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Imaging government action is key to dignity and activism- ties us to
others and makes us work to prevent attrocities
Nozick, 1990, Robert, Arthur Kingsley Porter Professor of Philosophy at
Harvard University, The Examined Life, p.286-289, KHaze

We want our individual lives to express our conceptions of reality (and of

responsiveness to that); so too we want the institutions demarcating our lives
together to express and saliently symbolize our desired mutual relations.
Democratic institutions and the liberties coordinate with them are not simply effective means
toward controlling the powers of government and directing these toward
matters of joint concern; they themselves express and symbolize, in an appointed and
official way, our equal human dignity, our autonomy and powers of self
direction. We vote, although we are cognizant of the miniscule probability that our own vote will
have some decisive effect on the outcome, in part as an expression and symbolic
affirmation of our status as autonomous and self governing beings whose
considered judgments or even opinions have to be given weight equal to
those of others. That symbolism is important to us. Within the operation of democratic institutions,
too, we want expressions of the values that concern us and bind us together. The libertarian
position I once propounded now seems to me seriously inadequate, in part
because it did not fully knit the humane considerations and joint cooperative activities it left
room for more closely into its fabric. It neglected the symbolic important of an official
political concern with issues or problems, as a way of marking their
importance or urgency, and hence of expressing, intensifying, channeling, encouraging, and
validating our private actions and concerns toward them. Joint goals that the government
ignores completely- it is different with private or family goals- tend to appear unworthy to our joint action

There are some things we choose to do together

through government in solemn marking of our human solidarity, served by
the fact that we do them together in this official fashion and often also by the
content of the action itself. It is all very well, someone might say, to mark human solidarity
attention and hence to receive little.

through official action, but we do that through respecting the rights of individuals not to have their
peaceful lives interfered with, not to be murdered, etc., and this is sufficient expression of our human

there no need to interfere any more greatly in

citizens lives in order to bind them more closely to their fellows, that
interference with individual autonomy itself denotes a lack of respect for it.
Yet our concern of individuals autonomy and liberty too is itself in
part an expressive concern. We believe these valuable not simply because of
respect for our fellow citizens; not only is

the particular actions they enable someone to choose or perform, or the goods they enable him to acquire,

because of the ways they enable him to engage in pointed and

elaborate self expressive and self symbolizing activities that further
elaborate and develop the person. A concern for the expression and symbolization of

values that can best and most pointedly, not to mention most efficiently, be expressed jointly and
officially- that is, politically- is continuous with a concern for individual self expression. There are many
sides of ourselves that seek symbolic self expression, and even if the personal side were to be given

If symbolically expressing something is a

way of intensifying its reality, we will not want to truncate the political realm
so as to truncate the reality of our social solidarity and humane concern for
priority, there is no reason to grant it sole sway.

others. I do not mean to imply that the public realm is only a matter of joint self expression; we wish
also by this actually to accomplish something and to make things different,
and we would not find some policies adequately expressive of solidarity with
others if we believed they would not serve to help or sustain them . The libertarian
view looked solely at the purpose of government, not at its meaning; hence it took an unduly narrow view

Joint political action does not merely symbolically express

out ties of concern, it also constitutes a relational tie itself . The
relational stance, in the political realm, leads us to want to express
and instantiate ties of concern to our fellows. And if helping those in need, as
of purpose, too.

compared to further bettering the situation of those already well off, counts as relationally more intense
and enduring from our side and from the side of the receivers also, then the relational stance can explain
what puzzles utilitarianism, viz., why a concern for bettering others situation concentrates especially upon
the needy, all without our aid, we would have to find another way to jointly express and intensify our
relational ties. But dont people have a right not to feel ties of solidarity and concern, and if so, how can
the political society take seriously its symbolic expression of what may not be there? By what right does it

These others should feel- they would

be better human beings if they felt- ties of solidarity and concern for their
fellow citizens (and for fellow human beings, perhaps also for fellow living things), although they do
express for others what they themselves choose not to?

have a right not to feel this. (People sometimes have a right not to or feel something even though they

Their fellow citizens, though, may choose to speak

for them to cover up that lack of concern and solidarity - whether or not the people
themselves realize they are lacking something. This covering up for them may be done out of
politeness, or because of the importance to the others of a joint public affirmation of
concern and solidarity, if only so they wont be forced to notice how uncaring and inhumane some
should; they have a right to choose.)

of their compatriots are. To be sure, this joint public affirmation is not simply verbal; those spoken for may
have to pay taxes to help support the programs it involves. (That a fig leaf was created to cover the shame

The complete absence

of any symbolic public expression and marking of caring and
solidarity would leave the rest of us bereft of a society validating
human relatedness. Well, why dont those who want and need such a society voluntarily
of their unconcern does not mean they do not have to help pay for it.)

contribute to pay for its public programs rather than taxing the others, who dont care anything about it?

a program thus supported by many peoples voluntary contributions,

worthy though it may be, would not constitute the societys solemn marking
and symbolic validation of the importance and centrality of those ties of
concern and solidarity. That can occur only though its official joint action,
speaking in the name of the whole. The point is not simply to accomplish the particular

purpose- that might be done through private contributions alone- or get the others to pay too- that could
occur though stealing everyones name, in the name of society, about what it holds dear. A particular

to live in a society and to identify with

it necessarily lays you open to being ashamed of things for which you are not
personally responsible- wars of oppression or subverting of foreign
governments- and to be proud of things you yourself have not done. A society
individual might prefer to speak only for himself. But

sometimes speaks in our names. We could satisfy the people who object to the joint public expression of

eliminating such expression, but this

would leave the rest of us ashamed of our society, whose public voice of
concern is silent. That silence would then speak for us.
caring and solidarity and their attendant programs by

Connecting our critiques to an advocacy of the

legalization of marijuana provides a training ground for
broader reform---legalization is vital and allows effective
Katherine Tate 14, Professor of Political Science at UC Irvine, Something's
in the Air: Race, Crime, and the Legalization of Marijuana, pg. 9
legalization of personal- use marijuana is the only
alternative to draconian laws drawn up in the "war on drugs" regime
of the past three decades. It is well established that concern and paranoia over petty "crack" cocaine arrests for
For increasing numbers of Americans,

sales, possession, and use drove the mass warehousing of California's prisons and jail populations to become the largest in the United States

the U.S.
federal system of crime control has left minority citizens less able to
challenge unfair sentencing laws. Noting that marijuana possession
constituted nearly 8 of 10 drug- related arrests in the 1990s. Michelle Alexander (2010)
insists that this period of "unprecedented punitiveness" resulted "in prison
sentences (rather than dismissal, community service, or probation)" to the degree that "in two
short decades, between 1980 and 2000 the number of people
incarcerated in our nation's prisons and jails soared from roughly
300.000 to more than 2 million. By the end of 2007, more than 7
million Americansor one in every 31 adults were behind bars, on
probation, or parole" (Alexander 2010. 59). Pushed by drug prosecutions, the
rising rate of incarceration reached unprecedented levels in the
1990s. Today's movement toward more prisons, mandatory minimums and reinstatement of the death penalty logically followed the
(Lusane 1991: Provine 2007: Reinerman and Levine 1997: Weatherspoon 1998: Weaver 2007). Miller (2008) contends that

racially exploitative "law and order" campaigns of the 1960s and 1970s (Murakawa 2008). Conservative American politicians use the mythical
Black or Hispanic male drug dealer, like the Black female welfare queen, to drum up votes. A widespread consensus in reported government

