarratives that have real ethical integrity. ”

  • KayWhitlock

    Thank you to all who are reading tonight and all those who have also been part of the discussion. I’ll return tomorrow morning and catch up on further dialogue.

    I have to sign off now, so I will bid you all sweet dreams and wishes for a good day tomorrow.

  • KayWhitlock

    The criminalizing of poor people generally is a theme that runs through public and private institutions. I am not familiar with the conference you mention on regulating SNAP, but I am very aware of the hurtful, demeaning, and criminal stigmatization of people receiving food assistance. And it is wrong.

    One of the points we continually try to make here at Criminal Injustice is that these criminalizing themes have become proxies for anything remotely resembling authentic social and economic justice in this country. Undoing this tangle of criminalizing narratives that now saturate society is a huge task. But we will do it.

    No single politician or small group of politicians can do this by themselves. We need a cultural shift, and that is what we’re working toward. Right now, the criminalizing stories and “get tough” mentality serve as a general political organizing principle. That must change.

    Were you at this conference? It sounds all too typical – letting others speak not only for but about the people most impacted by SNAP (former food stamp program).

    • Panyia

      Yes, I agree we do need a cultural shift. The only problem I see is that our society and it’s system is so large. At the same time, it makes sense to work step by step and little by little.

      Yes, I was at this conference just this past January and I learned a lot. The intention of the conference was toward the good but in the end it still comes back to harm SNAP participants, the poor and many minorities. One thing that did make me happy during the conference was when someone stood up to defend because it literally shook the atmosphere.

      • KayWhitlock

        @Panyia It does seem so large, I agree. It sounds like the conference, meaning well, nonetheless perpetuated criminalizing messages that will – as you say – hit people of color and poor people so hard.

        I’m very glad to hear someone stood up – what did he or she say, if you’d have a minute to share that with us.

        So glad you’re here tonight. Thank you for coming.

        • Panyia

          @KayWhitlock After the speaker spoke about regulating SNAP and almost everyone clapped, a lady stood up and said that we need to remember that regulating SNAP and watching every purchase they make will probably help us but will harms our poorest citizens. She gave the example of a mother from a family of 10 with SNAP having to make the decision between purchasing unhealthy food (pizza) and healthy foods (veggy, meat, milk & etc.) for dinner. Mostly like, pizza would win over other healthy food because in such a large family and limited financial resources, quantity of foods matter more than quality. After she made her statement, the majority did not clap but there were a few who clapped. I was really shocked at the applauds that we got for this statement because it seems that the dominant group are unwilling to believe that there is such dilemma going on in poor communities.

        • @Panyia @KayWhitlock Kudos to that person for speaking up. Shame on all those who would sit there and judge. I’m willing to bet not a single on of those folks have been ever been of food stamps or public assistance of any kind. Quantity is important, but so is some enjoyment. Sometimes at the end of the day, a nice tasty meal is the best and only thing a family can look forward to — sometimes that nice tasty meal isn’t always lettuce. These folks have no idea what it’s like to be poor — and what the meaning/significance is of having a decent, enjoyable dinner with your family, especially those with small children.

        • KayWhitlock

          @Seeta @Panyia amen. I also am appalled that there’s so little examination not only of cost, but also of the politics of Big Agriculture and distribution. To put the blame on poor people and insist they “shape up” and “eat better” is a real travesty.

          I grew up on food that is considered terrible today, and yet I felt so glad to have food that was sufficient and that usually tasted good to me. To be shamed for that would have caused me to go nuclear.

        • KayWhitlock

          @Panyia Wow. The speakers and much of the audience need a dose of reality. How absolutely infuriating.

        • KayWhitlock

          @Seeta @Panyia The politics of supremacy writ into well-meaning food policy. Makes me livid.

        • @KayWhitlock @Panyia Excellent point about the politics of Big Agriculture!

        • @KayWhitlock @Panyia Well said Kay.

        • @Panyia @KayWhitlock Thanks so much again Panyia for raising this issue — it is a topic that needs to be sorely addressed.

        • KayWhitlock

          @Seeta @Panyia Agree, Seeta – much gratitude to you, Panyia. Your presence here tonight has benefited us all very much. I particularly am grateful to you for raising an issue that was not off-topic at all, but goes right to the heart of everything the commentary tonight is all about.

