Wacquant - From Slavery to Mass Incarceration - Critique and Reflection

1394 Words May 5th, 2014 6 Pages
From Slavery to Mass Incarceration: Necessary Extremes

Of the supplementary readings provided, I found “From Slavery to Mass Incarceration” by Loïc Wacquant the most intriguing. This particular article is based on “rethinking the ‘race question’ in the US” and the disproportionate institutions set apart for African Americans in the United States. The volatile beginnings of African Americans presented obvious hardships for future advancement, but Wacquant argues that they still suffer from a form of modern slavery.
Wacquant introduces four “peculiar institutions” that are responsible for the “control” of African Americans throughout United States history: chattel slavery, the Jim Crow system, the ghetto, and arguably the dark ghetto
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However, Wacquant brings the term “inner city” to light, breaking down its meaning: “black and poor.” Living in Chicago gives one an exemplary example of the term “inner city” meaning “poor, black ghettos.” The references to “inner city” schools being synonymous with “poor quality” and “mostly African American” are damaging to urban terminology and creating a predetermined perspective of those who call the “inner city” home. The “hypersegregation” of the city of Chicago is a topic within itself, but the institution of segregation is, without question, existent here. In addition, “inner city” is becoming a label which implies unavoidable incarceration.
“As the walls of the ghetto shook and threatened to crumble, the walls of the prison were correspondingly extended, enlarged and fortified. . .” (Wacquant 2002:52). In his account, Wacquant implies that once ghettos began to disperse, American society required a new place for African Americans to reside: prison. Reading this article, one would never know that African Americans existed outside ghettos and prisons. The concept of African Americans in suburbia or anywhere of decent living standards is ignored completely. There is no dispute over the “racially skewed mass imprisonment” (Wacquant 2002:56) of black men and women, but not only African Americans inhabit ghettos and the “inner city.” However, the “centuries-old…