African Americans bear the brunt of

law-and-order management of U.S. marijuana laws because of how
marijuana use is racialized. Political scientist Doris Provine contends that the U.S.
government increased its punitive response toward drug use as a
response to racial fears and stereotypes. She writes: "[d]rugs remain,
symbolically, a menace to white, middle-class values" (2007. 89). Both politicians and
media have used this issue to construct a crisis and sustain punitive state drug laws. The war on drugs, she concludes,
has greatly harmed minority citizens through their imprisonment,
contributing to deep inequalities in education, housing, health care,
and equal opportunities to advance economically. The facts of use. sales, and possession,
statistics, advocacy studies, and policy think tanks suggests that

confirmed by academic and critical legal studies literature, are strikingly different from how the national and local media choose to present
them. One study focusing on marijuana initiate found "among Blacks, the annual incidence rate (per 1.000 potential new users) increased from
8.0 in 1966 to 16.7 in 1968. reached a peak at about the same time as "Whites" (19.4 in 1976). then remained high throughout the late 1970s.
Following the low rates in the 1980s, rates among Blacks rose again in the early 1990s, reached a peak in 1997 and 1998 (19.2 and 19.1.
respectively), then dropped to 14.0 in 1999. Similar to the general pattern for Whites and Blacks. Hispanics' annual incidence rate rose during

Individuals and groups in

civil society, advocacy communities, and state legislatures must put forth a
serious struggle among activists and potential coalition partners
who can understand the need for reform as a matter of civil rights and justice, and not the morality
of marijuana consumption. Supporting decriminalization potentially can be the training ground for a
new generation of leadership in addressing the larger problem of
mass incarceration and social and political isolation associated with
it. For Black people and their allies who long for the days against
late 1970s and 1990s, with a peak in 1998 (17.8)" (National Survey on Drug Use 1999).

all oddsof political education, voter mobilization, legal reform ,

group solidarity, challenge to the political parties, and political
empowerment, expressed in the modern civil rights movement, the
matter of decriminalization is ripe for galvanizing a collaboration at
the grassroots . Too many Blacks have assumed that the "War on Drugs"
ended with the dissipation of the "crack" emergency, when, in sum,
marijuana's criminalizationrather than incarcerationof Black
people has been more perennial. If Michelle Alexander (2010) is correct in arguing that mass
incarceration has effectively reasserted Jim Crow second-class
citizenship (or no citizenship) rights on African American people, then they must get off the
sidelines of the legalization of cannabis or decriminalization struggle and stop allowing others to fight what is essentially their battle. This has
long been the case in the challenge to the crushing "prison industrial complex." Whites and others, for the most part, have been the leaders in
reform efforts concerning such things as mandatory minimums, the old 100:1 gram of cocaine-to-crack formula, and health care for geriatric or
HIV AIDS patients in prisons, while we have seen Calvin "Snoop- Dogg"' Broadus become more influential than the congressional Black Caucus

When ordinary people change their thinking and

consciousness and begin to demystify small, personal- use marijuana, then the
leaders will eventually come around without reticence or fear. The
marijuana debate needs to be reframed to remove all penalties
against its use (Scherlen 2012). This is our exit strategy: decriminalization
reform is the only path to reversing the dismal trends minorities
face in America.
to our young.

Experience-based arguments are self-defeatingthey

render as individual pathologies collective ways of
thinking and knowing, treating contingent experiences as
fixed truths
Bhambra 10U WarwickANDVictoria MargreeSchool of Humanities,
U Brighton (Identity Politics and the Need for a Tomorrow,
We suggest that alternative models of identity and community are required from those put forward by
essentialist theories, and that these are offered by the work of two theorists, Satya Mohanty and Lynn
Hankinson Nelson. Mohantys ([1993] 2000) post-positivist, realist theorisation of identity suggests a way
through the impasses of essentialism, while avoiding the excesses of the postmodernism that Bramen,
among others, derides as a proposed alternative to identity politics. For Mohanty ([1993] 2000),

identities must be understood as theoretical that enable subjects to

read the world in particular ways; as such, substantial claims about
identity are, in fact, implicit explanations of the social world and its
constitutive relations of power. Experience that from which identity is usually
thought to derive is not something that simply occurs , or announces its meaning and
significance in a self-evident fashion: rather, experience is always a work of
interpretation that is collectively produced (Scott 1991). Mohantys work
resonates with that of Nelson (1993), who similarly insists upon the communal nature of meaning of
knowledge-making. Rejecting both foundationalist views of knowledge and the postmodern alternative
which announces the death of the subject and the impossibility of epistemology, Nelson argues instead

it is not individuals who are the agents of epistemology, but

communities . Since it is not possible for an individual to know something that another individual


could not also (possibly) know, it must be that the ability to make sense of the world proceeds from shared

conceptual frameworks and practices. Thus, it is the community that is the generator and repository of
knowledge. Bringing Mohantys work on identity as theoretical construction together with Nelsons work on
epistemological communities therefore suggests that, identity is one of the knowledges that is produced
and enabled for and by individuals in the context of the communities within which they exist. The postpositivist reformulation of experience is necessary here as it privileges understandings that emerge
through the processing of experience in the context of negotiated premises about the world, over
experience itself producing self-evident knowledge (self-evident, however, only to the one who has had

This distinction is crucial for, if it is not the experience of, for

discrimination that makes one a feminist, but rather, the
paradigm through which one attempts to understand acts of sexual
discrimination, then it is not necessary to have actually had the
experience oneself in order to make the identification feminist. If being a
the experience).
example, sexual

feminist is not a given fact of a particular social (and/or biological) location that is, being designated
female but is, in Mohantys terms, an achievement that is, something worked towards through a
process of analysis and interpretation then two implications follow. First, that not all women are feminists.

it is accepted that
experiences are not merely theoretical or conceptual constructs which can be
transferred from one person to another with transparency, we think that there is
something politically self-defeating about insisting that one can only
understand an experience (or then comment upon it) if one has
actually had the experience oneself. As Rege (1998) argues, to privilege
knowledge claims on the basis of direct experience , or then on
claims of authenticity , can lead to a narrow identity politics that
limits the emancipatory potential of the movements or organisations
making such claims. Further, if it is not possible to understand an experience
one has not had, then what point is there in listening to each other ?
Following Said, such a view seems to authorise privileged groups to
ignore the discourses of disadvantaged ones , or, we would add, to place
exclusive responsibility for addressing injustice with the oppressed
themselves . Indeed, as Rege suggests, reluctance to speak about the experience of others has led
Second, that feminism is something that is achievable by men. 3 While

to an assumption on the part of some white feminists that confronting racism is the sole responsibility of
black feminists, just as today issues of caste become the sole responsibility of the dalit womens
organisations (Rege 1998). Her argument for a dalit feminist standpoint, then, is not made in terms solely
of the experiences of dalit women, but rather a call for others to educate themselves about the histories,

