Mass Incarceration of Black Citizens: Redesigning Racial Caste in America

Blog 3

The article, “Virginia Governor calls for inquiry into student arrest”, describes the arrest of Martese Johnson: a 20-year-old, Black student at the University of Virginia (BBC 2015). He is being charged with obstruction of justice without force, public swearing and intoxication. The article recounts that Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) agents arrested him using brute force, tackling the unarmed man to the ground, claiming that he was “very agitated and belligerent”. However, witnesses testify that “he didn’t need to be tackled, he wasn’t being aggressive at all”. There is not much to dissect from what little is said in the article, as it leaves out the incident’s connections to a systemic and historical struggle of disproportionate law enforcement and conviction of racial ethnic minorities and frames it as an isolated incident.

Blog 1Public swearing and intoxication, as well as drug use and possession are prime examples of what sociologists call “crimes without victims”. Crimes without victims are a form of formal state control, and are arbitrary decisions of the state that dictate behaviours worth convicting, but the lack of victims creates room for individual law enforcement agents to arrest and penalize suspects at their own discretion (Tepperman and Tepperman 2012). Since 2002, the United States has had the highest per capita incarceration rate in the world with about 500 prisoners per 100,000 residents in 2010, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics. Forty percent of the total two million male inmates in US jails and prisons are African-American, while African-Americans only make up 12% of the total American population (U.S. Department of Justice, 2009). Black men are sent to state prisons on drug charges at 13 times the rate of white men. This disproportionate black representation in the criminal system does not indicate any inherent traits of African Americans, it merely points to a legal discretionary tool being used to criminalize and silence a particular racial ethnic group. Mandatory minimum sentences confiscate discretionary power from judges who are advertised as informed decision-makers to the public eye, such that the average citizen feels a false sense of confidence and security about the integrity of the justice system.

A discussion of the US Criminal Justice System cannot be complete without exploring the influence of neoliberalism: a free-market philosophy which parallels profit-making to democracy, and consumerism as the only ticket of citizenship. This provides the foundation on which previously public services have been handed over to reigns of private interests to maximize personal profit through the commodification of “practically everything” (Giroux 2012). As a collateral result of the privatization of state functions such as imprisonment, government oversight is lost and therefore there is no governing body to mitigate social damage. The state demands inmates because for-profit prisons aim to maintain an alarmingly high quantity of prisoners. More prisoners mean cheaper labour, through conditions rarely scrutinized under the law. These people become: undocumented bodies, property of the state, and the modern day equivalent of a slave (Lopez, 2015).

Blog 2The U.S. legal system undeniably favours the incarceration of black males; while popular media depicts black males, as less educated and violent to convince the public of this notion that Black people inherently second-class citizens. Negative representations of black males are readily visible and conveyed to the public through news channels, film, music videos, reality television, and other forms of popular media. Typical roles are aggressive black sidekicks of a white protagonist, the comedic relief, the hyper-sexualized “ladies’ man”, or the violent black man as a drug-dealing criminal (Smith 2013). To the public, these messages draw a simple explanation for the mass incarceration of black people, thereby deflecting inquiries into what is truly an expanding form of institutionalized racism.

Alexander, in her widely acclaimed book “The New Jim Crow”, describes mass incarceration as a functional extension of the legacy of American anti-black racism. The war on drugs disproportionately targets blacks and other minorities and the poor across all racial demographics (Kain 2011). In the course text, Gendered Worlds, Aulette and Wittner (2003) describe the US war on drugs where, despite the decline in drug use in the early 1980s, the US government expanded its efforts to stop drug abuse by increasing incarceration of drug offenders. The war on drugs, along with the rest of the “get tough on crime” movement, is directed toward African Americans. While Mr. Johnson’s case described in the article is indicative of overt racial ethnic discrimination by the law enforcement agents, there are other techniques through which higher arrest rates among African Americans exist. For example, enforcement priority is placed on outdoor drug venues, the geographic concentration of police resources in racially heterogeneous areas, and focuses on crack cocaine, which is used by African Americans while the wealthy whites use powdered cocaine (Beckett, Nyrop, and Pfingst 2006). Until 2007, the sentencing laws dictated a minimum sentence of five years for crack cocaine for possession of 1/100th of the amount of powdered cocaine needed to trigger the mandatory minimum penalty, which carried no mandatory sentence.

Blog 4Public response has become more visible and vocal recently, but it is barely a start. In class we discussed the “Black Lives Matter” movement, which was started three years ago after the acquittal of George Zimmerman, Trayvon Martin’s killer. The movement aims to dismantle the New Jim Crow and the prison industrial complex. In many ways, the modern day mistreatment of the non-white populations in the U.S. using justifications of the law, parallel the happenings of pre-Civil Rights Movement U.S. When the Grand Jury decided not to indict Darren Wilson or George Zimmerman in the shooting of unarmed teen Black males, it incited the trauma that Black citizens whose ancestors experienced Master-Slave dynamics in which the death of a slave at the hand of their master was deemed an “accident” under the law. The unyielding state violence and mass incarceration of Black citizens of the U.S. is a testament to Michele Alexander’s almost too-true summary of the phenomenon: “we have not ended racial caste in America; we have merely redesigned it.”

