Cambridge Forum: NO JUSTICE, NO PEACE: Race and Power in America

with 

TOMMIE SHELBY
KHALIL GIBRAN MUHAMMAD
ELIZABETH HINTON

moderated by DANIELLE ALLEN

Date

Oct
17
Monday
October 17, 2016
7:00 PM

Location

First Parish Church
1446 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138

Tickets

This event is free; no tickets are required.

Cambridge Forum welcomes authors TOMMIE SHELBY, KHALIL GIBRAN MUHAMMAD, and ELIZABETH HINTON for a facilitated discussion around issues of race and structural injustice, and the steps that citizens and governments can take to find practical solutions to problems such as mass incarceration, extreme poverty in disadvantaged communities, and problematic notions of black criminality. This discussion will be moderated by DANIELLE ALLEN, Director of the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics at Harvard University.

This Cambridge Forum event is a collaboration with Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics, Harvard Book Store, Hutchins Center for African & African American Research, Harvard University Press and Boston Review.

Books will be available for sale at the event. This event will not include a book signing.

About Dark Ghettos

Why do American ghettos persist? Decades after Moynihan’s report on the black family and the Kerner Commission’s investigations of urban disorders, deeply disadvantaged black communities remain a disturbing reality. Scholars and commentators today often identify some factor—such as single motherhood, joblessness, or violent street crime—as the key to solving the problem and recommend policies accordingly. But, Tommie Shelby argues, these attempts to “fix” ghettos or “help” their poor inhabitants ignore fundamental questions of justice and fail to see the urban poor as moral agents responding to injustice.

Drawing on liberal-egalitarian philosophy and informed by leading social science research, Dark Ghettos examines the thorny questions of political morality raised by ghettos. Should government foster integrated neighborhoods? If a “culture of poverty” exists, what interventions are justified? Should single parenthood be avoided or deterred? Is voluntary nonwork or crime an acceptable mode of dissent? How should a criminal justice system treat the oppressed? Shelby offers practical answers, framed in terms of what justice requires of both a government and its citizens, and he views the oppressed as allies in the fight for a society that warrants everyone’s allegiance.

“The ghetto is not ‘their’ problem but ours, privileged and disadvantaged alike,” Shelby writes. The existence of ghettos is evidence that our society is marred by structural injustices that demand immediate rectification. Dark Ghettos advances a social vision and political ethics that calls for putting the abolition of ghettos at the center of reform.

About The Condemnation of Blackness

Lynch mobs, chain gangs, and popular views of black southern criminals that defined the Jim Crow South are well known. We know less about the role of the urban North in shaping views of race and crime in American society.

Following the 1890 census, the first to measure the generation of African Americans born after slavery, crime statistics, new migration and immigration trends, and symbolic references to America as the promised land of opportunity were woven into a cautionary tale about the exceptional threat black people posed to modern urban society. Excessive arrest rates and overrepresentation in northern prisons were seen by many whites—liberals and conservatives, northerners and southerners—as indisputable proof of blacks’ inferiority. In the heyday of “separate but equal,” what else but pathology could explain black failure in the “land of opportunity”?

The idea of black criminality was crucial to the making of modern urban America, as were African Americans’ own ideas about race and crime. Chronicling 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 fascinating book reveals the influence such ideas have had on urban development and social policies.

About From the War on Poverty to the War on Crime

In the United States today, one in every thirty-one adults is under some form of penal control, including one in eleven African American men. How did the “land of the free” become the home of the world’s largest prison system? Challenging the belief that America’s prison problem originated with the Reagan administration’s War on Drugs, Elizabeth Hinton traces the rise of mass incarceration to an ironic source: the social welfare programs of Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society at the height of the civil rights era.

Johnson’s War on Poverty policies sought to foster equality and economic opportunity. But these initiatives were also rooted in widely shared assumptions about African Americans’ role in urban disorder, which prompted Johnson to call for a simultaneous War on Crime. The 1965 Law Enforcement Assistance Act empowered the national government to take a direct role in militarizing local police. Federal anticrime funding soon incentivized social service providers to ally with police departments, courts, and prisons. Under Richard Nixon and his successors, welfare programs fell by the wayside while investment in policing and punishment expanded. Anticipating future crime, policymakers urged states to build new prisons and introduced law enforcement measures into urban schools and public housing, turning neighborhoods into targets of police surveillance.

By the 1980s, crime control and incarceration dominated national responses to poverty and inequality. The initiatives of that decade were less a sharp departure than the full realization of the punitive transformation of urban policy implemented by Republicans and Democrats alike since the 1960s.

First Parish Church
1446 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138

Walking from the Harvard Square T station: 2 minutes

As you exit the station, cross Mass. Ave. and look for the newsstand called Crimson Corner. Turn right and proceed north along Mass. Ave. going toward the Cambridge Common. You will pass the Harvard Coop, Bank of America, and CVS. The First Parish Church is located at the corner of Mass. Ave. and Church St. Please enter through the front door of the church.

Event Series: Cambridge Forum

For the past fifty years, Cambridge Forum has provided free public forums for the discussion of the issues and ideas that are shaping our world. From culture to technology, the environment to public policy, Cambridge Forum offers citizens vital information about the challenges facing contemporary society.

Forum programs, which are edited and produced for subsequent broadcast on public radio stations nation-wide, feature the nation's most noted thinkers, creators, social entrepreneurs, and leaders from the worlds of academia, business, government, media and the arts. Programs are held in Harvard Square with book sales provided by Harvard Book Store.

Learn more at cambridgeforum.org.

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