IMW 300 Racial Fictions - Social Sciences 2

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Mass Incarceration

I am interested in this article because it touches on one of my other classes, Politics of Mass Media. Media Politics: A Citizen’s Guide by Shanto Iyengar, we read that although crime has decreased, the American people believe that crime is one of the 3 most important pressing issues, partly due to the amount of media coverage it gets. This article also tell us that crime has decreased, and even though that is the case, incarceration rates are increasing, showing a similar negative relationship. What is even more interesting is that this article gives us an idea for why we see mass incarceration in the US although crime is decreasing. They say that it is a backlash to the civil rights movement. They tell us that it is “pitting law and order against civil rights” (Lopez). Basically meaning that the white side was law and order and the unsafe side was the people supporting the civil rights movement. This was a tactic of political leaders and whites that did not support the movement, to instill fear into the eyes of the public that this movement could create mass amounts of crime in the future. This hysteria caused for the push of higher incarceration rates. I have never thought about mass incarceration in this sense, but it does seem plausible if people really did think in terms of law vs. the movement. I wonder if that argument still holds merit and could be part of the reason that some police use racial profiling while doing their job and deciding whom they should arrest.

Iyengar, S. (2011). Media politics: a citizen’s guide. New York: W. W. Norton.

López, Ian F. Haney. “Post-Racial Racism: Racial Stratification and Mass Incarceration in the Age of Obama.” California Law Review, vol. 98, no. 3, 2010, pp. 1023–1074.,


Unequal Sentencing for Blacks and Whites

This New York Times Article discusses the unequal sentencing of black people versus white people. The Sarasota Herald-Tribune investigates this and discovers that African Americans do in fact get more jail time (up to double the time in some cases) and looks at the bias of individual judges and prosecutors. There are numerous bar graphs which show the sentencing bias of black people compared to white and in all of them black people have a higher sentencing. The authors point out that if the system were fair then black and white defendants would have a more equal sentencing time. Instead, the judges, “disregard the guidelines, sentencing black defendants to longer prison terms in 60 percent of felony cases, 68 percent of serious, first-degree crimes and 45 percent of burglaries.” The article also mentions the war on drugs and how it affects black defendants. Police often target black neighborhoods bringing them to court where the judges give them longer sentences. One example was about two teenagers that were charged with the same crime, armed robbery, in the same county. The sentencing guidelines were ignored for the white defendant who got off with a plea agreement for probation instead of jail time. On the other hand, the black defendant was sentenced ro four years of prison, which is the guideline recommendation. He was also told that was the best deal he would get even though the someone else got probation for committing the same crime. The only difference was that one was black and one was white.

The Editorial Board. “Unequal Sentences for Blacks and Whites.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 17 Dec. 2016. Web. 31 Mar. 2017.

United States v. Booker

This Lexis Nexis case study focused on the case of United States versus Booker, a case that examined the 100:1 ratio rule. The rule, established in 1986, was to wage a war on drugs. The rule states that every one ounce of powder cocaine equates to 100 ounces of liquid crack cocaine. This way, more expensive and pure forms of cocaine are less harsh sentenced than the diluted, cheaper forms of the drug. This ratio was  developed to prevent the spread of cheap, easy to make crack in low income inner city areas. Although this was meant to reduce drug use as a whole, it ended up causing a race disparity within the judicial system for drugs. Since these predominantly affluent household users of cocaine were white, and the majority of inner city crack users were black or or minority race, a clear pattern of racist prosecution began to emerge. The public initially accepted this because of the violent connotation that crack carries; attached to ‘crack houses’, and dangerous and violent drug dealers, crack quickly developed a horrible reputation that began to separate it from cocaine, when in fact cocaine is a more pure and dangerous form of the drug. The court held that these guidelines were not unconstitutional, but amended them to be advisory instead of mandatory because allowing judges to enhance these drug sentences without the input of a jury is unconstitutional.


“United States v. Booker”, 40 U. Rich. L. Rev. 1161, 543 U.S. 220, Lexis Nexis (2005)

The Imprisonment Race: Unintended Consequences of “Fixed” Sentencing on People of Color Over Time

This article discusses mandatory minimums and other important sentencing reforms from 1978 to 2005. Minorities begin being sentenced and convicted for committing the same offenses as whites but are subsequently punished differently. This article traces the transformation of the United States prison system from rehabilitative to punitive. In addition to this, it discusses the social pressure and context in which the judicial system subconsciously incorporate racism into their courtrooms. In the years before 1970, judges had the freedom to decide what comes of an offender. The judge had a few laws to follow but they could widely make their own decision, a decision that was based on the betterment of the offender. However, critics began to argue that this system allowed far too many discrepancies in sentencing type and time served and was even aiding a perceived rise in criminal activity. Due to this criticism, in the 1970’s strict, rigid laws were put into place that included sentencing guidelines, statutory presumptive sentencing, determinate sentencing, truth in sentencing, and three strikes laws. This movement reached a climax when Congress allocated billions of dollars in federal aid for reforms to the prison system. The results were astounding, the prison population doubled and then doubled again. More people were being thrown in jail, most of them minorities. Many of these people were in prison for petty crimes such as possession of marijuana and due to the three strike laws, they were in there without parole. As a result prisons filled up and the prison system became privatized where it is now in their contracts that law enforcement needs to keep them occupied.