Works Cited

Alexander, Michelle. The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness. Revised ed. Print.

Aulette, Judy Root, and Judith G. Wittner. Gendered Worlds. New York: Oxford UP, 2009. Print.

BBC.” Virginia Governor calls for inquiry into student arrest”. BBC News U.S and Canada. Accessed on April 2 2015. Retrieved from

Beckett, Katherine, Kris Nyrop, and Lori Pfingst. “Race, Drugs, And Policing: Understanding Disparities In Drug Delivery Arrests*.” Criminology 44.1 (2006): 105-137.

Giroux, Henry A. “Radical Art Initiative.” Radical Art Initiative. 30 Nov. 2012. Web. 9 Apr. 2015.

Kain, Erik. “The War on Drugs Is a War on Minorities and the Poor.” Forbes. Forbes Magazine, 28 June 2011. Web. 9 Apr. 2015.

Lopez, Alan. “How American Police Forces & Higher Legal Systems Embody Master/Slave Mentalities -.” 7 Jan. 2015. Web. 9 Apr. 2015.

Minton, Todd D. “Jail inmates at midyear 2010–statistical tables.” Bureau of Justice Statistics, Washington, DC (2011).
Smith, Ph.D. “Images of Black Males in Popular Media.” The Huffington Post., 14 Mar. 2013. Web. 9 Apr. 2015.

Tepperman, Lorne and Alex Tepperman. Deviance, crime, and control: beyond the straight and narrow. Oxford University Press, 2012.

“Support the Movement for Black Lives!” Black Lives Matter. Web. 9 Apr. 2015.

Mass Incarceration of Black Citizens: Redesigning Racial Caste in America

All in “The Name of the Game?” The Perilous Practices in the Sports Industry

Ashley Judd’s enthusiasm for college basketball has recently been silenced by threats and attacks she underwent via Twitter. Following a tweet regarding a play by the opposing team, she received tweets of an assaultive nature, both physically and sexually.[1] While social media could be a vehicle for constructive dialogue or social progression, it also serves as a platform for racism, prejudice, and other harmful forms of bullying.[2] A victim of sexual assault as a youth, Judd drew attention to the systemic problems behind the motive of these tweets; she “asked for it” and deserved it.[3] While the backlash surrounding Judd’s tweet exposes the prevalence of rape culture in many different spaces, one can notice many problematic tendencies before her tweet, beginning with event she was at.

While sports may seem to be a fun, healthy, harmless activity, some of institutions behind this form of recreation possess many colonial trends that one can trace back hundreds of years ago. As an attendee of a college basketball game, Judd was supporting one of many sports organizations which glorify the patriarchal culture; profiting off of lower class, African American bodies, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) is guilty of engaging in the continuation of a form of free labour. During “March Madness,” over one billion dollars is made in ad revenue, and college basketball coaches, often white, upper class, Christian men, make millions of dollars a year. Despite these numbers, players do not make a penny, and the NCAA reminds the media that they are “students, not employees.” With many of these players struggling to maintain their college workload, coming from households so poor that “their lights are about to get cut off,” these men are inherently abused by the system and their coaches. [4]

Michael Sam

These “opportunities” that young men are given are not without threats, significant sacrifices, and hazing, and like many other institutions, the league is not open to any talented player. Michael Sam, an openly gay football player, has been kicked off of two NFL teams; while coaches deny that his sexual orientation had anything to do with the decision, one look at Sam’s statistics makes it clear that this is likely the case, reminding one that sports remains an inherently heterosexist space.[5] While race might not be an issue, being cisgendered and straight certainly is. Additionally, coaches verbally abuse their players for an “unacceptable” performance by using gay slurs; for instance, one coach angrily told his players, “You’re a fucking faggot, you’re a fucking fairy.”[6] Additionally, “fag” is regarded as one of the worst insults in the world of sports.[7]

Toronto Argo Cheerleaders

While there is no space for gay athletes in sports, the spaces that women occupy is also rather alarming. Women are spectators, but only if accompanied by men, “sports moms,” or are cheerleaders or dancers, having their bodies objectified for the purpose of straight men’s entertainment. In addition, the sports industry possesses a glass ceiling, as women athletes are almost always unable to attain the same levels of success that men athletes are.[8] Men are consistently paid more than women athletes, and many sports fans are unaware of the women’s equivalents available to them, allowing one to realize that lack of proper attention women athletes receive. Many of these problematic tendencies can be linked back to the “television sports manhood formula”; some of the features of this formula include that “white men are the voice of authority,” that “sports are a man’s world, ” and that women are “sexy props” for men.[9] Unfortunately, the attention that women in sports often receive is one of a hyper-sexualized nature, simply serving as accessories to the game. When asked how to increase the popularity of women’s soccer, one of the head executives of the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) suggested the athletes “should wear shorter shorts.”[10] Unfortunately, such horrific sentiments are not uncharacteristic of the organization.