This, she
argues, allows their cause to become our cause, not as a form of
appropriation of their struggle, but through the transformation of
subjectivities that enables a recognition that their struggle is also
our struggle. Following Rege, we suggest that social processes can facilitate the understanding
of experiences, thus making those experiences the possible object of analysis and action for all, while
recognising that they are not equally available or powerful for all
subjects . 4 Understandings of identity as given and essential, then, we suggest,
need to give way to understandings which accept them as socially
constructed and contingent on the work of particular , overlapping,
epistemological communities that agree that this or that is a viable and recognised
identity. Such an understanding avoids what Bramen identifies as the postmodern
excesses of post-racial theory, where in this world without borders (racism is
real, but race is not) one can be anything one wants to be: a black kid in Harlem can be
the preferred social relations and utopias and the struggles of the marginalised (Rege 1998).

Croatian-American, if that is what he chooses, and a white kid from Iowa can be Korean-American(2002:
6). Unconstrained choice is not possible to the extent that, as Nelson (1993) argues, the concept of the
epistemological community requires any individual knowledge claim to sustain itself in relation to
standards of evaluation that already exist and that are social. Any claim to identity, then, would have to be
recognised by particular communities as valid in order to be successful. This further shifts the discussion

that confer identity are constituted through their shared
epistemological frameworks and not necessarily by shared
characteristics of their members conceived of as irreducible . 5 Hence,
the epistemological community that enables us to identify our-selves as feminists is one
beyond the limitations of essentialist accounts of identity by recognising that the

that is built up out of a broadly agreed upon paradigm for interpreting the world and the relations between
the sexes: it is not one that is premised upon possessing the physical attribute of being a woman or upon
sharing the same experiences. Since at least the 1970s, a key aspect of black and/or postcolonial feminism
has been to identify the problems associated with such assumptions (see, for discussion, Rege 1998,
2000). We believe that it is the identification of injustice which calls forth action and thus allows for the

there may be important

differences between those who recognise the injustice of
disadvantage while being, in some respects, its beneficiary (for example, men,
white people, brahmins), and those who recognise the injustice from the position of being at its
effect (women, ethnic minorities, dalits), we would privilege the importance of a
shared political commitment to equality as the basis for negotiating
such differences . Our argument here is that thinking through identity claims from the basis of
construction of healthy solidarities. 6 While it is accepted that

understanding them as epistemological communities militates against exclusionary politics (and its
associated problems) since the emphasis comes to be on participation in a shared epistemological and

the focus is on the

activities individuals participate in rather than the characteristics
they are deemed to possess . Identity is thus defined further as a
function of activity located in particular social locations (understood as the
complex of objective forces that influence the conditions in which one lives) rather than of
nature or origin (Mohanty 1995:109-10). As such, the communities that enable identity should not
political project as opposed to notions of fixed characteristics

be conceived of as imagined since they are produced by very real actions, practices and projects.

Hands Up Dont Shoot

Permutation do both- even if the law is bad the
alternative will take a long time, and in the interim the aff
does good things like reduce the number of police officers
and private prisons, which create reforms but dont deny
the alt in the future. We are a prerequisite to their
alternative, any attempt at micropolitics will be coopted
by the state because they will arrest revolutionaries on
the pretenses of marijuana- Williams
Legalization of marijuana is a useful starting point to end
the drug war---technical debates allow radical
transformation that benefits minorities more than the
Neill Franklin 14, Executive Director of Law, Enforcement Against
Prohibition, "3 Reasons Marijuana Legalization in Colorado Is Good for People
for Color", 1/23,
the prohibition of marijuana is unfairly
enforced against African-Americans and Latinos, and for that reason,
he says, legalization in Colorado and Washington should go forward. Without
For the first time, President Obama acknowledged this week that

explicitly endorsing the laws, he told the New Yorker, "it's important for [them] to go forward because it's important for society not to have a situation in which a large
portion of people have at one time or another broken the law and only a select few get punished."

As the president acknowledged,


prohibition targets black and brown people (even though marijuana users are equally or more likely to be
white). Ending prohibition through passing legalization laws , as Colorado and Washington
have, will reduce this racial disparity . The war on drugs, as we all know, has led to
mass criminalization and incarceration for people of color. The
legalization of marijuana , which took effect for the first time in the country in Colorado on January 1, is one step
toward ending that war. While the new law won't eradicate systemic
racism in our criminal justice system completely, it is one of the most
effective thing s we can do to address it . Here are three concrete ways that Colorado's law
is good for people of color. 1. The new law means there will be no
more arrests for marijuana possession in Colorado. Under Colorado's new law, residents 21 or older can produce,
possess, use and sell up to an ounce of marijuana at a time. This change will have a real and measurable
impact on people of color in Colorado, where the racial disparities in
marijuana possession arrests have been reprehensible . In the last ten years, Colorado
police arrested blacks for marijuana possession at more than three times the rate they arrested whites, even though whites used marijuana at higher rates. As noted by
the NAACP in its endorsement of the legalization law, it's particularly bad in Denver, where almost one-third of the people arrested for private adult possession marijuana

These arrests can have devastating and

long-lasting consequences. An arrest record can affect the ability to get a job, housing, student loans and public benefits. As law
professor Michelle Alexander describes, people (largely black and brown) who acquire a
criminal record simply for being caught with marijuana are relegated
to a permanent second-class status. When we make marijuana legal,
we stop those arrests from happening. 2. Unlike under
decriminalization , the new law means there will be no more arrests
are black, though they make up only 11% of the population.

