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CI: Off Track, The Myth of American Justice

September 24, 2014 By: nancy a heitzeg Category: Civil Rights

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.

 

Off Track, The Myth of American Justice
by nancy a heitzeg

He could have said it anywhere, in Ferguson or Florida, in Los Angeles or the Bronx, in any Southern town from Emmett Till up till now. The song remains the same. But how many times has he said this to a room, during a moment, at what appears to be a turning point? Shouting in the wilderness is one thing. What must it be like to shout where everyone can hear you, to room after room full of people, to have everyone  nod their heads and the newspapers back you and millions rally to your cause and still nothing changes? How many times can you repeat the truth? ~ Emmett Rensin, After the Train Leaves Town: A Report from Ferguson

The swirl of headlines and response is dizzying. Drip, drip, drip.

Justice for Mike Brown, for Ezell Ford, for Eric Garner, John CrawfordRekia Boyd, Marissa Alexander, Jordan Davis (again) !  More. Fire Ray Rice, fire Adrian Peterson, fire Roger Goodell, Don Lemon too! More. Arrest Darren Wilson! Convict Michael Dunn! More.  One by one by one.

Send $$$, send water, send gas masks. More. #Hashtag it. Facebook it. Petition it.  Mobilize. March. Send Selfies with Signs.  More. Then Do It Again. Click, click, click.

train_tracks_and_approaching_train_by_ffelkat-d5cw2lsThe need to react to immediate injustice is understandable. So too, the desire to have systems that supposedly dispense ” justice” to do so equally, and to hold all perpetrators – be they police or pro athletes – accountable. It is easy to understand the lull of specific debates and focused actions. But as both a participant in and scholar/observer of social movements – particularly those directed towards the criminal “justice” system, i have many questions.

These have come to the fore again in the midst of the seeming national escalation of police violence, the wave of family violence cases involving NFL players, and finally, in a local event that revealing in microcosm a political landscape always marred by personal agendas and political in-fighting, non-profits protecting their money, a projecting power structure that appeals to fear, and  a media eager to report the small details, the specific skirmish, but in total avoidance of the systemic and structural issues which ultimately provide the frame.

Is this case by case approach enough? Can it be sustained? Are there more tools — questions to be asked, cautions to be raised about their most effective use? Are these the right questions to ask or demands to make ? What are the possibilities for proactive engagement rather than the endless hydraulic of reaction and retrenchment? Can we define the terms of debate on our own new terrain? Can we go bigger?

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CI: Call for Submissions, Special #Mike Brown/#Ferguson Issue of ProudFlesh

September 17, 2014 By: nancy a heitzeg Category: Anti-Racism, Arts and Culture, Civil Rights, Criminal Injustice Series, Education, Intersectionality, Prison Industrial Complex, What People are Doing to Change the World

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.

 

Call for Submissions, Special Mike Brown/Ferguson Issue of ProudFlesh
from nancy a heitzeg

PF pngProudFlesh: New Afrikan Journal of Culture, Politics, and Consciousness is seeking submission for a Special Edition on Mike Brown and Ferguson.  ( ProudFlesh: New Afrikan Journal of Culture, Politics and Consciousness is a peer-reviewed journal, a terrain for promoting exchange, thinking, for igniting the common impulse to create, to perform, to interrogate in spite of the odds fueled by repression and rootlessness.)

This Special On-line Issue, modeled after the Special Issue Dedicated to Trayvon Martin, will offer a collection of critical responses to Ferguson, with a focus on:

  • race and criminalization, especially of Black youth;
  • the role of police/policing in the repression of communities of color, including escalating militarization; and
  • resistance, protest and emergent movement, with special consideration of the role of social media in mobilization.

Submissions may include:

  • Scholarly works,
  • Blog posts
  • Creative works such as poetry art and music

Guest Editors for this Special Edition are ​Nancy A. Heitzeg, Ph.D., Professor of Sociology and Critical Studies of Race and Ethnicity, St. Catherine University naheitzeg@stkate.edu and Rose M. Brewer, Ph.D. Professor of African American & African Studies, University of Minnesota brewe001@umn.edu

Please submit all pieces for consideration via e-mail by October 1, 2014. You are encouraged to share this request widely with your networks.

Thank You!