NCAA State Teams

One could easily liken organizations like the NCAA and FIFA to other colonial structures; Joddi Alden points out that colonialism exists in the form of white supremacy, and capitalism commodifies workers and their bodies, and these tendencies can easily be spotted in both organizations.[11] With each organization being ruled by white, upper class, Christian men, they profit off of bodies in different ways. For the NCAA, many of the basketball players are lower-class African Americans, who go unpaid for their participation, while their coaches have million dollar salaries.[12] FIFA is inherently colonial, as it goes into second and third world countries, demands that the nation’s government build multi-million dollar stadiums that they cannot afford, and institute their own rules and regulations, whether or not they conflict with a country’s laws. Meanwhile, all of the profits for the games go to FIFA. With the 2022 games being hosted in Qatar, a nation regarded as a “modern day slave state…4000 workers will die before a ball is kicked off.”[13] FIFA successfully engages in a short-term form of colonialism, one based on the exploitation of labor, leaving these nations in crippling conditions.[14]

Ashley Judd’s treatment on Twitter was absolutely horrendous, and showcased one of many problematic discourses that are a product of the sports industry. Hegemonic masculinity is the only acceptable mentality for many sports; these sports, regarded as power and performance sports, “organize hierarchies of authorities from owners to coaches to athletes,” perpetuate colonial methodologies and racialized frameworks.[15] African Americans were previously seen as a form of technology during the long-lasting transatlantic slave trade, but continue to be regarded as forms of property, rather than humans, by the sports industry.[16] Additionally, FIFA seems to have co-opted their own colonial practices, by entering third world countries, forcing their practices on citizens, and leaving the nation in worse circumstances. Many think of sports as just “fun and games,” but one need not dig deep to find an abundance of problematic practices.

[1] Charlotte Alter. “Ashley Judd Speaks Out About Twitter Abuse and Rape” Time Magazine, March 19, 2015.

[2] Danyel Haughton, “Seeing is Not Believing.”

[3] Ashley Judd article Ashley Judd. “Forget Your Team: Your Online Violence Toward Girls and Women Is What Can Kiss My Ass.” Identities Mic, March 19, 2015.

[4] John Oliver, “The NCAA,” March 15, 2015.

[5] Will Femia. “Michael Sam, First Openly Gay NFL Player, Cut by St. Louis Rams.” MSNBC, August 30, 2014.
Greg Price. “First Openly Gay Football Player Cut By Dallas Cowboys, So What’s Next for Michael Sam And The NFL?” International Business Times, October 22, 2014.

[6] John Oliver, “The NCAA,” March 15, 2015.

[7] Judy Aulette Root and Judith Wittner. Gendered Words, Third Edition. (New York: Oxford, 2015): 447

[8] Ibid, 452.

[9] Ibid, 444.

[10] John Oliver, “FIFA and the World Cup,” June 8, 2014.

[11] Joddi Alden, “Globalization, Colonialism, and Orientalism in Visual Culture.”

[12] John Oliver, “The NCAA,” March 15, 2015.

[13] John Oliver, “FIFA and the World Cup,” June 8, 2014

[14] Maria-Teresa Matani. “Colonialism and Slavery.”

[15] Root Aulette and Wittner, Gendered Worlds, 459.

[16] Danyel Haughton, “Seeing is Not Believing.”


Alden, Joddi. “Globalization, Colonialism, and Orientalism in Visual Culture.” GNDS 125 Lecture, January 29, 2015.

Alter, Charlotte. “Ashley Judd Speaks Out About Twitter Abuse and Rape” Time Magazine, March 19, 2015. Accessed April 1, 2015.

Femia, Will. “Michael Sam, First Openly Gay NFL Player, Cut by St. Louis Rams.” MSNBC, August 30, 2014. Accessed April 5, 2015.

Haughton, Danyel. “Seeing is Not Believing” GNDS 125 Lecture, March 2, 2015

Judd, Ashley. “Forget Your Team: Your Online Violence Toward Girls and Women Is What Can Kiss My Ass.” Identities Mic, March 19, 2015. Accessed April 1, 2015

Matani, Maria-Teresa. “Colonialism and Slavery.” GNDS 125 Tutorial, February 12, 2015.

Oliver, John. “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: FIFA and the World Cup (HBO)” YouTube Video, 13:13. Posted by “LastWeekTonight”

Oliver, John. “Last Week Tonight With John Oliver: The NCAA (HBO)” YouTube Video, 20:53. Posted by “LastWeekTonight”

Price, Greg. “First Openly Gay Football Player Cut By Dallas Cowboys, So What’s Next for Michael Sam And The NFL?” International Business Times, October 22, 2014, Accessed April 5, 2015.

Root Aulette, Judy and Wittner, Judith. Gendered Words, Third Edition. New York: Oxford, 2015.

All in “The Name of the Game?” The Perilous Practices in the Sports Industry

Repairing the Gap


At a very early age boys are taught that they should be “masculine.” In order fit the hegemonic masculine image they must exhibit traits such as aggression, competitiveness, and strength. Gender stereotypes also reinforce the notion that boys should play and watch sports. For example, many boys are socialized at a young age by playing hockey with ‘mini sticks’, while girls are encouraged to play non-aggressive games such as ‘house’. As children grow up, these stereotypes continue to be reinforced. The propagation of these stereotypes work to reinforce the large gap in gender equality within the sporting industry.

