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. Criminal InJustice is published every Wednesday at 6 pm CST.
Stop the Criminal-Black-Man Narrative 2012
by nancy a heitzeg
“Trayvon Martin was killed by a very old idea..”
~ Brent Staples, New York Times, 4/14/2102
The Black Man as Dangerous is a lethal idea, ironically, not to those who perpetrate and fear, but especially to those to whom it is attached. It is indeed also a very old idea, one that has evolved over centuries. The Savage, The Brute, the Defiler of White Women — honed and solidified in the Post Civil Rights Era into an archetype that scholars and activists now refer to in aggregate short-hand:
This image is ubiquitous — it is the text and subtext of all crime-reporting and “reality” cop/prison programing. It shapes the contours of everyday racism, the school to prison pipeline, police patrols and profiles; it offers the framework for both creating and then perversely justifying the demographics of both the prison industrial complex and the face of death row.
At times, as in the Trayvon Martin case, the archetype and its’ consequences are, at least briefly, openly examined and discussed. More often, as with the noxious Kony 2012 campaign, it looms just below the surface with an eerily subconscious pull.
The Criminal-Black-Man is the visible yet untouchable specter that lies at the center of fear and violence. It is personal and yes it is political.