  • Panyia

    Sorry I might be a little off topic but please do tell me if this analogy of SNAP participants is parallel to that of criminalizing President Obama… As I read about how President Obama is portrayed as the welfare president, it reminds me of how hurtful it was to be at the conference for State of the Plate about regulating SNAP. It hurts because majority of the people (White, male, middle class, heterosexual) agreed that SNAP needed to be regulated by watching every SNAP participant’s food purchasing and I recall how hard it is for many of SNAP participants that I knew to buy healthy food with that amount of money, especially if it comes to choosing between healthy food (less quantity) and unhealthy food (more abundant). In some sense almost everyone agreed that SNAP participants were criminals for taking their tax money on unhealthy food. It seems to me that such conference for improving the health of the society is actually not helping the society at all because the SNAP participants were not represented and they (the dominant group) did not seem to recognize that their “helping” is rather criminalizing SNAP participants.

    • @Panyia Welcome Panyia! Yes, this analogy of excessive scrutiny of the poor’s food habits is comparable. It is the akin to criminalizing food stamp recipients. It’s insulting and demeaning to folks who receive food stamps. I don’t know anything about the “State of the Plate” conference you mention, but it doesn’t surprise that food stamp recipients were not present at this meeting. Very patronizing, indeed. I’m so glad you mention this — it’s an important and controversial topic. Thank you for being so forthright and honest.

    • KayWhitlock

      @Panyia Pania, please forgive – my reply is posted above. I don’t know what happened, as I’d hit “reply” to your comment. Gremlins in the system!

  • just a slightly off-topic fyi: If you missed “Slavery by Another Name” on the PBS, the whole 90 minute documentary is available on the the PBS web site: http://www.pbs.org/tpt/slavery-by-another-name/watch/

    • pmlarsonmiller

      @Seeta thank you!

  • pmlarsonmiller

    I could not help but think that – first, President Obama’s skin color was used as “proof” that we are now living in a post-racial society. Now his skin color is being used to vilify him at the onset of what is to be an intense political season.

    It is true that criminalizing narratives are created and perpetuated by the white, male, heterosexual, dominant group: and the use of these narratives against our President is proof that we are absolutely not living in a post-racial America.

    It is also true that proof of illegal action is not necessary to drive a criminalizing narrative: The President of this country is the target – and I have no doubt that these images and racist ideologies being associated with Obama will resonate in the minds of many Americans. Not only will the effects be felt during election time, but within popular racial ideology in general; if people will soak up the criminal framing of President Obama, what does that say for the average African American man and how he will be thought of in the public imagination.

    These racialized tactics are deplorable and really show the state of the nation. In many respects, we, as a nation, are still stuck within the white supremacist bullshit that we have been all throughout history. It has to stop, and slowly but surely it shall.

    • KayWhitlock

      @pmlarsonmiller Thanks for this, pmlarsonmiller. You are right: slow, but surely, this white supremacist BS will stop. I know I will never stop working toward that end.

      • pmlarsonmiller

        @KayWhitock And neither will I. Thank you for this article, I will definitely be encouraging others to read it.

    • @pmlarsonmiller excellent comment.

    • KayWhitlock

      @pmlarsonmiller And so right about how this all affects ordinary African American men and how they are represented in the public imagination.

    • @pmlarsonmiller this is right on time

      “I could not help but think that – first, President Obama’s skin color was used as “proof” that we are now living in a post-racial society. Now his skin color is being used to vilify him at the onset of what is to be an intense political season.”

  • McKenzieDaul

    So basically, a criminal is not defined as someone who commits wrongful acts and is in prison rather, criminals are chosen based on race, class, gender, orientation, etc. Criminalizing president Obama means there is a set image or idea of a criminal, based on appearance society chooses who to target in the criminal justice system. In this context society creates criminals rather than preventing them. There is something seriously wrong with this picture. How do we prevent or stop this specific image? Each person is unique there is no way there is one set image for everyone in a certain “category”. Are there any answers to try to change this image?

    Great article!

    McKenzie Daul

    • KayWhitlock

      @McKenzieDaul Thank you. And yes, criminalizing narratives presume a set image of a criminal based on who a dominant society doesn’t like and doesn’t trust – all based, as you say, on race, class, gender, sexuality, immigrant status, disability, and more.

      CI will be talking about counternarratives in the months to come. Please stay tuned!

    • @McKenzieDaul “society creates criminals” — exactly. who and what is “criminal” is a construct designed by the dominant culture.

    • @McKenzieDaul there are so many ???

      one of the aspects that of this article that i love is the call to keep considering this —

      “What would our more compelling narratives, be, if they weren’t rooted simply in reactivity, and our own politics of contempt and denunciation? What kinds of more life-giving Story can be advanced in ways that touch people’s hearts as well as their minds; that can touch the subconscious part of self that values compassion and justice and generosity –but without resorting to simple emotional manipulation? What kinds of narratives would invite people into the task of building communities that are safe, just, caring, and compassionate in practical as well as visionary ways? What archetypal images and narratives call forth the best rather than the worst in us?”

