Thursday, July 20, 2017

Predations From Within The American Negroe Socio-Economic Class Structure



Counterpunch |  Eric Holder, the nation’s first black Attorney General made his mark as Washington’s first black chief prosecutor by advancing mass pretext policing (mass frisks, stops, and arrests on minor or made-up and discretionary police grounds) in Black neighborhoods. The nation’s first black president Barack Obama severely constricted his very tepid and belated steps toward criminal justice reform by ruling out any concern for those arrested and sentenced for technically violent offenses. That’s a big problem since more than half the nation’s 1 million Black prisoners are behind bars on technically violent charges.

Locking Up Our Own is a compelling and indispensable volume for those who want to get the whole story on the rise of the “the New Jim Crow” – a story that must include serious attention to class and other fractures within Black America. But it is not without problems. Oddly enough given Forman’s desire to provide a somewhat sympathetic explanation for the Black “leadership” class’s participation in the “new Jim Crow,” he fails to note how persistent harsh racial residential segregation – what sociologists Doug Massey and Nancy Denton have rightly called “American Apartheid” – has fed Black support for aggressive policing and harsh sentencing. The Black middle and professional class lives in much greater immediate proximity than its white counterpart to the deeply impoverished and crime-prone Black “underclass”

Forman might have reflected more ambitiously and radically on the question of what happened to the struggle for Black equality and social justice more broadly in the long capitalist neoliberal era, marked at home and abroad by the triumph of the right over the left hand of the state. Many on the Black Left will find Forman too mild and forgiving in his discussion of the role played by Black bourgeois elites in the rise of racially disparate mass incarceration. They will do so with good reason.

A good counter-text here is Elaine Brown’s 2002 volume The Condemnation of Little B. In this forgotten classic and Black radical text, Brown – a former chairman of the Black Panther Party – tried to understand how the entire city of Atlanta, including its prominent Black citizens, came to unjustly condemn a poor 13-year-old Black boy, Michael Lewis, for the 1997 murder of a white man visiting a well-known drug haven in that city’s Black ghetto. Brown showed how Lewis’s conviction was “effectively predestined, attributable to the comfortable ‘New Age racism’ of white liberals and middle-class blacks who have abandoned the cause of civil rights and equal opportunity.”