Harmon, Mark G. “The Imprisonment Race: Unintended Consequences of “Fixed” Sentencing of People of Color Over Time.” Taylor & Francis Online. Journal of Ethnicity in Criminal Justice, 29 Apr. 2011. Web. 30 Mar. 2017.

Reflection Post #2

In order to begin to fix the problems that we identified in our research within society, specifically those of institutionalized racism in many of America’s public sectors, we must first find the roots and origins of these problems. We are beginning to narrow down our ideas for the focus of our individual projects. We each are choosing points of focus for our individual projects that we are also going to use to as case studies for our larger group presentation. Zach is going to focus on the Black community’s negative perception of law enforcement and police brutality. Sarah wants to focus on the education system and look into how students are treated differently from childhood through their college careers. She is also hoping to find how racism affects students’ experience at a young age through adulthood. Jillian wants to work on something with the prison system but she does not know if she wants to focus on institutionalized racism while entering prison or while in the prison system. She plans to narrow it down after her final source post. Kenady wants to focus on things such as the crack versus cocaine problem and how race has affected prison sentencing in the United States. Tracing historical institutionalized racism from policies such as Three Strikes and Mandatory Minimums, Kenady hopes to identify the beginnings of legality of racism in the prison system through the post Civil Rights Movement era into the present. Kenady wants identify racism in the channels when people enter into the prison and legal systems. The major trend that we have seen in each of our individual interests of racism is the institutionalized racism in the public sector. There is the most racism hiding under mandatory, basic programs that all Americans encounter or need in their everyday lives to fully self actualize, so there is no avoiding this racism whether you are benefiting from it or being oppressed by it. Our goal with this assignment is to find the truth. We do not want to include our biases or life experiences in anything that we do. All of our examples will be real life examples between the minority community, law enforcement, and the imprisonment system. Additionally, all of our points will be derived from facts with objective statistics so that there is little interpreting to do. Another goal that our group has is to find solutions. Historically, minorities, specifically the black community, have been stuck in a cycle of imprisonment, poverty, and one parent families. Our group wants to find solutions in order to help minorities decrease the imprisonment rate in their communities, find ways to get out of poverty, and find ways to father children without fathers. An additional thing that we want to look at is the different cultures between the black and white communities. Something that is perceived as positive in the black community, such as Black Lives Matter, might be perceived as negative or annoying in the white communities. Our team has the goal of finding solutions that not only benefit the black community but the white community as well.

War on Drugs Policing and Police Brutality

This article discusses how “war on drugs policing has failed to reduce domestic street-level drug activity: the cost of drugs remains low and drugs remain widely available.” The only thing that has come from the war on drugs is a rise in the number of males in prison and a decrease in the number of males with their families, specifically minority neighborhoods. Drug consumption is widely untouched. At the same time, there is a rift between minority communities, specifically African Americans, and the police force. “This paper explores interconnections between specific war on drugs policing strategies and the police-related violence against black adolescents and adults in the United States. Specifically, this paper examines (1) historical connections between race/ethnicity and policing in the United States; (2) the ways that the war on drugs eroded specific legal protections originally designed to curtail police powers; and (3) the implications of these erosions for police brutality targeting black communities. Police and racism have always been intertwined when speaking about them in the United States. This stigma has only been multiplied by the Stop and Frisk policy and the creation of the Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) teams. These policies give police officers more leniency when dealing with crime, much of which is in minority communities. This article concludes that the war on drugs policing strategies appear to increase police brutality targeting black communities, even as they make little progress in reducing street-level drug activity. Something that the article does not mention that I think is important is the 3-strike and you’re out rule. This law keeps people in jail for petty crimes and I believe that it is important to consider.


Cooper, Hannah LF. “War on Drugs Policing and Police Brutality.” Substance Use & Misuse, vol. 50, no. 8/9, 15 June 2015, pp. 1188-1194. EBSCOhost, doi:10.3109/10826084.2015.1007669.