Males have always dominated the fan base in sports and because of this there is a generalization that men are more knowledgeable and committed to sports than women. This male privilege has helped foster the creation of the term “Puck Bunny.” In 2004, the term “Puck Bunny” was added to the Canadian Oxford Dictionary (Albrechtson, 2009). It is a word used in hockey that objectifies and stereotypes women; Puck Bunny refers to “a woman who goes to hockey games for the sole purpose of ‘scoring’ with one of the players afterwards, a hockey whore.” (Avery, 2009) This generalization that men have more knowledge of and commitment to sports and the concept of a Puck Bunny both work to oppress women in the sports industry. This has prevented women from being taken seriously or treated with respect within certain context of the sports world.

Women may have a difficult time in the male socialized sports world and this is exemplified through the story of Ashley Judd. Often, if one speaks out in opposition to the opinions of our patriarchal society, they become shunned. Judd’s story sheds light on this patriarchal and capitalistic control that is insidious within the entire sports industry. Judd, a 42-year-old actress and advocate for social justice cheered for the University of Kentucky’s basketball team during the SEC Tournament Finals on Sunday, March 15th, 2015. In the midst of the excitement, Judd tweeted against the opposing team, “playing dirty & can kiss my team’s free throw making a—.” (Time, 2015) In response to Judd’s tweet, twitter followers sent her explicit and threatening tweets. The content of these tweets objectified, insulted, sexualized, and dehumanized her. Judd explained to UsMagazine that the amount of gender based violence she experienced was “absolutely extraordinary” and resulted in her filing police reports (Lee, 2015). Through Judd’s story, we can understand that the male-dominated, capitalistic sports industry further increases the oppression of women and perpetuates negative stereotypes.

For years, professional female athletes have not been given the same opportunities that men have been given. The best example of this is the National Hockey League (NHL) where only men are allowed to play. Although there is a Women’s Canadian Hockey League (WCHL), it is far less supported or acknowledged in comparison to the NHL. In Mett Larkin’s article, The fight to sell women’s hockey: Can the CWHL become the WNBA, he explains that the CWHL has sponsors such as Scotiabank, Bauer, and Molson, yet these companies do not provide the significant financial aid that the league needs in order to break into a new popularity stratosphere. However, Sportsnet has made a four-year deal to broadcast three games during the Clarkson Cup tournament in March as well as the December’s CWHL All-Star Game (The Hockey News, 2015). Although these are positive gains for women, our patriarchal society still teaches boys and girls at an early age that is it male athletes who deserve the encouragement and high levels of legitimacy. Male athletes are therefore perceived as more profitable and have the best opportunities for success.

Not only does this gender inequality make it more difficult for women to play professional sports, but there are also many situations within the sports world where women are downgraded and hyper-sexualized. Serena Williams is the first black woman to be ranked No. 1 in women’s singles tennis (Gaston, 2014). Despite her achievements, she experiences body shaming, racism and dehumanization. Williams experiences exemplifies the white supremacy that controls the sporting industry. In one example, Sid Rosenberg, a radio host on 640 Sports referred to Williams as an “animal”. In other instances, remarks made about Williams include suggestions that black women aren’t “real women” and that they are “indistinguishable” from men due to their ‘dangerous’ black bodies (Desmond-Harris, 2015). The horrible backlash that Williams receives as a woman of colour illustrates how society is still affected by the long history of colonialism and slavery. As explored in tutorial during Week 6, during the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade it was common for black women to be raped and victimized because they were viewed as property, free laborers and not civilized humans (Maria-Teresa, 2015). Similar to Laverne Cox’s video on the violence trans women of colour experience, it is apparent that racial inequality is still prevalent throughout society.

Both Ashley Judd and Serena Williams have been victims to the unfair treatment that women are subjected to within the sports world; however, Judd is a white woman and because of this she has a privileged positionality. This positionality allows her to have a voice in speaking out and raising awareness of the oppression women experience in the sports world. Judd does so by retweeting everyone’s tweets that related to her. In this act of defiance, Judd resists the patriarchal system and the misogyny that surrounds the sports industry. Although raising awareness is important in eradicating injustices, her protest stems from her experience as a white women and does not include mention of the oppression that black women experience in the sports world. This situation highlights the complexity around speaking out and raises the question: can one activist speak for all women?

In Danyel Haughton’s special lecture on Seeing is Not Believing, she emphasizes the importance of Black twitter and the use of the hashtag #Blacklivesmatter. Through the use of social media, the black community is able to speak up about the systematic and purposeful targeting they experience (Haughton, 2015). Twitter is a powerful tool, one that is utilized by both Judd and black communities around the world.Hopefully, the continual use of media activism will result in more support, acknowledgment and ultimately the eradication of the oppression women face in the sports industry.

Serena+Williams+Olympics+Day+5+Tennis+tUriNuTp_JGl 26BE63AE00000578-2999350-image-m-112_1426617771549 _78577973_disparity_5

Work Cited

Albrechtson, Meagan. “She Got Game.” Toronto Sun. Canoe Sun Media, 6 June 2009. Web. 5 Apr. 2015. Retrieved from <;.

Avery, Martin. The Devils Wear Bauer (Not Prada)., 2009. 56. Print.

Charlotte, Alter. “Ashley Judd Speaks Out About Twitter Abuse and Rape.” Time. Time, 19 Mar. 2015. Web. 5 Apr. 2015. Retrieved from <;.

