Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib

Dinner Table Discussion #7

When dealing with prisoners, it is imperative to keep in mind the decision made at the Geneva Conventions to forbid not only torture, but also cruel, humiliating, and degrading treatment for prisoners of war. The United States has violated these decisions time and time again with the establishment of Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib post 9/11, for those who are under suspicion for having affiliations with terrorist organizations such as the Taliban or Al Qaeda, and "information on another impending attack against the United States" (Mora 7).  Mora strongly believes that there should not be a difference between the way we treat US citizens and non citizens since the very foundation of our nation upholds the dignity of the individual. I agree with Mora's rhetoric, as the US's implementation of cruel and unusual punishment is contradictory to our nation's values. Furthermore, the inhumane treatment of prisoners in Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib under United State's supervision has damaged our foreign policy and national security interests.

While Mora makes a strong argument, it is also impractical to not use any form of harsh treatment towards prisoners. It is ideal to have a humanitarian view, but it is also important to note that these prisoners are highly dangerous and punitive measures must be taken to retract information from them, even if it requires cruel treatment. However, these punitive measures should be within reason and not torturous. Mora describes the torturous and inhumane treatment of Qahtani, a detainee who was believed to be the twentieth hijacker in the 9/11 attacks. He had been "subjected to a 160 days of isolation, straddled by taunting female guards, placed on a leash, deprived of heat, deprived of sleep for three days" and more dehumanizing treatment. These punitive measures deprive the prisoner of his human dignity and are completely inhumane and thus should never be used. In such cases, heavy interrogation and punishment should be used, but only to an extent where it is reasonable. Treating prisoners who are accused of heinous crimes in a completely humanitarian way will not get the government the information it needs in order to sustain national security. The government should be responsible for implementing harsh, but reasonable measures when dealing with such criminals.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Japanese Internment Camps

1. In times of war, governments often must balance the needs of national security with the civil rights of citizens. In your opinion, did the Japanese internment order find the right balance between these competing values? Explain your reasons. 

The Japanese internment order did not find the right balance between the needs of national security with the civil rights of citizens. This is because the government generalized all Japanese Americans as being a threat to national security, rather than enacting individual trials and separating the disloyal from the loyal Japanese Americans. Furthermore, the establishment of internment camps and curfews deprived Japanese Americans of their fundamental constitutional and civil rights. 

2. Do you agree that racial prejudice does not play a role in the government's treatment of the Japanese Americans during World War II? Give reasons to support your answer. 

I agree that racial prejudice definitely plays a role in the government's treatment of the Japanese Americans during World War II. The US government failed to investigate Japanese Americans on an individual basis and rather assumed, without any proof, that they were all suspicious of espionage. Furthermore, with the establishment of internment camps, the government had infringed upon the Japanese Americans human and constitutional rights and failed to address them as citizens. Europeans, specifically Germans and Italians, were also suspicious of espionage, yet internment camps and such severe restrictions were not given to them. This shows an example of white privilege towards the Europeans and xenophobia towards people of Asian descent. 

Thursday, February 23, 2017

The Reinforcement of Racial Caste Through Mass Incarceration

Racial hierarchy is a concept that is incredibly prominent in today's society, just as it has always been in the past. This form of racial caste is enforced through the system of mass incarceration and the conditions of colored people are strikingly similar to those in the era of Jim Crow. Law and Order initiated by Nixon was used as a system to target people of color by criminalizing them. This led to the era of the War on Drugs, started by Reagan to further target low income colored communities. Arrests for drug related crime increased sharply and literally wiped out populations of people in these communities. This is particularly problematic because these mass arrests are not made in wealthy white communities where drug crime is the same as those in underprivileged black communities. Conclusively, the era of the war on drugs and mass incarceration has reinforced racial caste in an implicit manner by naming the criminal justice system as "colorblind."

Thursday, February 16, 2017

The Age of Color Blindness

Michelle Alexander explains that "color blindness" or simply not "seeing" race is a way to mask the racial caste system of the US and further enforce white privilege. By one claiming that they do not see color, they cannot be accused of being an outright racist or discriminating against people of color. While it would be ideal for people to not treat others differently by looking at the color of their skin, it is clearly not applied in society. Even saying that one is colorblind, they are claiming that they see everyone as white, thus refusing to acknowledge someone's cultural identity and reinforcing the idea that all white people are pure, not criminal, and simply superior. Furthermore, people who claim to be color blind have implicit racial bias, favoring the white community and criminalizing the black.

