The System in Black and White: Exploring the Connections between Race, Crime, and Justice

The System in Black and White: Exploring the Connections between Race, Crime, and Justice

The System in Black and White: Exploring the Connections between Race, Crime, and Justice

The System in Black and White: Exploring the Connections between Race, Crime, and Justice

Synopsis

In a collection of empirical and theoretical contributions to the study of the nexus between race, crime, and justice, noted scholars in the field critique many long-held assumptions and myths about race, challenging criminal justice policymakers to develop new and effective strategies for dealing with the social problems such misunderstandings create. In sections devoted to criminological theory, law enforcement, courts and the law, corrections, juvenile delinquency, and gender, contributors endeavor to dispel myths about African-American involvement in the criminal justice system. In so doing, a number of important facts are established about the race/crime nexus. For example, in an analysis of criminological theory, it is concluded that race, as a singular social factor, has not been adequately represented in existing paradigms. The subject of police profiling of African-Americans reveals an evolution of court decisions that have marginalized, rather than liberated, African-Americans since slavery.

Excerpt

Historian James M. McPherson tells us that in the generation before the Civil War, the American South was providing three-fourths of the world's supply of cotton (1988:39) Almost all of this cotton came into the world market as a product of slave labor. This abundant harvest from slaves was quite a trick for Southern plantations, since the importation of slaves into the United States had been outlawed since 1807. In order to sustain a productive slave economy, the internal trade in slaves developed into a vibrant industry, as was chronicled at the time by such classics as Harriet Beecher Stowe Uncle Tom's Cabin, and Theodore Weld American Slavery as It Is. This industry had as a central requirement the breeing of young Negroes, not only for replacement of aging stock, but also for eventual sale to newly established plantations requiring cheap labor. Of course,this meant that breeders had a special value as a commodity, and that slave families had regularly to be broken apart in order to maintain a successful slave economy. This industry was so effective that at a time when slaves in other new world economies were actually on the decrease, slave populations in the United States doubled every 26 years (Curtin, 1969; cited in McPherson, 1988: 37).

Why begin the foreword to a book about contemporary race and justice with a few facts about U.S. life 150-200 years ago? There are two reasons. The first is so obvious that it barely requires mention: the role of race in the United States cannot be understood without a recognition of the impact of the history of slavery. Today we might bemoan the prevalence of "broken families" in the African-american community, but we are dishonest if we do not also accept that the genesis of this pattern lies in the convenient practices of our nation's slave trade. A second reason is more subtle. The socio-political workings of race have always had profound implications for broader social facts of American life.For example, slave labor enabled the South to sustain a vibrant, economically impractical, plantation economy at a time when the rest of the country was experiencing social change . . .

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