for mere marijuana possession in Colorado, period. In the Jan. 6 article "#Breaking Black: Why Colorado's weed
laws may backfire for black Americans," Goldie Taylor mistakenly suggests that Colorado's new
legalization law may "further tip the scales in favor of a privileged
class already largely safe from criminalization." Much of the
stubborn "this-changes-nothing" belief about the new law stems
from confusion between decriminalization and legalization . There is
a profound difference between the hodgepodge of laws known
collectively as "decriminalization" passed in several states over the past 30 years, and Colorado's
unprecedented legalization law. Decriminalization usually refers to a
change in the law which removes criminal but not civil penalties for
marijuana possession, allowing police to issue civil fines (similar to speeding tickets), or require
drug education or expensive treatment programs in lieu of being arrested. Because of the ambiguity in
some states with decriminalization, cops still arrest users with small
amounts of marijuana due to technicalities, such as having illegal paraphernalia, or for having marijuana in
"public view" after asking them to empty their pockets. One only need look as far as the infamous
stop-and-frisk law in New York, where marijuana is decriminalized, to
see how these ambiguities might be abused to the detriment of
people of color. In Colorado, however, the marijuana industry is now
legal and above-ground. People therefore have a right to possess
and use marijuana products, although as with alcohol, there are restrictions relating to things like age, driving, and public use.
Police won't be able to racially profile by claiming they smelled
marijuana or saw it in plain view. 3. We will reduce real problems associated with
the illicit market. As marijuana users shift to making purchases at regulated stores, we'll start to see
improvement in problems that were blamed on marijuana but are in
fact consequences of its prohibition. The violence related to the
street-corner drug trade will begin to fall as the illicit market is slowly replaced by well-guarded stores with
cameras and security systems. And consumers will now know what they're getting; instead of buying whatever's in a baggie, they have the benefit of choosing from a wide
variety of marijuana products at the price level and potency they desire. Goldie Taylor made the dubious claim that since marijuana prices were initially high in Colorado's
new stores, the creation of a legal market won't affect the existing illicit market. But despite sensational headlines, prices for marijuana are just like anything else. They
respond to levels of supply and demand. In the first couple weeks, prices were high because only a small fraction of marijuana businesses in Colorado opened, and what
looked like every user in the state was in line to make a purchase on the day the historic law took effect. As the novelty-fueled demand levels off and the rest of the stores
across the state begin to open, increasing supply, prices will drop. For their money, purchasers can conveniently buy a product they know is tested and unadulterated. And
for those who don't want to buy at a store, Colorado residents over 21 are permitted to grow up to six marijuana plants at home.

We should engage in these debates regarding

institutional reforms within the system rather than radical
J. Harvie Wilkinson 14, judge serving on the United States Court of
Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, former Associate professor at the University of
Virginia School of Law, formerly had a position in the Civil Rights Division of
the U.S. Department of Justice, June, In Defense of American, Criminal
Justice, Vanderbilt Law Review,
One final count in the indictment remains. Can we truly call a system
democratic when a very large section of the citizenryAfricanAmericansfeel oppressed by or excluded from it? Is this a

reason to discredit American criminal justice? The reaction to

the verdict in the George Zimmerman trial in July 2013in parts

angry, reflective, and resignedreminded us that many African-

Americans feel as though the criminal justice system does not

work for them. Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson argued, "Our
society considers young black men to be dangerous, interchangeable,
expendable, guilty until proven innocent. 362 Manhattan Institute scholar
and New Republic contributor John McWhorter argued that, for AfricanAmericans, the poisonous relationship between young black men and law
enforcement is the prime manifestation of racism in modern America. 363
And President Obama noted that the African American community is looking
at this issue through a set of experiences and history that doesnt go away,
one wrapped up in a history of racial disparities in the application of our
criminal law. 364 There is something to these criticisms.
Americans have tried to address them over the years by requiring
objective, race-neutral justifications for government actions within the
criminal justice system. We have, for example, required that the jury

venire be composed of a fair cross-section of the community,

and in Batson v. Kentucky, the Supreme Court outlawed the
use of peremptory challenges of jurors based upon their race.
We can insist that objective criteria support stop and frisks.
And we can focus on racial discrepancies in criminal-law
enforcementwhich may lead, for example, to four times as
many marijuana arrests for black Americans as white
Americans, despite similar rates of use.367 But efforts such as
these wont solve our problems altogether. This is because the story is more
complicated than simply a criminal justice system that has failed to win the
trust and confidence of many in the African-American community. The
problem of racial equality and criminal justice is one of painful complexity.
368 We can acknowledge that we have not yet reached our goal

of race neutrality in the dispensation of justice while

acknowledging also that this alone does not account for the
racial makeup of our prisons and halfway houses. ThenNew York
Mayor Michael Bloomberg stated, Ninety percent of all people killed in our
cityand 90 percent of all those who commit the murders and other violent
crimesare black and Hispanic. 369 That is the great double-edged sword. It
understandably leads to more stops and more arrests in high-crime areas. It
understandably leads to more convictions of those of whatever race who
commit the crimes. But it also leads to understandable anger and resentment
on the part of disadvantaged young black males who want to make a decent
go of American life, only to find themselves the object of recurrent false
suspicion and repeated frisks. The solution to the problem of race
and criminal justice is not a total overhaul of the system . That
just renders the criminal justice system the scapegoat for a
much larger set of social problems. The criminal justice system feels

the effects of those problems; it does not cause them . Drug

and gun crimes are not any less a blight upon society because

of the racial makeup of the offenders; indeed, as Robinson noted,

[N]owhere will you find citizens more supportive of tough lawand-order policies than in poor, high-crime neighborhoods. 370
Our criminal justice system rightly aims to reduce dangerous
behavior, and the beneficiaries of success in that endeavor
may be those less advantaged citizens for whom basic safety
will make for greater opportunity, not to mention better
prospects for a brighter life. To cast ceaseless blame on
Americas criminal justice system is to ignore the enormity of the
problems it has been asked to solve . It only diverts attention
from the larger ways in which America has failed its
underclass. As Michael Gerson recently noted, The problem of African
American boys and young men is a complex mix of lingering racial prejudice,
urban economic dislocation, collapsing family structure, failing schools and
sick, atomized communities. 371 To chastise criminal justice when many
levers of upward mobility are so compromised is an inversion of priorities. A
complete fix of what the critics allege ails criminal justice will do nothing to
restore shattered family structures, improve failing schools, impart necessary
job skills, restore religious and community support groups, or provide
meaningful alternatives in deprived neighborhoods to the gangs and drug
rings that steer young people toward lifelong addictions and lives of crime.
Society doesnt create opportunity by sacrificing the basic social need for
order. To the contrary, improvements in communities and
institutions will only take root in the kind of safe environment

that, at its best, a strong criminal justice system can provide.

And when we provide opportunity, we in turn reduce the
pressure on the criminal justice system and lessen the
monumental task that lack of opportunity for the poorest
Americans has left it to perform. How a society chooses to balance
justice and safety with rights and liberties will invariably be the subject of
vigorous debate. Our criminal justice system is no exception. Many good and
intelligent people will disagree passionately about the contours of our
criminal law. That is all to the good. We should not grow complacent

in the face of particular problems, both for the sake of

individual defendants and for the rule of law itself. But instead
of engaging in a constructive debate about the American approach
to criminal justice , legal elites largely have condemned the
entire enterprise. The system, we are told, is broken, and only
sweeping reforms imposed from on high can save it. But the rhetoric
that fuels the wholesale assault upon the system not only will
fail to achieve any meaningful change , it obscures the many
strengths of our institutions. By focusing so much on what is wrong, we
inevitably forget what is right. The terms of engagement must change. My
call is not for scholars to whitewash our systems failings but to realize the

