CI: For Intervening Variables, Not Yet Seen

March 27, 2013 at 7:00 pm by: nancy a heitzeg Category: Anti-Racism, Civil Rights, Criminal Injustice Series, Intersectionality, Prisoner Rights

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Criminal InJustice is a weekly series devoted to taking action against inequities in the U.S. criminal justice system. Nancy A. Heitzeg, Professor of Sociology and Race/Ethnicity, is the Editor of CI. Kay Whitlock, co-author of Queer (In)Justice, is contributing editor of CI. Criminal Injustice is published every Wednesday at 6 pm.

For Intervening Variables, Not Yet Seen
by nancy a heitzeg

“…while there is a lower class, I am in it, and while there is a criminal element I am of it, and while there is a soul in prison, I am not free.”

Eugene V.  Debs, Statement to the Court Upon Being Convicted of Violating the Sedition Act, 1918

This was going to be a rant. Certainly, there is no shortage of stress-inducing topics to choose from:

The Supreme Court of the United States

The Roberts Gang seems about ready, with one hand, to throw a crumb of marriage recognition to gays and lesbians. As usual, the outcome and scope of the rulings will hang on the whims of one Anthony Kennedy. How tired are we of worrying about his moods? With the other hand, the SCTOUS may well undo any last remnant of Affirmative Action and gut the Voting Rights Act, rendering the the 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause completely color-blind. And of course, turning back the clock oh 50 to 100+ years depending on how you want to do the math. Derrick Bell is still right – And We Are Not Saved.

NYPD Stop and Frisk

Yes, the odious racist practice is finally on trial, with gripping testimony and audio evidence that verifies what those subject to it have always known — said plain here in this exchange between Deputy Inspector Christopher McCormack and Police Officer Pedro Serrano:

“Mott Haven is full of black people, so who are the right people?” Serrano asks.

MacCormack: “The problem was male blacks, 14 to 20, 21.”

Of course, we are pleased that this racist, ineffective and unconstitutional practice is on trial, but how many times do we really have to do this? How many times must white supremacist policing be framed as the result of a few bad policies enacted by a few “bad apples” in a few big cities? However many well-intentioned individuals choose to sign up for “protect and serve”, the damn system has been built from the start on “racial profiling” or any name you want to give it. Somebody say so.

The Toxic Gun Debate: Fear, Loathing, and Criminalization

No winners here. NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg goes full hypocrite; Democrats go “Law and Order” with calls for more police in school and increased mandatory minimums for unlawful gun possession; the President goes Moynihan in Chicago; the NRA goes even more race-baiting crazy;  and  nice white liberals, inconsolable over dead white children killed btw by young white men,  call for more more more laws and  harsher penalties that will, as always, be enforced against “urban” communities of color. And Nobody will be  “safer” for it.

More “Smoke and Mirrors”

We are still facing a barrage of numbers claiming decarceration and a new era of “prison reform”. More long-standing “liberal’ non-profits team up with  ‘unexpected” conservative partners -aka white supremacist capitalist patriarchs- to garner funding. From the beginning of this year, Criminal InJustice has offered critical questions about the reality of both policy claims and the legitimacy of so-called reforms. Please see Smoke and Mirrors?Con Artists, Profit and Community Corrections and Confidence Men & “Prison Reform”. Eyes Wide Open. Keep asking the questions. Trojan Horses are at the gate.

But let me stop..

Because as usual, at that critical juncture where hope meets despair, I saw this:


Back on the right track, i then read Resilience, Love, and Refusing to Give Up in Chicago… And you should too..

At times like these, when there are many unanswered questions, when there is no clear light to shine the way, we are reminded. We persist, and that is enough.

Howard Zinn, in The Optimism of Uncertainty ( 2004) puts it like this:

Consider the remarkable transformation, in just a few decades, in people’s consciousness of racism, in the bold presence of women demanding their rightful place, in a growing public awareness that gays are not curiosities but sensate human beings, in the long-term growing skepticism about military intervention despite brief surges of military madness. It is that long-term change that I think we must see if we are not to lose hope. Pessimism becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy; it reproduces itself by crippling our willingness to act. Revolutionary change does not come as one cataclysmic moment (beware of such moments!) but as an endless succession of surprises, moving zigzag toward a more decent society.

And because I am a sociologist, always weighing the relative contributions of any number of factors, i like to put it like this: Waiting for Intervening Variables that Are Not Yet Seen.

So let them come. As they always do.

And we will be ready…

Seeta moderator

Righteous and best roundup of civil rights on trial Nancy!  VRA and AA to fall to the wayside while DOMA gasps for air?  Stop and Frisk on trial while Bloombito breathes fire into anti-soda and cigarette bans?  

"At times like these, when there are many unanswered questions, when there is no clear light to shine the way, we are reminded. We persist, and that is enough."

Amen to that.  Thanks for this Nancy!


A most excellent catalog, each item most worthy of deep consideration..

Garvey and Zinn are right. 

nancy a heitzeg
nancy a heitzeg

@Seeta Thank you Seeta - always for this space!

Bloombito :) i'll remember that  one