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Montes 1 In Necropolitics, Achille Mbembe characterizes our current forms of punishment as the deployment of weapons in the interest of max

destruction of persons and the creation of death-worlds, new and unique forms of social existence in which vast populations are subjected to conditions of life conferring upon them the status of living dead (Mbembe 40). When we listen to the hidden liturgies of the past we see that Mbembes words also frame the lived experiences of people of color throughout the history of this country under forceful methods of exclusion and control imposed by white power. To understand our current system of mass incarceration, it is important to hold the past in front of us, for these hidden liturgies unearth the shackle attaching mass incarceration to these past methods of exclusion and control, revealing it and all the past forms of exclusion and control as attempts to subjugate people of color through the creation of a racialized enemy that today is covertly supported by the prevailing ideology of exclusion and control, creating a sub-caste of living-dead. In her work Exclusion and Control in the Carceral State, Sharon Dolovich explains that as a prevailing social institution of punishment, exclusion and control is accepted and legitimized by the majority of society through its permeation of a cognitive narrative that fits with the predominant ideas about natural order (Dolovich 263). People of color have a long history of exclusion and control in this country, from the forceful and violent displacement and confinement of Native Americans to praying towns and reservations, of African people as slaves in plantations, to the legal racial discrimination of freed Africans during Jim Crow, to the internment of Japanese and Japanese descent people. Across these prior methods of exclusion and control we see the dominant white society first bonding through the idea of racial inferiority as the natural order. This racial hierarchy served to develop and establish a constant cognitive narrative of exclusion and control founded upon the creation of a racialized enemy of white society, creating an undignified and often hopeless existence for people of color. The incorporation of race into the cognitive narrative of mass incarceration, todays institution of exclusion and control, is covert. The concealed nature of this racialized enemy begins with the current ideologys perception of a criminal. The unifying ideology of mass incarceration is individualistic, determining that the individual is the only one responsible for a crime, as the decision to commit a crime was of the individuals own free will (Dolovich 265). Therefore, society is absolved of any responsibility of the influence its impact on an individuals life circumstances had in this criminal decision-making. With this perception of criminals in

Montes 2 mind as individuals whose punishment is necessary and entirely a consequence of their own will, society decides that they lose their full moral status as fellow human beings and citizens, and justifies all methods of excluding and controlling those the law deems criminals (Dolovich 266). Individualism and indifference in the collectively accepted ideology of mass incarceration portraying criminals as getting what they deserve functions to mask the creation of todays racialized enemy. In The New Jim Crow, Michelle Alexander argues that criminality becomes associated with race, conditioning society to believe people of color choose crime more than whites; for example, people of color are not more likely to use or sell drugs than white people but are arrested at much higher rates for this crime than whites, and thus people of color are made criminals (Alexander 192). The criminal faces stigma; however, the stigma faced by a white criminal is nonracial, in contrast to the black criminal, for whom stigma in mass incarceration is fundamentally a racial stigma (193). The ideology bolstering mass incarceration and its tactics simultaneously sets up the criminal as the superficial enemy of society, while covertly racializing this enemy, rendering people of color the main targets of exclusion and control. Todays covert racialized enemy created through the positive correlation of crime with race results in an exclusively racial sub-caste. The association of criminality with race heavily impacts communities of color, as it is mostly from these communities that individuals are arrested and incarcerated. This racial disparity in incarceration rates is evinced from statistics from the NAACP revealing that Together, African Americans and Hispanics comprised 58% of all prisoners in 2008, even though [they] made up approximately one quarter of the US population [emphasis added]. Treatment and conditions in prison are not conducive to rehabilitation. Instead, these conditions exacerbate the often impaired mental and physical health problems many of the incarcerated population suffer from before incarceration. With no improvement of social skills, once out of prison most people are unable to obtain promising opportunities to move forward and positively contribute to their communities, often pushed to resort to old habits that send them back to prison (Dolovich 266-267). Furthermore, the overt individualistic disdain for the criminal justifies the treatment and targeting of people of color as criminals, regardless of whether a crime was committed or not, as illustrated in a study referenced by Michelle Alexander where white ex-offenders may actually have an easier time gaining employment than African Americans without a criminal record (Alexander 193).The

Montes 3 confluence of crime with race creates a racialized enemy creates the disproportionate imprisonment of people of color and discrimination that obstructs possibilities and traps people of color in a bleak sub-caste (Alexander 193). Todays system of mass incarceration lies on this countrys continuum of methods of enslavement people of color. The naturalization of mass incarceration is contingent upon a surface ideology that fosters a perception of criminals as inherent wrong-doers committing crime for crimes sake. This representation of criminals influences most of society to approve of mass incarceration the way to contain criminals and ensure the publics security. What links mass incarceration with past forms of control of people of color is that its ideology of punishment is also founded upon the racialization of the enemy, which today is the criminal. The exclusion and control of vast amounts of people of color is made possible by making race synonymous with crime. This exclusion and control relegate people of color to a social existence of living-dead. Mass imprisonment of people of color means the disappearance of family and community members, the stifling of possibilities for progress by the stigma of criminality and race, and high recidivism. Study of the past reveals to us that mass incarceration is not a system that is broken, but is a continuation of previous institutions of exclusion and control that were built to suppress people of color. Therefore, freedom of people of color from a violent and desolate sub-caste necessitates the abolition of mass incarceration.

Montes 4 Works Cited Alexander, Michelle. The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness. New York; The New Press, 2010. Print. Criminal Justice Fact Sheet. NAACP. National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, n.d. Web. 15 Feb. 2014. Dolovich, Sharon. Exclusion and Control in the Carceral State. The Berkeley Journal of Criminal Law. Vol. 16:2 (2011): 260-339. Print. Mbembe, Achille. Necropolitics. Public Culture. 15.(1) (2003): 11-40. Web.