picture is far more nuanced and complex than they have presented it. Given

the volume of matters it is asked to address and immensity of

the task it is asked to perform, our criminal justice system
functions rather well. It is both unrealistic and uncharitable to
portray the system as an engine of oppression and injustice.
Ironically, many of the features that critics claim operate onesidedly against defendants often work to their benefit. The
American criminal justice system strikes a valuable front-end
note. It strikes difficult balances between protecting the
innocent and convicting the guilty, between procedural
protections and administrative realities. It rightly allows these
contestable choices to be made democratically, but only to a
point. Such qualities are hardly the hallmarks of a failed system .
Indeed, those who have been among the most persistent
critics of the criminal justice system were among the first to
call for its utilization in the aftermath of the September 11th
terrorist attacks.372 And since that time, the refrain has often been
that acts of terrorism are crimes that should be dealt with in
the customary way through enforcement of federal criminal
law.373 I recognize that this plea for criminal trials does not constitute an
acknowledgment of the systems perfection, but it does indicate that
the system imparts a legitimacy for the deprivation of liberty that
other routes of trying suspected terrorists may lack. This is no place to
explore the complicated question of whether alleged terrorism is more aptly
regarded as a criminal offense or as an act of war. Separation of powers
concerns and the need for action to prevent mass casualties make the
question an exceptionally complicated one. I note only the irony that

many who reject the considerable virtues of the American

criminal justice system are at least prepared to look upon it as
a preferred solution when the values of liberty and security are
in epochal tension. To be sure, there is plenty of room for reform ,
and all parts of the legal profession should head for the front
lines. But let us not forget our systems virtues as we seek to
correct its vices. Otherwise, any legitimate concerns will be lost in
the din of diatribe. We have gone too long without a degree of balance or
moderation in our assessment of the American criminal justice system. It is
time we gave our institutions a fair trial.

Moral tunnel vision is complicit with evil

Issac 2Professor of Political Science at Indiana-Bloomington, Director of the
Center for the Study of Democracy and Public Life, PhD from Yale (Jeffery C.,
Dissent Magazine, Vol. 49, Iss. 2, Ends, Means, and Politics, p. Proquest)
It is assumed that U.S.
military intervention is an act of "aggression," but no consideration is given to the
As a result, the most important political questions are simply not asked.

aggression to which intervention is a response. The status quo ante in Afghanistan is not,
as peace activists would have it, peace, but rather terrorist violence abetted by a regime-the Taliban--that rose to power through brutality and repression . This requires us to ask a
question that most "peace" activists would prefer not to ask: What should be done to respond to
the violence of a Saddam Hussein, or a Milosevic, or a Taliban regime? What means are
likely to stop violence and bring criminals to justice? Calls for diplomacy and international law are
well intended and important; they implicate a decent and civilized ethic of global order.
But they are also vague and empty, because they are not accompanied by any account of
how diplomacy or international law can work effectively to address the problem at hand.
The campus left offers no such account. To do so would require it to contemplate tragic choices
in which moral goodness is of limited utility. Here what matters is not purity of intention but the
intelligent exercise of power. Power is not a dirty word or an unfortunate feature of the world. It is the core

Politics, in large part, involves

contests over the distribution and use of power. To accomplish anything in the political
world, one must attend to the means that are necessary to bring it about . And to develop
such means is to develop, and to exercise, power. To say this is not to say that power is beyond
morality. It is to say that power is not reducible to morality. As writers such as Niccolo
Machiavelli, Max Weber, Reinhold Niebuhr, and Hannah Arendt have taught, an unyielding concern
with moral goodness undercuts political responsibility. The concern may be morally
of politics. Power is the ability to effect outcomes in the world.

laudable, reflecting a kind of personal integrity, but it suffers from three fatal flaws: (1) It fails to see that

purity of one's intention does not ensure the achievement of what one
intends. Abjuring violence or refusing to make common cause with morally
compromised parties may seem like the right thing; but if such tactics entail impotence,
then it is hard to view them as serving any moral good beyond the clean conscience of
their supporters; (2) it fails to see that in a world of real violence and injustice, moral
purity is not simply a form of powerlessness; it is often a form of complicity in
injustice. This is why, from the standpoint of politics--as opposed to religion--pacifism is
always a potentially immoral stand. In categorically repudiating violence, it refuses in
principle to oppose certain violent injustices with any effect; and (3) it fails to see that
politics is as much about unintended consequences as it is about intentions;
it is the effects of action, rather than the motives of action, that is most significant. Just as

the alignment with "good" may engender impotence, it is often the pursuit of "good" that generates evil.
This is the lesson of communism in the twentieth century: it is not enough that one's goals be sincere or

it is equally important, always, to ask about the effects of pursuing these goals
and to judge these effects in pragmatic and historically contextualized ways. Moral
absolutism inhibits this judgment. It alienates those who are not true believers. It
promotes arrogance. And it undermines political effectiveness.

Our argument isnt that the state is always good or

always the solution, but sometimes it is useful the 1ac
has outlined an instance in which the state is the only
actor that can effectively challenge coals continued
Grossberg, 92 [Lawrence, Morris Davis Professor of Communication
Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, We Gotta Get Out
of this Place: Popular Conservatism and Postmodern Culture, page 388-389]

The demand for moral and ideological purity often results in the rejection of any hierarchy or
organization. The question-can the master's tools be used to tear down the master's house?ignores both the contingency of the relation between such tools and the master's power and , even
more importantly, the fact that there may be no other tools available. Institutionalization is seen as
a repressive impurity within the body politic rather than as a strategic and tactical , even
empowering, necessity . It sometimes seems as if every progressive organization is
condemned to recapitulate the same arguments and crisis, often leading to their collapse. 54 For
example, Minkowitz has described a crisis in Act Up over the need for efficiency and organization,
professionalization and even hierarchy,55 as if these inherently contradicted its commitment to
democracy. This is particularly unfortunate since Act Up, whatever its limitations, has proven itself an
effective and imaginative political strategist. The problems are obviously magnified with success, as

This refusal of efficient operation and the moment of

organization is intimately connected with the Left's appropriation and privileging of the
membership, finances and activities grow.

local (as the site of democracy and resistance). This is yet another reason why structures of alliance
are inadequate, since they often assume that an effective movement can be organized and sustained

The Left needs to recognize the necessity of

institutionalization and of systems of hierarchy, without falling back into its own
authoritarianism. It needs to find reasonably democratic structures of
institutionalization, even if they are impure and compromised.
without such structuring.

hands up dont shoot is a perfect example of the

resignification process of neoliberalism it has become a
trendy form of solidarity evacuating it of any
revolutionary potential
Wuma 14 (Mikael Chuks Wuma, 9 December 2014,, mjb)
Its so sad watching the commodification of this movement happen
in real time. White people (and now medical students too) dying in en
masse for pictures being circulated widely, photographers making
money off of falsified photographs of black children hugging police
officers and solidarity photos of white people holding their hands
up for Hands Up Dont Shoot, white people running around with
#BlackLivesMatter shirts they have made or purchased. Now after
two weeks of sustained protest this movement has become
something trendy for white people to engage in , turning it into
anything other than what it isa black youth movement for justice .
This is how neoliberalism and white supremacist capitalism operate,
they must always find some way to dilute, corral, control and
ultimately subjugate resistance and blackness, and the reduction of
our movement to a trendy commodity for white consumption is
the first step in this process.