Proving that a public official, judge, cop, etc is biased or racist is ultimately impossible in the age of colorblindness. Today, laws state that an official must directly and explicitly demonstrate discrimination in order to prove bias. It is virtually impossible to prove this if officials claim to be "colorblind" and their actions are triggered by implicit racial bias. Essentially, colorblindness is an excuse to be racist. The "All Lives Matter" movement is an example of colorblindness reinforcing white superiority. All Lives Matter is a direct response to the Black Lives Matter movement, which was started to address that black people are still systematically oppressed and the criminal justice system is and always has been against people of color. Privileged whites felt threatened by this movement, and so All Lives Matter was established. All Lives Matter is ideal, but the fact is that black people are devalued in society is a direct contradiction to the notion that all lives matter equally.  By refusing to acknowledge the systematic oppression against black people, racial caste is further enforced.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Law & Order - The New Racial Bribe

As Michelle Alexander states in The New Jim Crow, "the rhetoric of 'law and order' was first mobilized in the late 1950s as Southern governors and law enforcement officials attempted to generate and mobilize white opposition to the Civil Rights Movement." Essentially, law and order was used to criminalize civil rights activists for civil disobedience while fighting Jim Crow. Civil Rights activists who were purposefully disobeying the Jim Crow laws in attempt to desegregate public facilities were viewed as unlawful citizens and criminal. In addition, "Conservatives strategically linked opposition to civil rights legislation" by asserting that, "civil disobedience was a leading cause of crime." Furthermore, "protests were seen as criminal rather than political in nature" (1). It is often forgotten that civil rights activists such as Martin Luther King Jr. who we celebrate and honor today, were seen as felonious rebels and criminals during their time. The conservative "law and order" appealed to lower middle class whites because they strongly opposed integration. 

The Democratic Party had advocated for integration of public facilities, the dismantling of the Jim Crow system, and supported the Civil Rights movement. Because of this, majority of whites began to oppose the Democratic party and supported the Republican party instead. Soon, "The success of law and order rhetoric among whites led conservative Republican analysts to believe that a 'new majority' could be created by the Republican party" (2). The new Republican party would include "the traditional Republican base, the white south, and half the Catholic, blue collar vote of the big cities" (2). Due to the white support for law and order and ultimate opposition to the Democratic party, the parties switched platforms in the sixties. 

Monday, February 6, 2017

Systematic Racial Control in the United States

Reconstruction was an era of African American advancement; African Americans now had political power and set out to finally have greater social and economic equality. The increasing power and say of African Americans in society threatened white people, so they sought a new form of racial social control. Essentially all of the progress made during the Reconstruction Era was overthrown by conservatives who vouched to reverse Reconstruction by "redeeming" the South. As Michelle Alexander explains in The New Jim Crow, "The South was reinforced by a resurgent Ku Klux Klan, which fought a terrorist campaign against Reconstruction governments [through] bombings, lynchings, and mob violence" (Alexander 1). This conservative movement later became known as "Redemption" and marked the end of the Reconstruction Era in 1877.

Following the Redemption, African Americans were targeted through the criminal justice system by being severely punished and basically held as slaves for minor offenses. As Alexander says, "During the decade following Redemption...prisoners became younger and blacker" (1). Soon, segregation laws (Jim Crow) between colored and white people were proposed to create a "separate but equal" society. The Jim Crow system was put in place as another racial bribe. Alexander explains this by saying, "These discriminatory barriers were designed to encourage lower-class whites to retain a sense of superiority over blacks" (2). Additionally, the system of separate but equal was widely accepted by the white community and seen as only "natural" and "the return to sanity." The end of Jim Crow is not entirely clear. By 1945, "A number of whites in the North had concluded that the Jim Crow system would have to be modified if not entirely overthrown" (3). Around the same time, The Supreme Court ruled segregation as unconstitutional in a number of cases. The Civil Rights movement began in the midst of the opposition of Jim Crow, "emboldened by the Supreme Court's decisions and shifting domestic and international political environment" (4). By 1964, the Civil Rights Act was passed and it "formally dismantled the Jim Crow system of discrimination." 

Michelle Alexander brings to light the pattern of racial injustice in our nation by discussing the history of racial disparity. She shows that after every move towards a more socially and economically equal society, it is overthrown by a new form of racial caste and racial bribe, thus creating a constant downward spiral. 

The Racial Bribe - The Foundation of Racism

The United States today is a product of hundred of years of the enslavement of Africans. Simply the history of America cannot be discussed without including racial disparity. Historically, white people have been at the top of the social hierarchy thus establishing white supremacy and white privilege. Initially, however, race did not a contribute as a factor in the inequality amongst people; rather the inequality was largely economical. In her novel titled The New Jim Crow, Michelle Alexander explores how racial relations, racial disparity and racism evolved with the start of slavery.

As Alexander explains in her book, slavery was not initially used to degrade Africans but rather it was a purely economic construct. In fact, during this time much of the white American population lived in poverty, with a small number of wealthy plantation owners. The demand for labor began to rise and was met through slavery. In the colonial period, Africans were powerless and not in a position to fight the system. Plantation owners took advantage of the powerlessness of blacks by importing black directly from Africa and enslaving them en masse. Africans were completely unfamiliar with western culture so it would be difficult for them to interact with the other colonists and establish relations with them. Essentially, these helpless Africans were completely stripped of their culture, degraded and disregarded as human beings, forced into labor and entitled property. To further maintain their superior position, rich plantation owners purposefully created a wedge between white and black people by extending special privileges to poor whites. This strategic divide between black and white people is what Alexander describes as the "racial bribe". Essentially, the racial bribe is a systemized social control that creates whiteness as a privilege and establishes a racial hierarchy. 

The wealthy plantation owners justified the gruesome crime of slavery by classifying Africans as the "inferior class" and "an uncivilized race" such as that of Native Americans. This gave Africans a permanent lower status in society. The beginning of slavery marks the start of racism, white supremacy, white privilege and racial disparity - all issues that continue to exist till this day.