Monday, May 28, 2012

Memorial Day Reading List

Apologies for the limited time this month to post, but here are two articles worth your time this Memorial Day weekend.

First, Frank Rich's "Post-Racial Farce":

For all the national chatter about a “post-racial America” following the 2008 election, America seems more obsessed with race than ever, if less honest about it, since Obama strode onto the national stage. If the official milestones of his administration thus far include the passage of the stimulus and the Affordable Care Act, the killing of Osama bin Laden, and the endorsement of gay marriage, they have often been upstaged by the red-letter incidents of racial conflict that have steadily rolled out on a parallel track. Just a short list would include: the arrest of Henry Louis Gates Jr. in Cambridge; the hysterical tea-party rally against health-care reform that showered obscenities on black congressmen entering the Capitol; the ousting of the African-­American Department of Agriculture worker Shirley Sherrod after she was ­libeled as a racist; the execution of Troy Davis in Georgia; the killing of Trayvon Martin in Florida; and, this month, the protest of more than 40 percent of West Virginia Democratic-primary voters, who pulled the lever for an obscure white federal-­prison inmate rather than endorse a second run for the incumbent president of their own party. Last week brought the pièce de résistance: the Times revelation of a proposed super-PAC TV commercial that would slime Obama as pretending to be a “metrosexual black Abe Lincoln.” With material this good, it’s hard for a playwright to keep up.
It goes to what we discussed in Intro class last week regarding color-blind racism and the myth of a post-racial society.

Second is Charles Blow's "Plantations, Prisons and Profits":
“Louisiana is the world’s prison capital. The state imprisons more of its people, per head, than any of its U.S. counterparts. First among Americans means first in the world. Louisiana’s incarceration rate is nearly triple Iran’s, seven times China’s and 10 times Germany’s.”

That paragraph opens a devastating eight-part series published this month by The Times-Picayune of New Orleans about how the state’s largely private prison system profits from high incarceration rates and tough sentencing, and how many with the power to curtail the system actually have a financial incentive to perpetuate it. 

The picture that emerges is one of convicts as chattel and a legal system essentially based on human commodification.
You can read the entire Times_Picayune series here, but it is a brilliant analysis of the mass destruction wrought on society by the privatization of imprisonment. Which we've been discussing here at TPE for years now.

Enjoy your holiday.

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