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October 20, 2011

"The Carceral State and the Crucible of Black Politics: An Urban History of the Rockefeller Drug Laws"

The title of this post is the title of this notable new paper by Michael Javen Fortner, which is now available via SSRN. Here is the abstract:

The expansion of the carceral state and the mass incarceration of African American males have been of great concern to academics and activists.  The dominant explanations for these outcomes emphasize white supremacy and the Republican law and order rhetoric that developed during the late 1960s.  This paper complicates this narrative: it examines the role that African-American activists played in the development of local and national drug policy.  

Tracing the discourse around crime and law enforcement within New York City’s African American community from 1950s until the 1970s, this papers finds that the “urban crisis” narrative did not develop in spite of black politics: it developed, in great measure, because of black politics.  The law and order rhetoric of the post-60s GOP might have been employed at the expense of racial minorities living in urban ghettos, but black politics played a preparatory role for this new Republican discourse.  This paper concludes that the carceral state and the mass incarceration of African American males is as much a result of black fears as it is a result of white racism.

October 20, 2011 at 10:12 AM | Permalink

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