Social Control and "Otherness"


Dr. Jason Michael Williams I Criminal Justice I Commentary I October 3rd, 2013



When looking at the consequences of the war on drugs, many politicians who voted toward its fruition presently look back and iterate expressions of sorrow. They claim to feel guilt and wish as if they had never voted for a policy that not only has obliterated Black community efficacy but a policy that has also broken up Black families like never seen since the days of slavery. Politicians of this order are the worst kind of politician because they can engage in political-malpractice while not being held accountable. However, the blame for much of this malpractice also falls upon the ignorance and profound silence of the masses that continually refuse to speak up in the face of such grave injustice, simply because this threat of injustice does not apply to them, or so they think.

The end-result of this problem, of course, is the death of people, communities, and the nation. Nevertheless, the consequences of this problem has failed to shock the majority into acting in a manner consistent with human dignity and the urgency necessary to combat this never-ending war against certain segments of society. The criminal justice system, for the most part, operates as a contemporary system of slavery. For example, slavery, before it was "officially" done away with, provided the majority with a system that kept them at the top, while also keeping Blacks at the bottom. After the Civil War, slavery had lost its footing in the south and the advent of Black Codes and Jim Crow took its place. However, it would not be too long before human dignity/rights would prevail again, thus canceling "separate but equal." However, now the majority was left with another problem, it was one of social control yet again. How could the majority control the masses contemporarily without appearing as if it is denying the "others" human dignity/rights? The answer to this question would come by way of the criminal justice system.

The criminal justice system, a supposedly democratic and impartial institution would later punish and control the "others" in the name of democracy and fairness. In fact, it was during the 1980s when the "war on drugs" in particular gained superior footing alongside the emergence of conservative criminology, which really catapulted the administration of justice away from the rehabilitative practices won in the 1960s-70s and toward a more punitive orientation. This shift within policy and academic criminology led to the grave disparities and injustices presently recognized in the system today.

Nonetheless, the outcome of this paradox accentuates that although Blacks are citizens of the U.S., by way of the criminal justice system they have subjective citizenship (this is reflected in disenfranchisement studies/stats). Blacks possess a citizenship that must be constantly validated (e.g., birthers), and at any time their citizenship can lose its benefits if they should ever come in contact with the criminal justice system, which is highly likely because of differential law enforcement and the occupation of Black communities by law enforcement. This partnership between the criminal justice system and racial demotion/subjugation is one that maintains white supremacy. Today, the criminal justice system serves as a democratic function in furthering white supremacy at the expense of minorities (mostly Blacks) and nobody speaks upon it because, theoretically, the processes that govern the administration of justice are based on the consensus model.

What further complicates this absurdity is the advent or notion of colorblindness-that, in fact, the U.S. presently operates in a reality that excludes race as a factor in any fashion. The use of colorblindness as a reality is, of course, an anecdotal expression of white conservation it is neither true nor achievable because colorblindness is the quintessential enemy of individualism. More important, an adaptation to colorblindness presents to society the same issue that colorblindness attempts to solve, a society in which people cannot be themselves.

Furthermore, many people wonder if a consciousness will ever arise out the U.S. regarding the issue of subjective citizenship by way of criminal sanctions, yet one must also wonder if it serves the best interests of the majority to rid it. Would the majority be willing to sacrifice and allow others to be themselves and participate in the greater American society without having to be someone else? Major contemporary implications regarding the criminal justice system as a tool of racial control would be the post-911 era and the super heightened surveillance complex that presently invades minority life. Although many (regardless of race/ethnicity) in the U.S. are now complainants against the strong surveillance state which now exists, they should be reminded that such a reality is nothing new to minority communities - yet the majority only sees such mechanisms as strange when they are the target. Until citizenship is conceptualized as an equal possession for all, the lives of certain sectors within society will continue to be micro-managed via the criminal justice system, "democratically" of course. However, those who have lived under auspices of validation and superiority for so long may soon need to rethink their position given the onslaught of the surveillance complex which is slowly but surely becoming racially indiscriminate in its processes. Now is the time to bind together as one despite these differences. Whether this is possible or not remains to be seen.