The United States prides itself on the fairness of its criminal justice system, a system that promises to protect the lives, liberties, and property of all citizens. As the threat of being a victim of a crime applies to all citizens of the United States, most Americans would agree that wrongdoers must be punished in order to maintain a safe and civil society. However, as demonstrated in Michelle Alexander’s book The New Jim Crow and Spike Lee’s film Do The Right Thing, the United States’ criminal justice system is a modern form of racial control. Although criminal laws are textually and facially impartial in regards to race, they are implemented in a way that is biased and discriminatory towards African Americans. Using Michael Foucault’s ideas on surveillance to guide our analysis, we can clearly see that the United States’ criminal justice system is a tool intentionally designed to promote and protect white superiority by limiting many blacks’ ability to access political and economic success.
In order to understand how the criminal justice system is an instrument of racial control, we need first to understand Michael Foucault’s philosophy regarding surveillance. Rather than perceive power as strictly authoritative and political, Foucault believes that society is structured in a way in which constant observation disciplines us to abide by social norms and expectations. This constant surveillance is present in the form of “infra-law,” or “methods of training that enables individuals to become integrated into these general demands” (Foucault 222). In other words, the law is not only a set of written rules and regulations. Rather, the law is a social practice in the sense that underlying biases and unbalances influence ou...
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...nd overall respect.
Although the United States claims to be a nation that values diversity and equal opportunity for all citizens, Michelle Alexander and Spike Lee illustrate how white society uses the criminal justice system as an instrument of racial control. By enforcing laws and policies in a way that is prejudicial towards blacks, white society is able to deny many poor African Americans the ability to access political power and achieve economic success.
Alexander, Michelle. The New Jim Crow. New York: New Press, 2012. 61,105, 106, 121,123, 124,126, 165, 239. Print.
Fight The Power. 1989. N.p.: Motown Records, 1989. Print.
Foucault, Michael. Discipline and Punish. New York: Vintage Books, 1977. 26,195, 222,223 Print.
Lee, Spike, perf. Do the Right Thing. The Criterion Collective, 1989. Web. 4 Apr. 2014.
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