  • KayWhitlock

    Thank you so much, Domino.

    Lovely to see you.

    • KayWhitlock

      Agh, this was supposed to go under your comment, Domino14.

      • Domino14


        LOL. Good to see you too Kay :)

  • Domino14

    Great work Kay.

    • @Domino14 Hey Domino! Good to see you! Hope you’ve been well.

      • Domino14


        Yes and you as well :)

        I have been wanting to ask you something not site-related – is it ok to e-mail you??

        • @Domino14 hey Domino…yeah, absolutely. You can always email me. Do you have my email addy?

        • Domino14


          I don’t think I do…

        • @Domino14 If, for whatever reason, it doesn’t work, let me know!

        • Domino14


          Just sent :)

        • @Domino14 yes, got it! :)

        • @Domino14 it might take me a day or two to write back! :)

        • Domino14


          no rush – and thanks again :)

        • @Domino14 no prob! hope the winter is treating you all well up there. our winter has been so mild this year. we’ve had only two snowfalls that can barely pass as a storm. :)

  • conlakappa

    Awesome job, as usual. If people go there, as always, I expect them to own their words.

    • KayWhitlock

      @conlakappa Hi, conlakappa – thanks for being here.

      You’re asking those who go there to take responsibility? Hmmm…

      But if they won’t, we’ll never stop demanding that they do.

    • @conlakappa i would settle for “choke on” them :)

      grest to see – as always

      • conlakappa

        @nancy a heitzeg It’s a two-part sort of thing: they own or don’t own them and then I make them eat the words.

        • KayWhitlock

          @conlakappa@Nancy Yes. Excellent, conlakappa. I would not want to be one of those who will be eating his/her words.

    • @conlakappa Good to see you conlakappa!

  • trashablanca

    I have a bit of good news. Somebody showed me this site the other day:


    The comments are much more civilized than at many political sites these days.

    o/t – Is there a way to post a hyperlink without typing it in by hand?

    • @trashablanca yeah, just type “http://” before the url. It will automatically link it.

    • KayWhitlock

      @trashablanca I just cut and paste, making sure the http part is there.

      Thanks for your fascinating news!

      • trashablanca

        @KayWhitock OK, I don’t seem to be able to paste yet, but I’ll work on it.

        Yeah, I was skeptical about that site at first, but then I read the comments and grew more and more confident that it’s the real deal.

        I posted a reply to a wingnut who came in to cast false aspersions, and all comments need to be checked before they’re posted. They let the wingnut post, but he didn’t have the courage to respond, which is understandable, since he only posted dishonest RW talking points and flat-out lies. He had no “proof” to respond with, as is generally the case with these idjits.

        • KayWhitlock

          @trashablanca Cheering you on, trashablanca!

    • @trashablanca just spent some time looking over there. rather interesting to say the least. i will have to peruse a bit more. the cynical part of me wonders if this is some kind of online performance art. will have to see where it goes. it certainly seems benign and like a hopeful thing, but why keep the association with the manufacture “tea party.” strange.

      • KayWhitlock

        @Seeta @trashablanca Strange, indeed. I’m glad you’re checking, too. Very grateful trashablanca alerted us to this. I’ll check it out as well.

      • trashablanca

        @Seeta Maybe to make conservatives who aren’t comfortable with the dishonesty and racism of the tea party and GOP a way to acclimatize and feel comfortable? Believe me, I share your skepticism, but explored enough to feel reassured it’s benign.

  • Newt Gingrich has been laying low on the “Food stamp” president racist clarion call for a while. Wonder if he’s had a talking to. But make no mistake, after the primaries are over the gloves are really gonna come off…Southern Strategy on steroids.

    • @Seeta ha!! steroids indeed!

    • KayWhitlock

      @Seeta Yes…but the gloves already are off.


      From the Talking Points Memo text:

      “Virginia state Del. Bob Marshall, who is running in the Republican senate primary against establishment favorite former Sen. George Allen, is really going the extra mile in his opposition to federal health care reform law, saying the individual mandate to buy health insurance is “akin to forcible economic rape.”

