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Research Guides | Library | Amherst College
Racial Justice Resource Guide
These books and films are available online to the Amherst College community. This guide is not meant to be an exhaustive list, but rather a starting point for learning and thinking about some of these topics.
Are Prisons Obsolete? by Angela Y. DavisWith her characteristic brilliance, grace and radical audacity, Angela Y. Davis has put the case for the latest abolition movement in American life: the abolition of the prison. As she quite correctly notes, American life is replete with abolition movements, and when they were engaged in these struggles, their chances of success seemed almost unthinkable. For generations of Americans, the abolition of slavery was sheerest illusion. Similarly, the entrenched system of racial segregation seemed to last forever, and generations lived in the midst of the practice, with few predicting its passage from custom. The brutal, exploitative (dare one say lucrative?) convict-lease system that succeeded formal slavery reaped millions to southern jurisdictions (and untold miseries for tens of thousands of men, and women). Few predicted its passing from the American penal landscape. Davis expertly argues how social movements transformed these social, political and cultural institutions, and made such practices untenable. In Are Prisons Obsolete?, Professor Davis seeks to illustrate that the time for the prison is approaching an end. She argues forthrightly for "decarceration", and argues for the transformation of the society as a whole.
Publication Date: 2003
The Condemnation of Blackness by Khalil Gibran MuhammadChronicling the emergence of deeply embedded notions of black people as a dangerous race of criminals by explicit contrast to working-class whites and European immigrants, this book reveals the influence such ideas have had on urban development and social policies.
Publication Date: 2010
The End of Policing by Alex VitaleHow the police endanger us and why we need to find an alternative Recent years have seen an explosion of protest against police brutality and repression--most dramatically in Ferguson, Missouri, where longheld grievances erupted in violent demonstrations following the police killing of Michael Brown. Among activists, journalists, and politicians, the conversation about how to respond and improve policing has focused on accountability, diversity, training, and community relations. Unfortunately, these reforms will not produce results, either alone or in combination. The core of the problem must be addressed: the nature of modern policing itself. "Broken windows" practices, the militarization of law enforcement, and the dramatic expansion of the police's role over the last forty years have created a mandate for officers that must be rolled back. This book attempts to spark public discussion by revealing the tainted origins of modern policing as a tool of social control. It shows how the expansion of police authority is inconsistent with community empowerment, social justice--even public safety. Drawing on groundbreaking research from across the world, and covering virtually every area in the increasingly broad range of police work, Alex Vitale demonstrates how law enforcement has come to exacerbate the very problems it is supposed to solve. In contrast, there are places where the robust implementation of policing alternatives--such as legalization, restorative justice, and harm reduction--has led to reductions in crime, spending, and injustice. The best solution to bad policing may be an end to policing.
Publication Date: 2017
Fight the Power by Clarence TaylorA story of resistance, power and politics as revealed through New York City's complex history of police brutality The 2014 killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri was the catalyst for a national conversation about race, policing, and injustice. The subsequent killings of other black (often unarmed) citizens led to a surge of media coverage which in turn led to protests and clashes between the police and local residents that were reminiscent of the unrest of the 1960s. Fight the Power examines the explosive history of police brutality in New York City and the black community's long struggle to resist it. Taylor brings this story to life by exploring the institutions and the people that waged campaigns to end the mistreatment of people of color at the hands of the police, including the black church, the black press, black communists and civil rights activists. Ranging from the 1940s to the mayoralty of Bill de Blasio, Taylor describes the significant strides made in curbing police power in New York City, describing the grassroots street campaigns as well as the accomplishments achieved in the political arena and in the city's courtrooms. Taylor challenges the belief that police reform is born out of improved relations between communities and the authorities arguing that the only real solution is radically reducing the police domination of New York's black citizens.
Publication Date: 2018
From the War on Poverty to the War on Crime by Elizabeth HintonHow did the land of the free become the home of the world's largest prison system? Elizabeth Hinton traces the rise of mass incarceration to an ironic source: not the War on Drugs of the Reagan administration but the War on Crime that began during Johnson's Great Society at the height of the civil rights era.
