Wednesday, June 6, 2007
race, crime, and governance
I was recently privileged to participate in a high speed intellectual collision between people who think about criminal justice and people who think about race (with wonderful efforts made to make sure any intellectual bruises were healed with beauty). I'm still processing most of what I learned and will share the insights on this blog as they come. Many thanks to the Open Society Institute's After Prison Initiative and the Aspen Institute's Round Table on Community Change.
One fall out for me is that two issues I had been thinking about too separately are now more or less pureed. One is the drive by white Americans to control Americans of color, as a matter of political will (whether formed by malice, greed, or benevolence), call it "white man's government," and the other a drive (one shared by many Americans of color) to isolate themselves from those they consider deviant and dangerous (call it governing through crime). Each of these has their own genealogy but as a result of American history they are inextricably bound up with each other.
Both are important. The common history means that "white man's government" will be advanced by even the most progressive efforts to extend crime control measures. The distinct genealogy means that the discourses, motivations, and resources associated with "governing through crime" help lock in "white man's government" despite the cultural and political victory of the Civil Rights movement.