Blacks, Prison, And Institutional Racism


Description: The title pretty much says it all in this one. This paper addresses
the issue of blacks in prison and explores the socio-economic causes and
solutions. This paper uses many govermentally commissioned reports.

Blacks, Prison, and Institutional Racism

Introduction Criminal justice and security is one of the largest industries in
the United States. Such a statistic is (and rightly so) of great concern to
Afro-Americans because a disproportionate percentage of individuals under the
control of the US Criminal Justice System are from the Black community. This
paper will look at the alarming statistics and attempt to trace the roots of the
disparity. It will then consider the affects and explore possible solutions to
the expanding problem.

The Imprisoned Black Youth Black communities throughout the U.S. are witnessing
the institutionalization of their youth. Of course institutionalization is
nothing new to Afro-Americans, it is something Blacks have faced since their
existence in this country. In the beginning Blacks were forced into the
institution of slavery. After the abolition of slavery Blacks faced
institutional racism, that is, racism legitimated by the whole of society
directed against the few of society. As a facet of that institutional racism
Blacks are now forced to persevere the increasing trend of control by the US
Criminal Justice System. Control by the USCJS includes the probation, parole,
imprisonment, and death of Blacks. A study conducted by the Sentencing Project
in 1989 found tat more than one-fourth of all Blacks between the age of 20 and
29 are under the control of the USCJS . This alarming figure becomes more so
when you consider their are more Blacks in prison in this age group than their
are all Blacks in college . This clearly reveals what is meant by the
institutionalization of our Black youth. Black communities are being legally
robbed of their youth by a system that locks up those who pose a threat to the
status quo of institutional racism. The consequences of this are detrimental
indeed. The children are the future, but what future does a community have whose
children are all locked up. By virtue of robbing the Black community of their
youth, the USCJS robs Black communities of their future leaders and role models .
With such a condition at hand entire communities are lost and the ills of the
urban ghettos are augmented. To help explain why Blacks are being locked up, and
what part of imprisonment plays in institutional racism it would be helpful to
first look at the roots of institutional racism.

Institutional Racism And It's Roots Institutional racism was a term first coined
by Stokley Carmichael in his book Black Power. Concerning racism, Carmichael and
co-author Charles V. Hamilton made the following observation:

Racism is both overt and covert. It takes two, closely related forms; individual
Whites acting against individual Blacks, and acts by the total of White
community against the Black community. We call these individual racism and
institutional racism.

The authors go on to state that it is the covertness of the second type, the
institutional racism, that makes it so dangerous. Because institutional racism
is less obvious and it is less apparent were it is emanating from (and it is
emanating from everywhere) creeps up on you and overwhelms you when you are not
looking . Institutional racism, though coined by Carmichael, existed long before
it was conceived of in Black Power. As I have stated it has existed since Blacks
were first brought to this country. The leaders of early America sought
intentionally to oppress Blacks and do so legally. Of course back then they did
not bother with probation, parole or even long prison sentences. Back then
Blacks who went against the grain and objected to his treatment in even the
slightest was simply killed. Public lynching were a crowd drawer and a crowd
pleaser in the early American South. Blacks were not imprisoned as much because
they were seen as either useful our useless. A good "field hands" or
"house niggers" tended to their chores, did as they were told, and
never caused a problem, and were therefore worth their weight in gold. An
"uppity nigger" was no good to anyone and was either beaten into
submission or put to death . This reveals a very important aspect about the
imprisonment of Blacks today. During the period of slavery in the US Blacks were
needed as workers and were therefore used as so . What are Blacks needed for
now? Despite the many accomplishments of such great inventors as Granville T.
Woods and Benjamin Bannicker, it would seem that White society would have no use
for Blacks. During the period of slavery Blacks deemed useless were killed. In
today's society Blacks