Desmond- Harris, Jenee. “Beyond Indian Wells: Serena Williams Has Been Consistently Disrespected for Her Entire Career.” Vox. Vox Media, 11 Mar. 2015. Web. 5 Apr. 2015. Retrieved from <;.

Gaston, Corinne. “Serena and Venus Williams Battle More Body-Shaming.” Ms Magazine Blog. 23 Oct. 2014. Web. 5 Apr. 2015. Retrieved from <;.

Haughton. “Seeing Is Not Believing.” GNDS 125 Lecture . Queen’s University. Bioscience Complex, Kingston. 2 Mar. 2015. Lecture.

Larkin, Matt. “The Fight to Sell Women’s Hockey: Can the CWHL Become the WNBA?”The Hockey News. Transcontinental Media G.P., 5 Jan. 2015. Web. 5 Apr. 2015. Retrieved from <;.

Lee, Esther. Ashley Judd Pressing Charges Against Twitter Trolls for Vulgar Tweets: They Need to “Take Personal Responsibility” US WEEKLY, 17 Mar. 2015. Web. 5 Apr. 2015. Retrieved from <;.

Matani, Maria-Teresa. “Colonialism and Slavery.” Tutorial . , Kingston . 12 Feb. 2015. Class Lecture.

Repairing the Gap

Black lives matter

The article that I will analysis in this blog is about the violent arrest of a 20 year old black youth, Martese Johnson (BBC 2015). I could discuss what happened to him, however this is unfortunately not a one off incident. It is the result of an ever growing culture of greed, ignorance and deeply embedded racism. The rapid escalation of structural racial violence in the name of the Criminal Justice System in the United States is because of the rise of neoliberal capitalism and the privatization of the prison system (Davies 2014).

Neoliberal    Neoliberalism is a political economic doctrine that argues that social progress can be most effectively furthered by ‘liberating individual entrepreneurial freedoms and skills within an institutional framework, characterized by strong private property rights, free markets and free trade’ (Harvey 2005:2) In other words, it is the progression and restructuring of the advanced capitalist system. Neoliberal policy involves minimizing the role of the state to enable the free flow of the market.

Neoliberal ideology is built on a meritocracy model, where by everyone is seen to have equal chance to gain access to rewards in society, thus neoliberalism is essentially colour blind(Aulette and Wittner 2015).As neoliberalism sees human agency as simply a matter of individualized choices. Colour blindness within a social economic system produces systemic and institutional racism by ignoring past histories of slavery and colonialism (Davies 2014).


Today people of colour continue to be disproportionality incarcerated, policed and sentenced to death at significantly higher rates than their white counter parts. While people of colour make up about 30 percent of the United States’ population, they account for 60 percent of those imprisoned. The prison population grew by 700 percent from 1970 to 2005, a rate that is outpacing crime and population rates (Kirby 2012). Whilst the rate of imprisonment for black male youth is extortionate, it should also be noted that the fastest growing group of prisoners are black women and that Native American prisoners are the largest group per capita statistically (Davies 2015).

Angela Davies

Today under neoliberalism attention is deflected away from the reality of institutional racism and toward blaming the ‘culture of poverty’ or ‘drug and ghetto culture’ (Ansell 1997:111). This kind of discourse falls back on the old cultural stereotypes that have been generated throughout colonial and imperial history. In the U.S policing has increased to combat the ‘war on drugs’ however because of colonial based stereotypes, this means that the war on drugs is directed at African American youth, even though research on drug use shows that the ‘races’(because race as a concept is a social construction) are similar for different racial ethnic groups. This gives the police and in the case of Martese Johnson the Alcoholic Beverage Control the ability to justify the rise of surveillance and racialized random police checks (Aulette and Wittner 2015).

Giroux states that “mobilization of state violence is symptomatic of the neoliberal, racist, punishing state emerging all over the world” (2014:1) Racialized repression under capitalism can ultimately linked to the birth of slavery, under slavery black bodies were used as commodities as resources to be bought and sold. Wacquant (2002) makes suggest that modern racial discrimination and the rise of the prison industrial system has horrifying similarities to slavery.


The prison industrial complex has become a for-profit business in which inmates are the product. In late 2013, a new report from In the Public Interest (ITPI) revealed that private prison companies who use (low paid/ free) prison labour, such as Motorola and Microsoft are striking deals with states that contain clauses guaranteeing high prison occupancy(Davies 2015). This means that states agree to supply prison corporations with a steady flow of residents–whether or not that level of criminal activity exists. Some experts believe this relationship between government and private prison corporations encourages law enforcement agencies to use underhanded tactics often targeting minority and underserved groups to fill cells (Buczynski 2014).If the notion of punishment is a source for profit, then a the colour blind (racist)neoliberal system and ideology makes mass punishment become a normalized aspect of society (Davies 2015).

The Prison Industrial Complex

The masking of racism and the mass incarceration of people of colour in the prison industrial system is repeating history. Communities of colour, immigrants, the unemployed, the undereducated, the homeless, and in general on those who inhabit the substratum of the hierarchical based society are being used as commodities, as products to make capital that can be pumped back into the ever advanced system of capitalism. The prison system was once supposed to be used for rehabilitation to help citizens to get back on their feet, however today under the confines on neoliberalism is just a packaging plant, a place to manufacture capital through free labour, it is a modern day system of slavery (Davies 2015)).