Racism can be reduced through reform

Hudson 2013 (Peter, Political Science Professor at the
University of Witwatersand The State and the Colonial
Unconscious in Social Dynamics)

as whiteness the meaning of whiteness and that of

blackness is carried via a constellation of postulates, a series of
propositions that slowly and subtly work their way into ones mind
and shape ones view of the world of the group to which one
belongs a thousand details, anecdote stories which are woven into prejudices, myths, the
collective attitudes of a given group (Fanon 1968, 78, 133). This is how the subject
positions of both whites and blacks are constituted. We can call this
constellation the Colonial Big Other (symbolic) in and through which the colonial relation is constituted and
reproduced. This Big Other is white, in that whiteness is its master signifier and therefore all identities are
white under colonialism. Everyone is white in the colonial symbolic including blacks; it is just that they
are less white than whites to the point of not being at all Fanon says again and again that the black
man desires to be white but, when he looks at himself through the eyes he has adopted, the eyes that
are his what he (qua white eyes) sees is something that doesnt exist inequality, no non-existence
(Fanon 1968, 98, original emphasis). He subsists at the level of non-being (131) just as the white, when
it sees the black, sees an other that is, as Fanon says absolutely not self, so does the black see himself
as absolutely not self (114). This is the depth of the fissure in the black colonial subject position, caught
between two impossibles: whiteness, which he desires but which is barred to him, and black- ness,
which is non-existence. Colonialism, anxiety and emancipation3 Thus the self-same/other distinction is
necessary for the possibility of identity itself. There always has to exist an outside, which is also inside, to
the extent it is desig- nated as the impossibility from which the possibility of the existence of the subject

although the excluded place which isnt

excluded insofar as it is necessary for the very possibility of
inclusion and identity may be universal ( may be considered
ontological), its content (what fills it) as well as the mode of this
filling and its reproduction are contingent. In other words, the
meaning of the signifier of exclusion is not determined once and for
all: the place of the place of exclusion, of death is itself overdetermined, i.e. the very framework for deciding the other and the
same, exclusion and inclusion, is nowhere engraved in ontological
stone but is political and never terminally settled . Put differ- ently, the
curvature of intersubjective space (Critchley 2007, 61) and thus, the specific modes of the
othering of otherness are nowhere decided in advance (as a
certain ontological fatalism might have it) ( see Wilderson 2008 ). The
social does not have to be divided into white and black, and the
meaning of these signifiers is never necessary because they are
signifiers. To be sure, colonialism institutes an ontological division,
in that whites exist in a way barred to blacks who are not. But this
ontological relation is really on the side of the ontic that is, of all
contingently constructed identities, rather than the ontology of the
social which refers to the ultimate unfixity, the indeterminacy or lack
of the social. In this sense, then, the white man doesnt exist, the
black man doesnt exist (Fanon 1968, 165); and neither does the colonial symbolic itself,
derives its rule (Badiou 2009, 220). But

including its most intimate structuring relations division is constitutive of the social, not the colonial
division. Whiteness

may well be very deeply sediment in modernity

itself, but respect for the ontological difference (see Heidegger
1962, 26; Watts 2011, 279) shows up its ontological status as ontic.

It may be so deeply sedimented that it becomes difficult even to

identify the very possibility of the separation of whiteness from the
very possibility of order, but from this it does not follow that the
void of black being functions as the ultimate substance, the
transcendental signified on which all possible forms of sociality are
said to rest. What gets lost here, then, is the specificity of
colonialism, of its constitutive axis, its ontological differential .

World making projects dont protect people from the

Berlant and Edelman 2014 (Lauren and Lee, Professor of English at
the University of Chicago and Professor of English at Yale, Sex, Or the
Unbarable p. 1-9)
Though I agree, then, that incoherence may often feel all too familiar
and, in consequence, not shocking at all, my claim is that this very
familiarity may testify to the will to domesticate the en- counter with
what can never be made familiar, what escapes our rec- ognized
feelings, eluding recognition precisely by virtue of those recognized
feelings themselves. What I find so compelling about Laurens
attentiveness to the taxonomies of unaccommodated being is the care with
which she traces the conditions impelling subjects to normalizing narratives
of emotional adequation even while she attends so shrewdly to the strategies
by which alternative possibili- ties for world-building might also begin to
emerge. My own im- perative remains, however, to question the ground of
those possi- bilities, to question our desire for those possibilities, to the
extent that they still remain rooted in the willful management of affective
intensities and susceptible, therefore, to the misrecognitions that reify the
subjects self, even if the self that the subject reifies is con- strued as
incoherent. The familiarity of incoherence can become a way of
denying it. The I that knows its incoherence, or has grown
accustomed to it, has usually succeeded, if painfully, in the labor of
normalizing a self, even when it conceives that self as inadequate to
the norm. So for me, the structuring incoherences that queer the
self as the center of consciousness, and so of a pseudo-sovereignty,
remain unavailable to the subject except in rare moments of traumatic encounter, moments when the potential for shock gets activated by the nearness of the unbearable, which is to say , of our own
enjoyment: the enjoyment we never own. Lauren would see the word
traumatic as an instance of my making grandiose what she invites us to
dedramatize, while I would worry that dedramatization is the emptying out,
the attempt to neu- tralize the force of that encounter itself. Not alwaysand
not in Laurens workbut maybe in our normative relations to ourselves as
continuous or viable subjects. Our world-building cant protect us
against the worlds that others build, which may or may not have

room for us or find us consistent with their survival . Nor can we be

sure that the worlds we build dont work against our own flourishing. That doesnt mean we could simply choose to forgo the world- building
project, any more than we could simply choose to forgo the optimism of
attachment, only that it finds its supplement in thinking the encounter with
what resists it, producing thereby the problem of relation these dialogues will
confront. The negativity of encounter inhabits relation for Lauren and me

Survival strats fail and are coopted

Corey Lee Wrenn 13, adjunct professor of Sociology with Dabney S.
Lancaster Community College and an adjunct professor of Social Psychology
with the Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design, The Neoliberalism Behind
Sexy Veganism: Individuals, Structures, and Choice,
There is no
choice. This isnt about the individual. This is about systems of
oppression and social structures that shape our behavior and limit
what choices are available to us based on our social identity. If you are a
Im going to make a radical claim, well, actually its pretty widely accepted in the social sciences:

young, thin, white woman advocating for Nonhuman Animals in a pornified, hyper-sexualized society, one choice stands
out loud and clear: Get naked. Its supposed to be empowering, and we think maybe it helps animals. First, Im not really
sure why one has to feel sexually empowered when one is advocating against the torture and death of Nonhuman
Animals. Why our movement is keen on making violence a turn on is a little disturbing. It probably speaks something to
our tendency to juxtapose women with violence. The sexualization of violence against women and other feminized social
groups like Nonhuman Animals is evidence to the rape culture we inhabit. Aside that, however, choice

often thrown around as a means of deflecting critical thought at
systems of oppression . If its all about your individual choice, only
you are responsible, only you are to blame. Anyone who has a
problem with that must be judging you as a person . So often our
advocacy is framed as personal choice, an individual expression. If you
arent vegan, thats your choice. If you want to have sex with vegetables and have it filmed by PETA, thats your

