Here is your weekly research brief with some of the latest research in the field of race and racism. As always, I note which pieces are freely available on the web, or “open access” with (OA), and those behind a paywall with (locked).
- Back, Les. “Street Corner Society” Public Books. In this piece on Richard Howe’s New York in Plain Sight, a project that involved taking more than 8,000 photographs of every street corner in Manhattan. In interviewing him about the project, Howe reveals to Back: “In the course of the project I became very conscious … about how racist I still was.” (OA)
- Balfour, Lawrie. “Unthinking Racial Realism: A Future for Reparations?” DuBois Review 11, no. 1 (2014): 43-56. Considered costly, divisive, and backward-looking, reparations for slavery and Jim Crow appear to have no place in the politics of the “postracial epoch.” This essay proposes that the dismissal of reparations concedes too much. First, I contend that the conjunction of postracial discourse, on the one hand, and deepening racial inequalities, on the other, demands a counter-language, one that ties the analysis of the present to the historical conditions out of which it was produced. I explore reparations as a political language that (1) situates political claims within the historical framework of slavery, reconstruction, and segregation; (2) links past to present to future in its demand for concrete forms of redress; and (3) has played an important role in African American political life and in contemporary democracies in transition. Second, in contrast to much of the reparations scholarship, I focus on the demands of democracy rather than justice. Doing so both helps to evade some of the technical questions that have prevented full consideration of the political work of reparations and provides a vehicle for redefining both governmental and civic responsibility in the shadow of slavery and Jim Crow. (OA – whole issue is open through 9/19/14).
- Bowman, S.W. (Ed.), Color behind Bars: Racism in the U.S. Prison System (2014). Santa Barbara, CA: Praeger. Low-income African Americans, Latin Americans, and American Indians bear the statistical brunt of policing, death penalty verdicts, and sentencing disparities in the United States. Why does this long-standing inequity exist in a country where schoolchildren are taught to expect “justice for all”? The original essays in this two-volume set not only examine the deep-rooted issues and lay out theories as to why racism remains a problem in our prison system, but they also provide potential solutions to the problem. The work gives a broad, multicultural overview of the history of overrepresentation of ethnic minorities in our prison system, examining white/black disparities as well as racism and issues of ethnic-based discrimination concerning other ethnic minorities. This up-to-date resource is ideally suited for undergraduate students who are enrolled in criminal justice or racial/ethnic studies classes and general readers interested in the U.S. criminal justice system. (locked)
- Dilts, Andrew, “Punishment and Inclusion: Race, Membership, and the Limits of American Liberalism” (2014). Law. Paper 1. At the start of the twenty-first century, 1 percent of the U.S. population is behind bars. An additional 3 percent is on parole or probation. In all but two states, incarcerated felons cannot vote, and in three states felon disenfranchisement is for life. More than 5 million adult Americans cannot vote because of a felony-class criminal conviction, meaning that more than 2 percent of otherwise eligible voters are stripped of their political rights. Nationally, fully a third of the disenfranchised are African American, effectively disenfranchising 8 percent of all African Americans in the United States. In Alabama, Kentucky, and Florida, one in every five adult African Americans cannot vote. Punishment and Inclusion gives a theoretical and historical account of this pernicious practice of felon disenfranchisement, drawing widely on early modern political philosophy, continental and postcolonial political thought, critical race theory, feminist philosophy, disability theory, critical legal studies, and archival research into state constitutional conventions. It demonstrates that the history of felon disenfranchisement, rooted in postslavery restrictions on suffrage and the contemporaneous emergence of the modern “American” penal system, reveals the deep connections between two political institutions often thought to be separate, showing the work of membership done by the criminal punishment system and the work of punishment done by the electoral franchise. Felon disenfranchisement is a symptom of the tension that persists in democratic politics between membership and punishment. This book shows how this tension is managed via the persistence of white supremacy in contemporary regimes of punishment and governance. (OA)
If you have research related to race and racism, let us know and we’ll include it in an upcoming ‘Research Brief.’