Process Post #2

For this set of source posts, we took the advice of the Research Liberian, John Miller, and used the databases that he showed us. We continued on the path of looking at institutionalized racism and are working on narrowing it down further for our individual projects. Something that helped us find our sources was using different phrases related to our topic. For instance, we transitioned between prison and jail, school and education, and discrimination and racism. This allowed us to get wider variety of sources. Additionally we met with another research librarian in the communication department, Bill. He looked at some of the posts that we had on our website and gave us a distinction between the process of having institutions being racist while entering and also once they are inside the system. For example, black individuals are arrested at a higher rate than white people are. This would be institutionalized racism while entering the prison system. They are also treated differently while in prison which is institutionalized racism while in the prison system. This is one of the avenues we could use to narrow our topic down into our individual topics. In addition to this, certain people in are group are more interested in the education system, while others are interested in the prison system or housing system. Because of the variety in interests, each person is looking into a different part of institutionalized racism. In our last set of source posts, we are all hoping to find information that will help us with our individual projects.

Quantitative and Qualitative Examination of Workplace Racial Discrimination

This article uses quantitative and qualitative methods to examine workplace racial discrimination and the impact it has on the well-being of middle-class African Americans. The authors mention the minority vulnerability thesis, which “suggests that segregation, job networks, and ostensibly race-neutral employer decision making continue to put minority workers in situations of vulnerability when it comes to hiring, mobility, and firing.” They also explain that African Americans are often placed in racialized jobs or unstructured jobs that are usually used to manage racial tensions. For the study, they drew from a large body of closed discrimination charges filed with the Ohio Civil Rights Commission (OCRC) between 1986 and 2003. This is where the authors collected their quantitative data. They narrowed down the discriminatory injuries to five categories: namely hiring discrimination, discriminatory firing, discrimination in wages, discrimination in mobility (such as not getting a promotion or being demoted), and racial harassment. Qualitative data was collected by interviewing African Americans about these discriminatory injuries. Findings include that African Americans “in general experience significant levels of discretionary sanctioning and policing while on the job.” They also are very vulnerable to discriminatory firing. With that, employment decisions are sometimes influenced “by (a) racist intent from the outset, (b) tendencies toward homosocial reproduction, or (c) simple and perhaps non-conscious subjective interpretation invoked on the spot.”

Roscigno, Vincent J., Lisa M. Williams, and Reginald A. Byron. “Workplace Racial Discrimination and Middle Class Vulnerability.” American Behavioral Scientist 56.5 (2012): 696-710. Web. 10 Mar. 2017.

Assets and Liabilities Affect on Race Gaps in Education

This is a study that looks at the assets and liabilities that are related to the difference in college attendance and graduation among families of different races. The purpose of the study was to “examine the associations between assets and children’s college education from White, Black, and Hispanic families.” There were two research questions in the study, which are:

  1. Are household assets (financial and nonfinancial assets) and liabilities (secured and unsecured debt) associated with disparities in college attendance and college graduation among White, Black, and Hispanic children?
  2. Do assets and liabilities have differential links to college education for children from White, Black, and Hispanic families?

The authors sampled kids from 1994 and collected data on their household assets, liabilities, and other parent characteristics. In 2006, they recorded the children’s college attendance and graduation. Results indicated large disparities between White vs. Black and White vs. Hispanic household assets and liabilities. With that, White kids are more likely to enroll and graduate from college that Black and Hispanic. It was also noted that economic resources substantially affected the Black-White gap associated with college education. This was reduced when certain variables were controlled the gap reduced but was still significant. On the other hand, after assets were added, educational achievements of Black children were not statistically different from White children. When looking at the White-Hispanic gap, household assets were not related to the differences in college attendance. But household assets were statistically significant in the White-Hispanic graduation gap.

Min Zhan, Michael Sherraden, Assets and liabilities, race/ethnicity, and children’s college education, Children and Youth Services Review, Volume 33, Issue 11, November 2011, Pages 2168-2175, ISSN 0190-7409,


Keywords: Assets; Liabilities; College education; Race/ethnicity

Discrimination on the Job

This article talks about discrimination in the workforce. It tells us in the opening that African Americans and Hispanics are less likely to get called back for an interview or for the job than whites are. Next, it gives us the steps that a person must take in order to file a complaint for discrimination in the work force. They must name the act, blame the employer, and claim the act “by seeking redress within the regulatory framework” (Hirsh p 270). Even after all of these steps are taken, it is still possible for the employer to claim that the act in question was because of something other than their race, for example their ability level in their job. Basically, this process can be subjective. To one person, namely the victim, this certain behavior or act will certainly seem discriminatory, while to the accused it may have seemed harmless, or was said to be harmless. The article goes on to comment on the idea that race can contribute to your ‘social status’ in the company that you work for. So, not only are African Americans discriminated against when they apply for the job, but are also subject to inequality when they receive the job, and are placed into a sort of hierarchy when they get there based on the color of their skin.


Hirsh, Elizabeth, and Christopher J. Lyons. “Perceiving Discrimination on the Job: Legal Consciousness, Workplace Context, and the Construction of Race Discrimination.” Law & Society Review, vol. 44, no. 2, 2010, pp. 269–298.,

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