Ta-Nehisi Coates has been releasing transcripts of his interview with President Barack Obama from October—before Trump won. The most recent transcript is depressing.
Ghettoside is fundamentally a book about segregation. Previous posts (Part I and II) have examined how Jill Leovy builds a case for the vigorous policing and prosecution of violent crime, especially murder, as a critical means to suppress historically high black homicide rates. By the end of the book, perhaps as the reader’s expectation for concrete “solutions” bears down, Leovy shifts gears to discuss more explicitly the costs and ramifications of hyper-segregation—the walled city of the racial ghetto.
Jill Leovy has written an astonishing book in ways that I don’t think many have appreciated. Reviewers commonly noted that Leovy brought to light an under-recognized aspect of law enforcement. She emphasizes the importance of under-enforcement in poor segregated neighborhoods, low homicide solve rates in particular, when so much public attention—and anger—has been directed at over-enforcement of low-level drug and property crimes and public-order offenses. Yet, what Leovy is really doing in Ghettoside is building a moral case for incarceration.
I assigned Jill Leovy’s Ghettoside to my first-year writing seminar. We just finished Part I. Ghettoside tells the story of what happens when young men with few legitimate job prospects can shoot and kill with relative impunity because the state is too inept or indifferent to hold the guilty accountable. The book is mesmerizing.
Another conference down, another paper given. Another mad scramble to research and write a tight 10-page paper, deliver it to an audience of colleagues, and wait for their response. As usual, this past conference ended with more of a whimper than a bang.
It is a commonplace these days to cite James Baldwin’s line on the police. You know the one. A white police officer in Harlem is an “occupying soldier,” he wrote in “Fifth Avenue, Uptown,” an Esquire essay from July 1960. More famously, in The Nation, in July 1966, Baldwin wrote: “Harlem is policed like occupied territory.”
After a rough week, I wanted to reflect on what it’s like, emotionally, to work on this particular dissertation. I read and write about too much violence and death. It gets to me. Continue reading
In this post I want to sketch some preliminary thoughts about the invention of proactive policing in the 1960s, whose core ideas laid the groundwork for what scholars and police, by the 1980s, would call Broken Windows policing.
I think we invest too much in police. I don’t mean in terms of dollars and cents but in that we expect police to provide “justice” when that is not what they are designed to do.