This is a co-optation of anti-oppression social activism in a

neo-liberal structure of exploitation . Neoliberalism is all about
freedom: Freedom from government ,freedom from regulation,
freedom to buy, freedom to sell, freedom to reach your full potential,
etc. Its about individuals out for themselves . This is how capitalism
thrives: many are free to do whatever they want in the name of open markets, but ultimately, that freedom
comes at a cost to those who will inevitably be exploited to pay for
that freedom. The ideology of neoliberalism and individualism works to benefit the privileged when

individuals can attribute their success to their own individual hard work (when in reality they had extensive help from their
race, gender, class, physical ability, etc.). It also works to blame those less fortunate for their failure. We call them lazy,
stupid, leeches (when in reality they had extensive barriers placed upon them according to their race, gender, class,
physical ability, etc.). This myth of freedom and meritocracy is actually pretty toxic for social movements. If we fail to
recognize how structural barriers impede some, while structural privileges benefit others, we will find it difficult to come

When we soak in this neoliberal poison and start

to view social movementsinherently collective endeavors designed
to challenge unequal power structuresas something done by the
individual, for the individual , weve lost the fight right off the bat.
together as a political collective.

No matter what you think, structures and institutions

pervadeyour thought experiment can not wish them
away or drain them of their powerplacing face in your
own redoubtable individual agency is really just placing
faith in the free market
McCluskey 2007 (Martha, Professor of Political Science and Womens
Studies at UC Berkeley, Buffalo Law Review Thinking With Wolves: Left
Legal Theory After the Rights Rise an essay in Review of Left Legalism/Left
Left Legalism tends to drift from its critical recognition that all law involves
potentially dangerous power toward a wistful desire for liberalism's neutrality.
The contributors often seem seduced by the neoliberal fantasy that an
unregulated space of free, independent, and authentic individual
subjectivity awaits those who reject liberal rights.38 6 When Halley
criticizes feminist law reforms for engaging in moral regulation, she admits
that this complaint "makes one sound like a libertarian. '38 7 Similarly, when
Ford criticizes left and liberal "cultural rights" for exercising moral and
political power, he tends to avoid the harder questions of which moral and
political power is most justified. For example, he rejects a construction of
racial equality that would include a right of workers to wear braided
hair out of fear that such a right would constrain individuals' ability
to define their own cultural identity. 388 "Private institutions, in marked
contrast to the state, with a very few exceptions, do not even attempt to
provide such authoritative censorship and approval. When and if they do,
they usually are met with equally legitimate competitors who censor and
approve of different things."38 9 From a critical perspective, state
power and legal rights pervade these supposedly "private"
institutions. And from a left perspective, the supposedly "private"
spheres of workplace, church, family, plantation, housing market,
health care system, and mass media-for just a few exampleshistorically have been deeply enmeshed in, constrained by, and
productive of the same historical inequalities and coercive powers
that pervade the state. If courts deny cultural rights to black
workers who choose to wear cornrows, to consider Ford's example,
they will likely recognize and enforce not individual freedom to
define identity, but employers' rights, for example, to fire a white
woman whose make-up is deemed insufficiently "feminine," or to fire
a black woman whose un-straightened hair is deemed insufficiently
"professional." And without unblinking faith in a fundamentally fair
market, it seems unlikely that those "unfeminine" and
"unprofessional" women will readily find an equal number of
similarly rewarding jobs where employers are equally eager to
reward their particular gender and race expressions and to penalize
others for instance, white men without make-up or white men who don't
alter their naturally straight, balding, or graying hair. Taking seriously the

capacity of legal rights to produce as well as to protect individuals and their

interests, left activism and intellectualism should have all the more
reason to engage, rather than cede, rights-based law reform. Wendy
Brown's chapter on rights affirms the paradoxical necessity and danger of
feminist rights, but then tends to imagine that the productive capacity of
rights will necessarily threaten left ideals.390 Why does Brown see a
problem, rather than a possibility, when she observes that left visions of
rights based on intersecting identities will bring into being new political
subjects?391 When welfare mothers, for instance, seize on human
rights discourse to build legitimacy as political actors participating in a
global quest for political, racial, gender, and economic justice, their new
identity-however risky and regulatory-might still well be a welcome
change from the regulatory impact of an anti-rights identity as
needy or greedy societal dependents, sexual deviants, or market
failures. Finally, when Brown and Halley criticize "governance legalism" for
implicating left politics in potentially coercive power, they seem to refuse left
power as much as left statism. Commenting on the example of AIDS activists
who sought participation in Food and Drug Administration procedures, they
argue that, "[t]his kind of left legalism seeks to involve the left directly in
governance: once you win, you are the state."392 They are right to warn
that any particular left regulatory effort should be scrutinized for
anti-left impact, and that in a society of systematic subordination,
few regulatory reforms will be free of political constraints that make
liberation for some contingent on oppression of other subordinated
groups. Yet they ignore that the same problematic effects equally
challenge any left abstention from (or resistance to) state
governance, unless we fall back on fundamentalist faith in an
autonomous private sphere inherently and naturally safe from
oppressive power (as do right-wing market or moral

real material gains have been made both institutionally
and socially even if some racism is inevitable, lessening
is still worth while
Bouie 14 (Jamelle Bouie, 31 December 2014, Why I Am Optimistic About the Future of Race
Relations in America, Slate,
_am_optimistic_despite_ferguson.html, mjb)

If America seems more divided, he says, its because were more aware
of our racial shortcomings. Its understandable the polls might say,
you know, that race relations have gotten worsebecause when its
in the news and you see something like Ferguson or the Garner case
in New York, then it attracts attention. And if many white Americans have a shocked
response to claims of unfairness and discrimination, its because its outside their purview. If youd asked whites in those
jurisdictions, he said, referring to racial profiling in Illinois, Do you think traffic stops were done fairly? the majority of
whites probably would say yes because its not something they experience. Its not because of racism; its just that its

Its easy to dismiss this as undue optimism or a

retreat to 2008-style post-racial thinking , especially given events in Cleveland, Ferguson,
not something that they see.

and New York, and the stark divide in how blacks and whites see law enforcement. But Obama isnt wrong. When it comes
to race relations, America is better than its ever been. The most obvious observation is the fact of Obamas electionand
re-electionto the presidency. As a milestone in American life, this goes beyond electoral politics. The person who
occupies that office is not only the head of the executive branch of the federal government, writes Harvard Law professor
Randall Kennedy for the American Prospect, The president is also the nations mourner-in-chief, booster-in-chief, spousein-chief, and parent-in-chief. He continues: That a black man has been the master of the White House for the past six
years does indeed reflect and reinforce a remarkable socio-psychological transformation in the American racial scene.