            This is all very disheartening and makes one wonder why we are not fighting back against this neoliberal capitalist system that is debilitating every aspect of our lives. We can!!! In fact there are bunch of grassroots organizations that are fighting to not only end the prison industrial complex, but fighting to smash boarders, prisons and the state (and eventually take down capitalism and all forms of oppressive hierarchical structures). One of these organizations is Kingston based [EPIC] and have information available at


Ansell, A, E. “New Right and Reaction in the United States and Britain”. Washington Square New York: University Press .1997

BBC.” Virginia Governor calls for inquiry into student arrest”. BBC News U.S and Canada. Accessed on April 2 2015. Retrieved from

Buczynski, Beth. “Shocking Facts about Americas for Profit Prison Industry”. 2014. Truth Out Retrieved on April 1 2015. from

Davis. Y. Angela. “The Meaning of Freedom and other Difficult Dialogues.” NewYork : City Lights Books 2014. Retrieved from

Davis. Y. Angela. “Masking Racism: Reflections on the Prison Industrial Complex”. From History as a weapon. April 1 2015. Retrieved from

Epic. “Fuck your racist Prisons, Fuck your Racist Nation: Imigration Detention and the Prison Industrial Complex” in End the Prison Industrial Complex [ Zine] Accessed on April 2 2015. Available at

Giroux, A. Henry “State Terrorism and Racist Violence in the Age of Disposability: From Emmett Till to Eric Garner.” Truth Out December 5 2014. Available at Accessed March 28 2015

Harvey, David. “A brief history of Neoliberalism”. Oxford: Oxford University Press 2005

Kerby, Sophia. “ The Top 10 Most Startling Facts about People of Color and Criminal Justice in the United States: A Look at the Racial Disparities Inherent in Our Nation’s Criminal-Justice System”. A center for American Progress. 2002 Retrieved on March 29 2015. From.

Root, Aulette. Judy and Judith, Wittner. “Gendered Worlds” New York: Oxford University Press 2015

Wacquant, Loic. “From Slavery to Mass Incarceration: Rethinking the ‘Race Question’ in the US”. New Left Review 13. 2002 Retrieved April 1 2015. From

Why Racialized Trans Women Deserve Their Own Discourse

Laverne Cox is a racialized trans woman best known for her role as Sophia Burset on the Netflix television series Orange Is the New Black. She holds a strong presence in LGBTQ advocacy, and this clip captures her explaining her unique positionality as not only a trans woman but, what that means for her as a Black woman. She begins the speech with a personal anecdote, in which two males harass her for being Black, for being female, and for being trans. She then goes on to describe the intersecting avenues of oppression that work in unison with each other to silence, marginalize, and undervalue her.

We must first understand transmisogyny in terms of how it differs from cismisogyny, and the role it plays in modern day feminism. In a society that views all non-male bodies through the lens of the male gaze, trans women are often viewed as “traps” (Devereaux 2015). The media actively leaves out anecdotes of trans women being in relationships, and those experiencing intimate partner violence have new narratives slapped on them that claim, “he didn’t know” or that “he was tricked, of course he reacted that way” (Devereaux 2015). Transphobia, the discrimination of and negative attitudes toward transgender people based on their gender expression, is ever present and permeates the lived realities for every trans identity in some way or another (Kacere 2014). Transmisogyny then, describes the unique lived experience of misogyny (the hatred and devaluing of females and characteristics deemed feminine) that trans women face, where the oppression takes the form of negative attitudes, cultural hate, overt or covert individual and state violence, targeted toward gender non-conforming people that err on the feminine end of the gender spectrum.

We cannot understand the true motivation behind transmisogyny without considering the socio-historical context in which this oppression exists. The European colonization of the lands we now know as North America brought industrial capitalism to the previously naturalist land, which not only exploited the land and resources of pre-modern naturalists, but also introduced a division of labour and market between men and women (Aulette and Wittner 2012). In this capitalist society that profits by subscribing to a clear-cut gender binary system and marginalizing those who pose a threat to the validity of this otherwise arbitrary system, there is little room to tolerate those who deviate from this falsified standard of “normative” gender identities.

Laverne Cox emphasizes that most of the harassment she experiences comes from other “black folks”. This phenomenon, as Cox explains, does not imply that Black bodies are inherently more violent or intolerant. Rather, it is indicative of the trauma that Black males are inclined to feel, due to the historic emasculation of Black male bodies in a society driven by white supremacy. As a result, Black trans women are seen as an embodiment of a disgraceful past (Cox 2014). There is merit to her emphasis on this observation. In my personal life I often encounter people who advocate for the cessation of anti-racism discourse, insisting that racism no longer exists, or that it is a “thing of the past”. The millenials have re-invented history and distanced themselves from the happenings of history so much so that we disregard the fact that Jim Crow laws were enforced until the 1960’s, and the Civil Rights Movement was really only 50 years ago (Deutsch 2014). The “trauma” that Cox speaks of is not individual trauma, but a systemic trauma that Black identities in the United States continue to experience as a result of living in a society still peppered with the remnants of such discrimination that happened only a generation ago.

