The Analysis Of The Book “Crime & Punishment in Black America: By James Forman Jr
Race in America
In today’s society, we do not spend our time thinking about those who were affected by the war on drugs and mass incarceration that happened many years ago. We are lucky enough to be living with the policies that were put in place for us so long ago. Being that I am a young white female who grew up in the early 2000s, I was not faced with nearly half the situations that the young black children raised in the 90s were faced with.
In the book, Crime and Punishment in Black America, by James Forman Jr. the reader is exposed to the hard times that many Black Americans experienced in past years and how their entire lives were changed by one small event. I found it very interesting how the author was able to show that “people, acting with the finest of intentions and the largest of hearts, could create a problem even more grievous than the one they were trying to solve.” This made me realize, that this problem is still occurring today on both large and small scales. Often times I see parents with little children trying to help them up after they have fallen down, but sometimes the parents go to pick up the child in a way that makes them fall down again, which is creating an even more of a problem that they are trying to solve. In the book, Crime and Punishment in Black America, the reader is exposed to the hard times that many Black Americans experienced in past years and how their entire lives they had to walk on egg shells to insure they would stay on the streets and out of trouble.
When we hear the word mass incarnation, people typically think of a large group of people who were convicted for a horrible crime. However, often times, innocent people end up incarnated due to our flawed justice system. For instance, this can be seen in the Introduction when Brandon is pleaded guilty. Brandon’s case was not looked into fairly, and he was sent to a juvenile. What the author doesn’t understand is that blacks are incarnating their own. Over the year as more and more policies have been written on this, there has been an extreme decrease in the number of innocent people being wrongly convicted.
In the mid-late 90’s, most of the people being locked up were African-Americans. These people were fighting for their neighborhoods, they argued for job and housing programs, and improvements in education. Many people have an ahistorical view on this time in history. They have not taken the time to research and fully understand what these African- American people were trying to accomplish. On the other hand, many people have also chosen to take the individualistic fallacy view in life. This is when people divide themselves into “racists” and “non-racists” categories.
The assumption is that you are either, or that one action can be considered racist and another action is not (Desmond, 2018). I will never allow myself to take an individualistic fallacy stand because I do not feel it is appropriate. How could one sometimes not take a racist view on something, but at other times you do? We also see this with jury’s in courtrooms. When they are hearing from a white person they might go into the case knowing they are not going to find them guilty, however when the person is black, sadly enough, things in people’s mind change. The movie, White Boy Rick, is very similar to some stories told in the book. Rick Wershe is a single father trying to raise two teenagers during not so good times. He finds himself caught with no choice other than to sell guns illegally in order to make some money for his children. When the FBI discovers this news, they allow one of his sons to become an undercover drug informant and they promised to keep his father out of prison. This is a prime example of an individualistic fallacy view.
This is seen as the FBI’s way of keeping a white man out of prison and in the community to continue to outnumber the blacks. Now, had this been an African- American family, things would have been different. Again, discussing mass incarnation, especially amongst African- American, they would have taken this opportunity to throw another person in prison.Later on in the book, Forman talks about the distinction between a “war on drugs” and “gun control”. There are many valid reasons that people would want to ensure that there is a clear dissection between these two as “guns pose a more direct and lethal threat to public safety than does any narcotic” (Fordman, 2017: 51). But, it is interesting to see that people who are found guilty for either of those are held in the same facility. In just about every black community at this time, there were a dozen new people found guilty of a crime each day.
Neighbors in these communities, strictly whites, took a stand and made it clear that they were going to call authority figures for any act they had seen done by an African- American person, that they felt was not the “norm.” They would see an African- American person walking to their car late at night and call the police to come do a search on them. But, if it was light outside and they knew they were locked inside their own home, they would not take action. This again is where we see individualistic fallacy comes into play. It is mind boggling, that some people choose to assume a person is living a normal, safe life one day, but the very next day they see that person and decide they need to take action against them.
Police in mostly black neighborhoods were seen treating many of the young children unfairly. Burtell Jefferson, makes a point to tell the story about the day he was driven home by a police officer while out playing with a football. Years later, “He could have wondered why the officer had picked up an innocent kid in the first place” (Forman, 2018: 130). We can now assume the answer, and sadly enough it was because of his skin color. This poor young child’s sociological imagination was completely thrown off. He was unable to clearly understand self and society and the roles they played in his childhood.
How would this child be able to determine where he fits in in society, if he cannot even go outside to play with a football? I find it very disturbing that so many innocent human beings were being treated this way years ago and nothing was done about it. It also took way too many long or books like this one, to be published. Locking up our own Crime and Punishment in Black America was published in 2017; were people unaware of these events beforehand or was no one brave enough to speak about it? I am so thankful that I was raised in an area that was inclusive to all skin colors and backgrounds. I was never faced with racist sneers from my own neighbors and I did not have to worry about my neighbors calling the police on me at night time. This makes it ten times harder to process that people’s lives were so negatively affected because of the war on drugs and mass incarcerations.
- Emilysblog. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://blogs.lt.vt.edu/egc7/2013/10/25/race-and-fallacies/
- Forman, J. (2018). Locking up our own: Crime and punishment in black America. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
- Senior, J. (2017, April 11). ‘Locking Up Our Own,’ What Led to Mass Incarceration of Black Men. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/11/books/review-locking-up-our-own-james-forman-jr.html
- White Boy Rick (2018). (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.imdb.com/title/tt4537896/
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