When it comes to race relations, America is better than its ever

been. You can see this in the data. According to authors Lawrence D. Bobo of Harvard, Camille Z. Charles of the
University of Pennsylvania, Maria Krysan of the University of Illinois, Chicago, and Alicia D. Simmons of Stanford University
in The Real Record on Racial Attitudesa paper in the 2012 volume of Social Trends in American Life: Findings from the

As recently as
1990, more than 40 percent of whites supported a homeowners
right to discriminate on the basis of race; by 2008, that number had
dropped to 28 percent (including 25 percent of highly educated Northern whites). The same
goes for the percentage of whites who said blacks were less
intelligent than whites, which dipped from nearly 60 percent in
1990 to less than 30 percent in 2008. And so few whites support school segregation that the
General Social Survey has dropped the item from its questionnaire. Whites are also more tolerant
of interracial marriage. When first measured in 1990, note the authors, fully 65 percent of whites
General Social Survey Since 1972whites have progressed on a wide range of measures.

opposed unions between close relatives and black Americans. By 2008, that number had declined to 25 percent, and in a
2013 Gallup survey, 84 percent of whites said they approved of interracial marriages between blacks and whites. Some of
the most comprehensive pollingoutside of the General Social Surveycomes from the Pew Research Center. According to
a 2010 report, 64 percent of whites say they would be fine with it if a family member married a black American, while
27 percent say they would be bothered but accepting. Only 6 percent say they would reject the marriage. Support is
lowest among older whites, and highest among white millennials, who dont differ in approval from their black and

Its not all sunshine. As of 2008, according to the GSS, only

a quarter of whites would live in a neighborhood thats half black,
and in a 2000 survey, 1 in 5 whites chose an all-white neighborhood
as an ideal, while 1 in 4 chose one without any blacks . A plurality of whites still
Hispanic peers.

say blacks arent hard workingor at least, not as hard working as whitesand, notes Pew, most whites say the country

There are intense disagreements

on police treatment, and nearly one-half of white millennials say
discrimination against whites is as big a problem as discrimination
against minorities. And in terms of criminal justice and punitiveness,
has done enough to give blacks equal rights with whites.

we know that whites are more likely to support harsher punishment

when the convict is black. Still, we've made genuine gains, and our
time is an incredible departure from the relatively recent past, when
apartheid ruled the South and racist attitudes were ubiquitous in
every area of national life. Even now, with the spike in racial turmoil, we see change. White and black
Americans were outraged by the choking death of Eric Garner in New York City, white and black Americans have united in
protests against police brutality, and the otherwise indifferent Republican Partywith its largely white constituencyhas
begun to make small moves toward criminal justice reform, with support from major donors like the Koch brothers. If, like
President Obama, you are optimistic about the direction of American race relations, the facts are on your side. With that

we shouldnt confuse optimism about race relations (or, again, how whites
with optimism about racial progress, or how groups
fare in relation to each other. There, the news isnt just badits bleak. This goes beyond the

view blacks and other groups)

familiar facts about young black males and police violence. On the environmental front, black communities are exposed to
more pollutionand suffer more pollution-related ailmentsthan any of their counterparts. Black unemployment is still
double that of whiteseven for college graduatesand the median wealth of black families has plunged since the Great
Recession, all but erasing the gains of the previous three decades. Residential segregation and concentrated poverty are
still the reality for many black Americansthe product of a half-century of discriminatory housing policy. Indeed, the
typical middle-class black child encounters a level of poverty unknown to the vast majority of white children. Then theres
mass incarceration. In his book Punishment and Inequality in America, sociologist Bruce Western shows that prison is the
dominantand most formativeinstitution in the lives of poor black men in the United States. This is only loosely
connected to crime; while poor black men commit more crimes than most other Americans, prison population growth
doesnt track national crime trends. In fact, crime among young black men has plunged, while incarceration has steadily
increased. And incarceration isnt the reason for the decline. Roughly nine-tenths of the decline in serious crime through
the 1990s would have happened without the prison boom, writes Western. The long-term implications of mass
incarceration are too large to examine here, but it suffices to say two things. First, that mass imprisonment of poor black
men casts a pall over our narrative of economic progress. After adjusting for disparities in joblessness and incarceration,
Western found that young black men have experienced virtually no real economic gains on young whites in the fifteen
years since 1999. In fact, around three-quarters of the apparent gains in relative wages are attributable not to a real
improvement in the economic situation of African Americans, but to escalating rates of joblessness and incarceration
[among the group]. The gains of young black men, touted in the heady days of the 1990s economic expansion, were
illusory. Over all, because prison is a hugely corrosive influence on the course of an individuals life, a whole cohort of poor
black men should expect lives with insecure employment, low wages, family disruption, and social isolation. In all
likelihood, the stratification in the black communitywhere the difference between well-off and worst-off is hugewill

If the reality of changing white attitudes are grounds for racial

optimism, then the fact of black stagnation and retrenchment are
grounds for racial pessimism. And theres a strong case that the latter outweighs the former. Not

only will these economic trends take decades to play out, but its unclear if Americans are willing to devote the time and
effort to closing our racial gaps and integrating poor black Americans into the national mainstream. If the present push
against equal participationexemplified by voter ID and conservative attacks on the Voting Rights Actis any indication,
its hard to imagine a future where the public spends tax dollars to fix the consequences of its past discrimination. Worse,
the same optimism around race relations could undermine a push to improve conditions if

things seem
good, even if deep inequalities still exist, theres no reason to make
them better. Then again, you could say the same of America in the
1950s. Blacks won major victories, but an end to Jim Crow much less
attempts to ameliorate its effectsseemed far on the horizon. By the end of the
1960s, however, we had outlawed segregation, gained voting rights,
outlawed housing discrimination, and oriented the entire federal
government toward securing opportunity for black Americans. Yes,
there were fierce reactions from the right, and many of the policies
and gains have been compromised orin criminal justiceactively
undermined. But even at the height of the post-civil rights backlash, in the conservative jubilee of the Reagan
years, there was no question that blacks were better off. This isnt the soft bigotry of low expectationsits meaningful

The black struggle for equal rightsfor full partnership in the American experiment
obviously isnt over. The proof is everywhere, from an unfair criminal justice system to an economy that
discards black potential. If there is a question, it goes back to optimism versus pessimism. Should our
steady progression make us optimistic? Or are our short memories
(redlining means nothing to most Americans), backsliding (Redemption followed Reconstruction, mass
incarceration followed the end of Jim Crow), and retreat to myth (We made it on our own, why cant they

cause for pessimism? As best I can, I live my life as an optimist. But there are times
Im convinced failure is inevitable, that well never shake ourselves of white supremacy and its
legacy. But even if thats true even if the struggle is doomed and thats our tragedy as Americans
the battle is still worth fighting . To borrow from William James, If this life be not a real fight, in
do it)

which something is eternally gained for the universe by success, it is no better than a game of private theatricals from
which one may withdraw at will. But it feels like a real fightas if there were something really wild in the universe which
we, with all our idealities and faithfulnesses, are needed to redeem.