Though Cox does not engage in discussion about the different lived experiences between trans men and trans women, it is an analysis worth exploring. In the last decade, trans activism has made undeniable progress in Western societies. However, those who spearhead and take the visible roles in this activism are almost always white trans men. Ultimately, this activism contributes in part to the silencing of trans women of colour. Trans women, especially those of colour, are denied the agency to advocate for their own realities and challenges while white trans men continue to use their anecdotes to promote the “need for trans visibility” (Leftytgirl 2012).

Additionally, Cox fails to explore systems of oppression that span on greater magnitudes than individual encounters. The oppression of trans women occurs at all levels of societal functions, including state violence. According to the National Transgender Discrimination Survey (NTDS), transgender women report disproportionately higher rates of incarceration and victimization while incarcerated, with Black, Latina, and mixed race transgender women experiencing an even higher rate of victimization (Reisner et al 2014). These statistics are indicative of the blatant gender and racial policing that incarcerates women into institutions unwilling to recognize minority gender identities by housing trans women in male correctional institutions, thereby creating the breeding grounds for the in-house violence that targets trans women.

In collaboration with white supremacy and patriarchal ideals working in unison with a dichotomous system of gender, we are left with racialized trans women like Laverne Cox experiencing multiple avenues of oppression. Many that identify as a Black trans woman are forced into unemployment, poverty, sex work and higher rates of poor health. The statistics are undeniable, and yet the voices are unheard. Why? Because, as Cox reminds us, we have not yet learned to love each other… “Justice is what love looks like in public” (Cox, 2014).

Works Cited

“A Concise History of Black-White Relations in the United States” Everyday Feminism. 8 Oct, 2014. Web. 16 Mar. 2015. Retrieved from

“Laverne Cox Explains the Intersection of Transphobia, Racism, and Misogyny (And What to Do About It)” Everyday Feminism. 7 Dec, 2014. Web. 16 Mar. 2015. Retrieved from

“On Transmisogyny, Racism: Trans Women of Colour Speak for Themselves” Leftytgirl. 27 May, 2012. Web. 16 Mar 2015. Retrieved from

“Prison Detention and Reform” Web. 17 Mar 2015. Retrieved from

“Transmisogyny 101: What It Is and What Can We Do About It” Everyday Feminism. 27 Jan, 2014. Web. 17 Mar. 2015. Retrieved from

“When Every Summer Is Your Own Personal ‘Summer of Sam’: On the Taking of Black Trans Women’s Lives and How To Stop it Now” Black Girl Dangerous. 12 March, 2015. Web. 16 Mar 2015. Retrieved from

Root Aulette, Judy and Wittner, Judith. Gendered Words, Third Edition. New York: Oxford, 2015.

Walker, Julia K. “Investigating Trans People’s Vulnerabilities to Intimate Partner Violence/Abuse.” Partner Abuse 6.1(2015): 107-125

Why Racialized Trans Women Deserve Their Own Discourse

“It’s perfectly legal- but is it right?”

One would never expect to be neglected of basic necessities, such as health care, due to their sexual orientation, and for it to be perfectly legal. However, this is exactly what happened to Krista and Jami Contrearas, whose six-day-old infant was turned away by Doctor Roi for this reason. With the mothers citing that they are “completely prepared for this to happen other places,” this highlights many problematic trends in the United States.[1] Clearly a proponent of a heteronormative society, Doctor Roi’s prejudicial actions are protected under the American Medical Association (AMA). However, the protections of many minority rights are not yet established. The United States has yet to legalize gay marriage nationally, and many citizens are suffering as a result. Meanwhile, subsequent laws are being passed to legalize discrimination against the LGBTQ community, and to safeguard religious rights, leading one to wonder whether or not the law exists for their protection or penalization.

The clashing of minority rights has not gone unnoticed, as many citizens notice that religion is being used as a mechanism to discriminate against the LGBT community. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is determined to fight for the community’s rights, and is aware of the use of religion as a tool of discrimination. “We continue to seek anti-discrimination protections for LGBT people in employment, housing, businesses, and public places. We advocated for state and federal non-discrimination laws, and litigate to ensure that religious beliefs cannot be used to justify acts of bias.”[2] The ACLU dedicates an entire section of their website to outline instances where religion is utilized to discriminate against women and the LGBT community, such as employment, medical care and other services.[3] While the ACLU feels the law can be exercised for the good, not all Americans are so optimistic, realizing that tangible change will take a lot more than passing a bill, or striking down an existing law.

A map of states which have legalized same-sex marriage. Blue = Legalized, Grey = Illegal, Purple = Not legalized, but accepts same-sex marriages from other states.

Despite the AMA’s protection of a doctor’s “personal views,” as was the case with Dr. Roi, there are conflicting clauses in their Code of Ethics. For example, “the relationship between patient and physician is based on trust and gives rise to physicians’ ethical obligations to place patients’ welfare above their own self-interest[.]”[4] Additionally, in their Declaration of Professional Responsibility, physicians possess “the duty to treat the sick and injured with competence and compassion and with prejudice, prohibit[ing] racial, ethnic, and other forms of bias.”[5] The contradictory nature of the AMA’s rules and regulations illustrate how governmental establishment of rules can also be disregarded successfully, or utilized to further prejudicial means.

