LESSON

Mass Incarceration as a Form of Racialized Social Control

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. 
Grade Level

Teaching 'The New Jim Crow'
Lesson 5: Mass Incarceration as a Form of Racialized Social Control

Essential Questions

  • How did racial hierarchy adapt once racial discrimination became illegal?
  • How did the War on Drugs create the subtext for a new system of racialized social control?
  • What is the “new Jim Crow”? 

 

Big Idea

  • 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. 

 

Objectives

  • Students will describe white opposition to desegregation and the search by white conservatives for a new racial order after the civil rights movement.
  • Students will describe the role race played in the political realignments that took place in the decades following the civil rights movement. 
  • Students will explain how fear mongering, rhetoric and imagery were used to build support for the War on Drugs. 
  • Students will juxtapose race-neutral rhetoric about crime with the racially disproportionate impact the War on Drugs has had on communities of color.

 

Required Materials

Note: This lesson focuses on a subsection of Chapter 1, “The Rebirth of Caste,” in which Alexander discusses mass incarceration as a form of racialized social control.  

 

Optional Materials

 

Background Knowledge and Knowledge Areas

  • Baby Boom Generation
  • busing
  • civil disobedience
  • Cold War (specifically, anti-Communist sentiments and rhetoric)
  • desegregation
  • The New Deal

 

Tier II and III vocabulary

  • capitulate
  • complicit
  • deindustrialization
  • fear mongering
  • imagery
  • mobilize
  • resentment
  • rhetoric
  • sanitize
  • sensationalize
  • wittingly

 

Warm Up

Write the prompt (below) on the board and allow students time to quietly and independently respond in writing. If you have a journal procedure, use it here. Allow time for sharing and discussion.

Complete the prompts “Something I know … ”, “Something I believe … ” and “Something I wonder ... ” about each of the following (totaling nine responses): 

  1. the War on Drugs
  2. the Clinton presidency
  3. the civil rights movement

 

Before Reading

Prepare students for thinking about the themes and topics in the excerpt “Mass Incarceration as a Form of Racialized Social Control” with the strategy below.

Text Graffiti exposes students to short pieces of the text prior to having them read the full excerpt. Students read selected quotes out of context, silently comment on the quote and then respond to their peers’ comments.

 

During Reading

Engage students in a close reading of the excerpt. Use the text-dependent questions provided to build comprehension through textual analysis, or create your own to develop this thinking habit among students. 

  1. First Read. Have students read the excerpt independently and silently, marking the text with Thinking notes. Thinking notes are annotations (highlights, underlines or symbols) that students make to document their thinking during reading.

  2. Second Read. Facilitate a Shared Reading of the excerpt.

You can modify shared reading for partner or paired readers with a Say Something activity, during which students take turns reading aloud to each other, stopping occasionally to comment on or question the text. 

 

After Reading

Facilitate a class discussion that centers on asking and answering the text-dependent questions, including student-created questions. Discussions can be structured in a number of ways. Here are three suggestions:

  • Text Talk Time is a whole class discussion structured to facilitate rich dialogue, active listening and use of textual evidence. The group setting challenges students to analyze The New Jim Crow through collaborative discussion and gives students an opportunity to practice answering questions they may later be asked to write about.
  • Fishbowl is an engaging and student-centered strategy that builds comprehension while developing group discussion skills. In the inner circle, or fishbowl, students have a text-based discussion and practice responding to multiple points of view; students in the outer circle listen to the discussion and take notes. 
  • Socratic Seminar is an inquiry-driven discussion in which students examine issues and respond to open-ended questions about the themes and topics in a text. Using dialogue rather than debate to communicate, students listen attentively and respond civilly. But they are also expected to think critically, make persuasive claims and counterclaims and generate questions supported by evidence.

 

Closing Activity

Recall for students the title of Chapter 1: “The Rebirth of Caste.” In this chapter, Alexander provides an historical overview to illustrate the persistence of racial hierarchy and the evolution of racial caste systems in the United States.

Have students plot what they have learned in this lesson onto the Rebirth of Caste graphic organizer. You can do this as a class, in partners or small groups or with students working independently. The list below can help get started: 

  • “law and order” rhetoric
  • mass incarceration
  • race-neutral rhetoric
  • The War on Drugs
  • white resistance to civil rights reforms

 

Exit Ticket

Have students return to their “I know … , I wonder … , I believe … ” responses from the Warm Up. 

  1. Has anything you thought you knew changed? Explain.
  2. Have any of your beliefs changed? Explain.
  3. Were any of the things you wondered about answered? Explain.
  4. What new questions do you have?

 

Return to Teaching The New Jim Crow | Proceed to Lesson 6 - The War on Drugs—Mechanisms and Effects