Author James Forman Jr. discussed his book, Locking Up Our Own: Crime and Punishment in Black America, with Amy Goodman on DemocracyNow today. The first thing that caught my attention in the discussion was why, in a courtroom where the authority figures were nearly all black (including the judge and the prosecutor), a black boy defended by a black defense attorney being cited for a first offense marijuana possession was put into a violent youth facility for six months instead getting probation.
The discussion then talked about exploitation requires classifying the exploited group as both different and lesser. That was what allowed slavery to exist. That is what supported Jim Crow in the South. And that is what now allows blacks to be incarcerated for crimes white offenders aren’t. The key elements are:
- Blacks have less intellectual capacity (they’re stupid)
- Blacks have higher thresholds of pain (they’re animals)
- Blacks don’t care about their children
- Blacks are criminals
Trump is currently applying this same strategy to “illegal” immigrants. If he can sell them as different and lesser (i.e. criminals), he can treat them that way regardless of any facts. This is the loudest and longest instance of Trump’s philosophy – if you say it enough times as loudly as possible, it becomes true. Bill Maher’s well-known labeling of religion as magical thinking is the flip side of Trump’s secular magical thinking. Sadly, this is how racism works. You have to dehumanize the object of your hate if you want that hate to be justifiable and comfortable. The rest of us also have a job – we need refute this type of thinking and action, no matter how small, when we encounter it. Nobody’s perfect. We all get tired. Can you image how exhausted the individuals who bear the brunt of this must be? Don’t force them to do all the work.