PF png

CI: “PriSchool” ~ Architecture of Oppression

September 10, 2014 By: nancy a heitzeg Category: Anti-Racism, Civil Rights, Criminal Injustice Series, Education, Intersectionality, Prison Industrial Complex

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.

 

“PriSchool” ~ Architecture of Oppression

by Kay Whitlock and Nancy A Heitzeg

The thesis looks to address the outflow of prisoners and combat the challenges of recidivism.  This is done through the implementation of a new typology of prison facility that symbiotically merges the program of incarceration and education.  The prison would be a prison for non-violent drug offenders.  The school would be a school of criminology and criminal justice.  Glen J. Santayana

It’s a prison! And a school! What could possibly be more American in the age of “colorblindness,” privatization and austerity?

Looking like a gigantic set of stacked animal cages and set off  by a dry moat (a new urban iteration of the “ha ha wall”), the so-called (and coyly named)  “PriSchool” is perhaps the most obviously (perhaps unintentionally)  grotesque example of the kind of proposed criminal legal system “reform” being advanced these days. One need not question Glen Santayana’s presumably good intentions in order to challenge the design, and assumptions on which it appears to be based.

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Maybe the “stacked animal cages” look isn’t entirely coincidental. The “school” part of the design is twofold: vocational skills – carpentry, cooking, mechanics, beautyshop/barbering, etc. – will be taught to prisoners who, in turn, may obtain a GED and will be studied by “interact with” non-inmate students  pursuing knowledge at the PriSchool’s School of Criminology and Criminal Justice. In time, former prisoners may be hired as snitches consultants to criminal investigations.

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CI: #Ferguson, Spectacle and Script

August 27, 2014 By: nancy a heitzeg Category: Anti-Racism, Civil Rights, Criminal Injustice Series, Intersectionality, Prison Industrial Complex

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.

 

#Ferguson, Spectacle and Script
by nancy a heitzeg

“…of what are the police the avant-garde? They prowl, categorizing and profiling, often turning those profiles into murder violence without (serious) fear of being called to account, all the while claiming impunity. What jars the imagination is not the fact of impunity itself, but the realization that they are simply people working a job…This spectacular evil is encased in a more inarticulable evil of banality, namely, that the state assigns certain individuals to (well-paying) jobs as hunters of human beings, a furtive protocol for which this shooting is simply the effect.”

 ~ The Avant-garde of White Supremacy, Martinot and Sexton

Those of us who were there (both literally and virtually ) knew immediately just what it was. We were alerted early on by The Man with Sign, Mike Brown’s family bearing witness on cardboard to the police execution of his son. Were there any doubts, these were to be dispelled soon enough, in the grindingly impossible more than 4 hours that they left, as a strange-fruit warning, The Body in the Street.

There it was at the essence – a Spectacle Lynching by agents of the law, revealing in the excessive response the core of policing, organized state violence in the service of white supremacy, a thin-blue line standing for only the protection of “orderly “whiteness” as property,  both tangible and otherwise. A thin-blue line standing too against Blackness, “the map of gratuitous violence, and a program of complete disorder,” dangerous and disposable.

This time the curtain was pulled completely away. The Spectacular revealing, this time, the Banality. What it Was.

We saw The Body in the Street. Uncovered.

Exposed.

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Revelations: “blood river run”

August 24, 2014 By: nancy a heitzeg Category: Anti-Racism, Arts and Culture, Civil Rights, Criminal Injustice Series, Intersectionality, Prison Industrial Complex

Wanda Coleman, Emmett Till

CI: Dispersing the White Fog Enveloping Ferguson

August 20, 2014 By: nancy a heitzeg Category: Anti-Racism, Civil Rights, Criminal Injustice Series, Intersectionality, Prison Industrial Complex

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.

 

Dispersing the White Fog Enveloping Ferguson

by Kay Whitlock

Starting with the extrajudicial execution of Michael Brown by local police on August 9, 2014, in Ferguson, Missouri, a predictable white fog has settled in. It is a miasma, historically resonant, comprised of structural racism and denial of it, policing practices that are race-based and authoritarian, and political/cultural narratives that obfuscate rather than illuminate.

