Welcome to the ‘Arts and Culture’ Archive
Here you will find all archived articles and posts under the selected category. Thank you for visiting and supporting the movement.
† 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.
The Ubiquity, the Banality of Mediated Policing & Punishment
by nancy a heitzeg
“Only the mob and the elite can be attracted by the momentum of totalitarianism itself. The masses have to be won by propaganda.” ― Hannah Arendt
One of the many benefits of rarely watching TV is this: when you do turn it on, you are shocked anew by the uninterrupted routinization of policing and punishment, shook awake from the otherwise somnambulist gaze.
Certainly we have come to expect, with few questions, the demonization of “criminals”, the fueled fear of crime, the glorification of police, prosecutors, and prison as “appropriate” punishment. We have come to expect too the racialized framing that deems a 100+ Gun/9 Dead shootout with police in Waco a Kerfuffle, a mere “melee“, while 1 burned CVS amidst Baltimore protests constitutes a riot. This is the overt script for the “news”, the text of “reality” police and prison shows – LockUp, Jail and Cops – the fodder for the serial glorification of Blue Bloods, Walter White(ness) and Dirty Harry/Die Hard/Mad Max marathons, and the premise of endless incarnations of Law and Order, CSI, and more.
Perhaps most insidiously, policing, punishment and prison pervades as subtext and unexamined backdrop. Our fears are subverted into twisted humor, often as prison rape jokes that float through even children’s programming, and are also used to sell us an array of consumer products. Here, most recently imagine my surprise at this — in the age of #Ferguson/#Baltimore/#Everywhere and any number of untold deaths by Taser – Dollar Shave Club razors.
Beyond the billions in profit churned – yes this too is part of the prison industrial complex — this cultural hegemony normalizes policing and prison as part of the everyday landscape. It is routine; it is to be expected. Policing, punishment and prisons are such blatantly recurrent elements of cultural commodfication that they are embedded as normative within our psyches and collective subconscious.
The hyper-visible atrocities are, in effect, rendered completely invisible. They are so Everywhere that they are Nowhere at all.
And how do you dismantle a system of excessive repression that many can no longer even see?
The First Decoration Day
By David W. Blight. 2011.
The People’s History of Memorial Day, Zinn Education Project
Thousands of black Charlestonians, most former slaves, remained in the city and conducted a series of commemorations to declare their sense of the meaning of the war. The largest of these events, and unknown until some extraordinary luck in my recent research, took place on May 1, 1865. During the final year of the war, the Confederates had converted the planters’ horse track, the Washington Race Course and Jockey Club, into an outdoor prison. Union soldiers were kept in horrible conditions in the interior of the track; at least 257 died of exposure and disease and were hastily buried in a mass grave behind the grandstand. Some twenty-eight black workmen went to the site, re-buried the Union dead properly, and built a high fence around the cemetery. They whitewashed the fence and built an archway over an entrance on which they inscribed the words, “Martyrs of the Race Course.”
Then, black Charlestonians in cooperation with white missionaries and teachers, staged an unforgettable parade of 10,000 people on the slaveholders’ race course. The symbolic power of the low-country planter aristocracy’s horse track (where they had displayed their wealth, leisure, and influence) was not lost on the freedpeople. A New York Tribune correspondent witnessed the event, describing “a procession of friends and mourners as South Carolina and the United States never saw before.”
At 9 a.m. on May 1, the procession stepped off led by three thousand black schoolchildren carrying arm loads of roses and singing “John Brown’s Body.” The children were followed by several hundred black women with baskets of flowers, wreaths and crosses. Then came black men marching in cadence, followed by contingents of Union infantry and other black and white citizens. As many as possible gathering in the cemetery enclosure; a childrens’ choir sang “We’ll Rally around the Flag,” the “Star-Spangled Banner,” and several spirituals before several black ministers read from scripture. No record survives of which biblical passages rung out in the warm spring air, but the spirit of Leviticus 25 was surely present at those burial rites: “for it is the jubilee; it shall be holy unto you… in the year of this jubilee he shall return every man unto his own possession.”
B.B. King (1925-2015) American Roots Music, Oral Histories
For B ~ Mother’s Day
Minnesota Orchestra to premiere ‘American Nomad’ trumpet concerto
“The trumpet is a messenger or troubadour. It’s a call and response. It’s an alarm. It brings us together.” ~ Steve Heitzeg
“Nobel Symphony” excerpt #3 – Steve Heitzeg
Performed by Philip Brunelle and the VocalEssence Chorus with the Minnesota Boychoir and Gustavus Adolphus College Symphony Orchestra. Charles Lazarus, solo trumpet.
Authors Kay Whitlock (left), co-editor of Criminal InJustice, and Michael Bronski (right) have published a new book “Considering Hate” that is required reading. This is a transformative text that not only presents us with provocative questions about who we have been and who we are as a civilization, but also how we can rise above simplistic dichotomies of “Us” v. “Them” in our own everyday activism (whether on a micro or macro scale). The bottom-line is that we are no better than our so-called “enemies” when we embrace this dichotomous thinking which only serves to perpetuate division and destructive behaviors. As Whitlock and Bronkski argue, we are interdependent beings and must endeavor to find more constructive ways forward on all fronts.
From Beacon Press:
Over the centuries American society has been plagued by brutality fueled by disregard for the humanity of others: systemic violence against Native peoples, black people, and immigrants. More recent examples include the Steubenville rape case and the murders of Matthew Shepard, Jennifer Daugherty, Marcelo Lucero, and Trayvon Martin. Most Americans see such acts as driven by hate. But is this right? Longtime activists and political theorists Kay Whitlock and Michael Bronski boldly assert that American society’s reliance on the framework of hate to explain these acts is wrongheaded, misleading, and ultimately harmful.
Truthout has an in-depth and insightful interview up with both authors:
As Kay Whitlock and Michael Bronski outline in their brilliant new book, Considering Hate, we are all much more likely to view hate as residing elsewhere – not within ourselves, but within inferior others, whom we can disdain and distance ourselves from. Our political realities become determined by whom we are against.
In their book, Whitlock and Bronski dedicate themselves to both interrogating the hate frame – digging into its history, its construction, its uses, its tactics – and moving beyond it. They ask: “What would it look like to disentangle hate from justice, and replace the language of hate with that of goodness?” What does the language of goodness even look like, and how do we imagine our way there? In the following interview, Whitlock and Bronski illuminate the anatomy of hate – and show how a transformative imagination, built on compassion and an acknowledgement of interdependence, can guide our way forward.
Full interview here.