      “As the Washington Examiner reports, Marshall has signed onto an amicus brief to the Supreme Court in the litigation surrounding the law. And Marshall et al choose to make some remarkable rhetorical arguments, in their declaration that the law is unconstitutional: In conducting its re-examination of its Commerce Clause jurisprudence, this Court should return to the text of the Constitution as “the supreme Law of the Land” giving no deference to its own decisions, rather examining the issue afresh. Such an examination demonstrates that the individual mandate is not an exercise of power to regulate interstate commerce. The individual mandate is not regulation of voluntary commercial intercourse; it is more akin to forcible economic rape.”

      • @KayWhitock Vile and disgusting. It wasn’t “economic rape” when Romney implemented this plan. These people will stop at nothing to gin up faux outrage. More selective prosecution on the basis of race. This ruling is going to have a huge impact — no way to even overstate this.

        • KayWhitlock

          @Seeta Exactly. And whatever the ruling, we have to be willing to run this vile theme to ground.

      • @KayWhitock @Seeta No Limits to hard far they will go


        thank you so much for providing a much needed framework here Kay

        Boldly expose indee

    • KayWhitlock

      @Seeta I also believe that the entire Republican/Right positions against social spending, for perpetual culture wars, to dismantle voting rights, etc. are deployed with this racist criminalizing frame. We have an opportunity here to move forward boldly to expose the game.

  • always great to see you MK!

    and yes this diary is a treasure trove of brililant analysis

  • KayWhitlock

    Thank you, MK – I respect you so much, and your opinion matters a great deal to me. Sending all good wishes and thanks for your work.

  • Great to see MK…Folks really need to check out your blog Prison Culture: http://www.usprisonculture.com/blog/

    A rich resource.

    • MK

      @Seeta Thanks Seeta. I am a daily reader of CMP. I love what you’ve done with this site. Peace.

  • MK

    Kay, this is truly inspired. I have already tweeted it and am about to post this to Facebook. I am going to have to re-read this later in the week when I have more time to really think through the ideas that you address here. Just terrific. Thank you!

  • One other thing… you do NOT need to register or log into the site to comment. You need to sign into Livefyre to comment or you can post as guest. Thanks.

  • Welcome regulars, lurkers, and new-comers. CMP migrated from Disqus to Livefyre to power the commenting system.. You can comment by Signing in using a current social networking account or by creating a livefyre account. Also, no need to refresh the page for new comments. New comments load in real-time. You can add links and videos in your comments, but no fancy HTML. If you have any other questions, let me know.

    • KayWhitlock

      @Seeta thanks, Seeta. You are simply the best!

    • trashablanca

      @Seeta OK, Seeta. I take back all my whining from the other day.

      The comments auto refreshing makes the change well worth it. w00t!

      • @trashablanca Grin. The auto-refresh is great. And I never take anything you say as whining! All feedback is good. Someone’s got to keep me on my toes. lol! Good to see you as usual, trashablanca!

      • @trashablanca @Seeta hey!! i take back all my whining too :)

        glad you are here!

  • Aji

    HEY!!! It works!!!

    Hi, all – didn’t know until now that you were no longer tethered to disqus. I’ve missed you terribly.

    And, Kay, I’ve only had a chance to skim, but I have to tell you that I had to e-mail Nancy and ask where I could read this, because I so wanted to see the whole thing. I can already tell, even at a glance, that it’s sheer brilliance.

    Love you all.

    • @Aji yes!!

      so great to see you! :)

    • @Aji So wonderful to see you Aji! Yes, we are no longer tethered/held hostage by Disqus. Kay’s piece is truly brilliant.

    • KayWhitlock

      @Aji Aji, so wonderful to see you. And thank you for kind words – if you can, please join the discussion, whenever. Sending love.

  • Wow, Kay, this an amazing piece!

    • KayWhitlock

      @Seeta Thanks to my, um, partner in criminal injustice, Nancy Heitzeg, for the graphics. The ones I found, we couldn’t publish because they were so vile.

      • @KayWhitock Sigh. I don’t even want to imagine.

        • @Seeta @KayWhitock yes the level of vile is hard to fathom

  • KayWhitlock

    Apologies, dear readers. There are a couple of bad links in the resources section – for Cathy J. Cohen’s amazing “Punks, Bulldaggers & Welfare Queens” article. I’ll post a good link here in a second – look under this comment.

    • @KayWhitock will fix it when i get them kay

    • KayWhitlock

      While we work to fix the article, please use this link – sorry, subscription only – for the Cathy J. Cohen piece.


      I’d originally linked to a site I thought was OK with a free pdf download, but it is now giving an “attack site” warning.

  • thank you so much for this excellent analysis kay

    amen to every word

  • KayWhitlock

    Hello, all. Thanks for dropping by; please join in the discussion if you’d like to.