Publication Date: 2016
Golden Gulag by Ruth Wilson GilmoreSince 1980, the number of people in U.S. prisons has increased more than 450%. Despite a crime rate that has been falling steadily for decades, California has led the way in this explosion, with what a state analyst called "the biggest prison building project in the history of the world." Golden Gulag provides the first detailed explanation for that buildup by looking at how political and economic forces, ranging from global to local, conjoined to produce the prison boom. In an informed and impassioned account, Ruth Wilson Gilmore examines this issue through statewide, rural, and urban perspectives to explain how the expansion developed from surpluses of finance capital, labor, land, and state capacity. Detailing crises that hit California's economy with particular ferocity, she argues that defeats of radical struggles, weakening of labor, and shifting patterns of capital investment have been key conditions for prison growth. The results--a vast and expensive prison system, a huge number of incarcerated young people of color, and the increase in punitive justice such as the "three strikes" law--pose profound and troubling questions for the future of California, the United States, and the world. Golden Gulag provides a rich context for this complex dilemma, and at the same time challenges many cherished assumptions about who benefits and who suffers from the state's commitment to prison expansion.
Publication Date: 2007
The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander; Cornel West (Introduction by)In a bold and innovative argument, a rising legal star shows readers how the mass incarceration of a disproportionate number of black men amounts to a devastating system of racial control. This is a terrifying reality that exists in the UK as much as in the US. Despite the triumphant dismantling of the Jim Crow laws, the system that once forced African-Americans into a segregated second-class citizenship still haunts and the criminal justice system still unfairly targets black men and deprives an entire segment of the population of their basic rights.
Publication Date: 2012
No Place on the Corner by Jan HaldipurWinner, 2019 Goddard Riverside Stephan Russo Book Prize for Social Justice, given by the Goddard Riverside Community Center The impact of stop-and-frisk policing on a South Bronx community What's it like to be stopped and frisked by the police while walking home from the supermarket with your young children? How does it feel to receive a phone call from your fourteen-year-old son who is in the back of a squad car because he laughed at a police officer? How does a young person of color cope with being frisked several times a week since the age of 15? These are just some of the stories in No Place on the Corner, which draws on three years of intensive ethnographic fieldwork in the South Bronx before and after the landmark 2013 Floyd v. City of New York decision that ruled that the NYPD's controversial "stop and frisk" policing methods were a violation of rights. Through riveting interviews and with a humane eye, Jan Haldipur shows how a community endured this aggressive policing regime. Though the police mostly targeted younger men of color, Haldipur focuses on how everyone in the neighborhood--mothers, fathers, grandparents, brothers and sisters, even the district attorney's office--was affected by this intense policing regime and thus shows how this South Bronx community as a whole experienced this collective form of punishment. One of Haldipur's key insights is to demonstrate how police patrols effectively cleared the streets of residents and made public spaces feel off-limits or inaccessible to the people who lived there. In this way community members lost the very 'street corner' culture that has been a hallmark of urban spaces. This profound social consequence of aggressive policing effectively keeps neighbors out of one another's lives and deeply hurts a community's sense of cohesion. No Place on the Corner makes it hard to ignore the widespread consequences of aggressive policing tactics in major cities across the United States.
Publication Date: 2018
Who Do You Serve, Who Do You Protect? by Alicia Garza (Foreword by); Maya Schenwar (Editor); Joe Macaré (Editor); Alana Yu-lan Price (Editor)What is the reality of policing in the United States? Do the police keep anyone safe and secure other than the very wealthy? How do recent police killings of young black people in the United States fit into the historical and global context of anti-blackness? This collection of reports and essays (the first collaboration between Truthout and Haymarket Books) explores police violence against black, brown, indigenous and other marginalized communities, miscarriages of justice, and failures of token accountability and reform measures. It also makes a compelling and provocative argument against calling the police. Contributions cover a broad range of issues including the killing by police of black men and women, police violence against Latino and indigenous communities, law enforcement's treatment of pregnant people and those with mental illness, and the impact of racist police violence on parenting, as well as specific stories such as a Detroit police conspiracy to slap murder convictions on young black men using police informant and the failure of Chicago's much-touted Independent Police Review Authority, the body supposedly responsible for investigating police misconduct. The title Who Do You Serve, Who Do You Protect? is no mere provocation: the book also explores alternatives for keeping communities safe. Contributors include William C. Anderson, Candice Bernd, Aaron Cant#65533;, Thandi Chimurenga, Ejeris Dixon, Adam Hudson, Victoria Law, Mike Ludwig, Sarah Macaraeg, and Roberto Rodriguez.