How did Jim Crow function as a mechanism of racialized social control? Throughout its history, the United States has been structured by a racial caste system. From slavery to Jim Crow to mass incarceration, these forms of racialized social control reinvented themselves to meet the needs of the dominant social class according to the constraints of each era.
What is the “new Jim Crow”? Throughout its history, the United States has been structured by a racial caste system. From slavery to Jim Crow to mass incarceration, these forms of racialized social control reinvented themselves to meet the needs of the dominant social class according to the constraints of each era.
Mass incarceration is fueled by a highly funded and minimally constrained criminal justice system that traps people branded as “criminals,” even individuals without a criminal record, into a permanent undercaste.
Racialized social control has adapted to race-neutral social and political norms in the form of mass incarceration. Criminalization stands in as a proxy for overt racism by limiting the rights and freedoms of a racially defined undercaste.
What is the long-term harm and wider impact of mass incarceration on people and communities of color? The racial caste system established and perpetuated by mass incarceration continues beyond a prison sentence and extends into families, communities and society at large. The criminalization and demonization of black men creates a “prison label” of stigma and shame that damages the black community as a whole.
What are the most salient similarities between mass incarceration and Jim Crow? Mass incarceration is a system of racialized social control that, like slavery and Jim Crow before it, operates to discriminate and create a stigmatized racial group locked into an inferior position by law and custom.
What is needed to end mass incarceration and permanently eliminate racial caste in the United States? Legal and policy solutions alone are not enough to dismantle racial caste because the methods of racial control within this system are “legal” and rarely appear as outwardly discriminatory. A social movement that confronts the role of race and cultivates an ethic of care must form or else a new racial caste system will emerge in the future.
As students move forward with work on their activist murals, it will be important for them to think about managing their time and materials. It will also be important for them to remind themselves and each other of their messages and ultimate goals. Continuing work on an ongoing project can be challenging for some children, but it is an important part of developing an identity as someone who does good and important work. Make sure you show respect for the challenging aspects of this activity as your students move ahead with their mural.
Making art together is one of the most important ways students can engage in a collaborative process, and talk about the messages and methods they believe in. Art takes time and process. Once children have had a chance to look at different symbols and think about the importance of technique, colors, shapes, and styles, it is time with each other and their art materials that will really allow them to express themselves, finding their voices as artists and activists simultaneously.
This lesson is the first in a series called “The Different Colors of Beauty.” The overall goal of these lessons is to help students develop their racial or ethnic identities in a safe and open classroom environment, while being conscious of our multicultural, diverse world.