The properties of the miasma are brutally magical: they produce a triumphant white supremacist sleight of hand in which racist reality is refashioned to frame “civil order” and “law enforcement” as the perpetual victims of purportedly “out-of-control, criminal,” and pathologically violent black people – particularly young black people.

A still image taken from raw http://www.thewrap.com/police-tear-gas-not-fired-at-al-jazeera-news-crew-intentionally-video/ shows an Al-Jazeera new team covering protests being tear-gassed by Ferguson police.  When the team members fled, a SWAT team dismantled the equipment setup.

A still image taken from raw
shows an Al-Jazeera new team covering protests being tear-gassed by Ferguson
police. When the team members fled, a SWAT team dismantled the equipment setup.

Law enforcement riots and the repressive deployment of armed force against black people are not the causes of “civil disorder;” rather the cause is located in those who have been denied social and economic justice throughout U.S. history, who are now framed as creators of violence and terror.  Violent policing has vanished as the instigating factor.  No one seems to be considering the idea that those who are not violent, but who defy the curfew, are registering a principled and courageous protest against repressive state power.  Instead, the deployment of ever-greater force, including Missouri’s National Guard, initially sent to protect not the community, but the police command center, becomes its own surreal justification.

It has not yet been two weeks since Brown’s streetside execution, but the white fog just gets thicker, nastier, more toxic.

To help cut through the fog, CI urges you to read these pieces:

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CI: No Justice, Still, for Us

August 13, 2014 By: nancy a heitzeg Category: Anti-Racism, Civil Rights, Criminal Injustice Series, Intersectionality, Military Industrial Complex, Prison Industrial Complex

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.

Peace, Finally, for Rodney King/No Justice, Still, for Us
by nancy a heitzeg

For Mike Brown, For Ferguson. For the Unnamed.

Editors Note: In light of the extra-legal police execution of Mike Brown and the ensuing events in Ferguson, Missouri, CI is republishing this piece written two years ago on the occasion of the death of Rodney King.

It is with unsurprised sorrow that we note how little has changed, save for the addition of many names: Jordan Davis, Kimani Gray, Cary Ball, Jr., Jonathan Ferrell, Renisha McBride, Eric Garner, John Crawford, Ezell Ford. More.

How many times must families grieve, communities explode? How many times must journalists re-write the same tired pieces, must we pretend that there is something called “justice” to be had for the Dead?

Wherever you are, please join us tomorrow in a National Moment of Silence #NMOS14. Please join us every day in saying this “ends today” ,  in saying the systemic siege of community by police state tactics is over. And we must find another way.

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CI: There Are No Children Here

August 06, 2014 By: nancy a heitzeg Category: Anti-Racism, Civil Rights, Criminal Injustice Series, Intersectionality, Prison Industrial Complex, Prisoner Rights

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.

 

There Are No Children Here
by nancy a heitzeg

“Racially differential treatment of children is an important yet under-explored arena within social psychology. The present findings suggest how urgently field and laboratory work are needed to fill in this research gap. In addition, they suggest that if, as Alice Walker says, “The most important question in the world is, “Why is the child crying’?” then, for Black children, the most important answer may be that they cry because they are not allowed to be children at all.

~ Goff, P. A., Jackson, M. C., Di Leone, B. A. L., Culotta, C. M., & DiTomasso, N. A. (2014, February 24). The Essence of Innocence: Consequences of Dehumanizing Black Children. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

The title of this piece is of course stolen from Alex Kotolowitz whose 1987 book (and then Oprah TV movie) chronicled the lives of two boys growing up in the Henry Horner Homes.  The title is meant to convey how concentrated poverty and its’ attendant social ills deprive children of the joy of innocence and the opportunity to be carefree. But as the introductory quote from this recent study reveals, there is another meaning too. Racism, particularly anti-Blackness, and deeply held implicit biases also disfigure “innocence”, denying Black children both humanity and childhood, defining them as miniature “adults” to be feared and then controlled.

This has profound implications for everyday interaction with adult caretakers, teachers, and police. Those who are expected to protect childhood innocence are now inclined to deny it, and these singular reactions by adults in charge serve to replicate and reinforce institutional racism. This denial of innocence shapes the racial contours of the school to prison pipeline , and , as we have seen again this week, underlies decisions to charge and incarcerate juveniles as adults, and then brutalize them once they are in custody.

Because There Are No Children Here.

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