Although religion is used as a discriminatory law-making tool, some argue that the alleged homophobic passages in the Bible do not truly exist. Mark Achtemeier, a former “anti-gay evangelical” minister, elaborates; upon searching for the meaning of the alleged scripture, “the best you wind up with is a statement that says, ‘Well, these passages don’t mean what you think they mean.’ It was essentially and argument from silence[.]”[6] When one considers that the religious rationale for homophobia is based on intangible biblical texts, it causes one to wonder how their views have been granted such legitimacy.

In June 2013, the Defense of Marriage Act was struck down on the grounds that “violated the constitutional right to liberty,” however judges did not consider the creation of state legislation to counteract DOMA’s dismantling.[7] State-placed bans on gay marriage were instituted, and while many states have rid of such bans, others have upheld them. In September, a federal judge upheld Louisiana’s ban on same-sex marriage, citing homosexuality as a “lifestyle choice,” stating “neither the Supreme Court nor the Fifth Circuit has ever before defied sexual orientation as a protected class[.]”[8] Additionally, in the fight for same-sex marriage in Michigan, where the Contrearas family resides, a dominant amount of testimony provided was about “whether or not gay parents were suitable to raise children,” a consideration that no one possesses when discussing heterosexual marriage. [9] Posing any obstacles possible to circumvent striking down the ban, one journalist comments that one needs to “understand that that battle for civil rights does not end with the law.[10]

A homonormative standard also creates tensions for the LGBT community, as members of the community present their own problematic views, bringing each other down. Fashion designers Dolce and Gabbana, who identify as gay, recently criticized same sex families, suggesting that “the only family is the traditional one” and that they are “opposed to the idea of growing up with two gay parents.”[11] Referring to invitro fertilization (IVF) as producing “synthetic children,” these two white, upper class men manage to degrade a diversity of family types, and in turn provide support for those who are homophobic and do not feel anyone identifying as LGBT to be a fit parent, an incredibly problematic message to deliver.[12] While IVF remains a form of pregnancy that is only attainable to those who can afford it, an even stronger hierarchical system is established by suggesting these families are inferior.

While the fight for legal equality continues, one must consider the often-contradictory nature of the law. Louisiana’s federal judge who claimed homosexuality is a “lifestyle choice” also feels African Americans to be protected under the fourteenth amendment, yet racial tensions continue to characterize American society.[13] Additionally, while rules exist to ensure that patients receive necessary healthcare, doctors are also legally allowed to refuse patients based on personal beliefs. The fight for legal change must also be met with corresponding social changes, otherwise the law’s efficacy could be questionable. What is perfectly legal is not right – at least not yet.


American Civil Liberties Union. “LGBT Basic Rights and Liberties” Accessed March 13, 2015

American Medical Association. “Opinion 10.015 – The Patient-Physician Relationship.” Accessed March 16, 2015

American Medical Association. “Declaration of Professional Responsibility”. Accessed March 16, 2015

Baer, Mark. “The Same-Sex Marriage ‘Debate’ Is Based Upon Ignorance and Inaccurate Information.” Huffington Post September 11, 2014. Accessed March 12, 2015

Chellew-Hodge, Candace. “Marriage is for Everybody, says Former Anti-Gay Evangelical.” Religion Dispatches, September 15, 2014. Accessed March 12, 2015

Fox News. “Doctor refuses treatment of same-sex couple’s baby” My Fox Detroit, February 18, 2015. Accessed March 5, 2015.

Root Aulette, Judy and Wittner, Judith. Gendered Words, Third Edition. New York: Oxford, 2015.

Stone, Brian. “Why Legal Equality Isn’t Real Equality.” Huffington Post, March 10, 2014. Accessed March 12, 2015.

Ward, Victoria. “’How dare you refer to my beautiful children as synthetic’: Elton John livid at Dolce & Gabbana IVF rant” National Post March 16, 2015. Accessed March 16, 2015.

[1] Doctor refuses treatment of same-sex couple’s baby” My Fox Detroit, February 18, 2015.

[2] “LGBT Basic Rights and Liberties”

[3] Ibid.

[4] “Opinion 10.015 – The Patient-Physician Relationship.”

[5]. “Declaration of Professional Responsibility”.

[6] Candace Chellew-Hodge. “Marriage is for Everybody, says Former Anti-Gay Evangelical.” Religion Dispatches, September 15, 2014.

[7] Judy Aulette Root and Judith Wittner. Gendered Words, Third Edition. (New York: Oxford, 2015): 227.

[8] Mark Baer. “The Same-Sex Marriage ‘Debate’ Is Based Upon Ignorance and Inaccurate Information.” Huffington Post September 11, 2014.

[9] Brian Stone. “Why Legal Equality Isn’t Real Equality.” Huffington Post, March 10, 2014. Accessed March 12, 2015.

[10] Ibid.

[11] Victoria Ward. “’How dare you refer to my beautiful children as synthetic’: Elton John livid at Dolce & Gabbana IVF rant” National Post March 16, 2015.

[12] Ibid.

[13] Mark Baer. “The Same-Sex Marriage ‘Debate’ Is Based Upon Ignorance and Inaccurate Information.” Huffington Post September 11, 2014.

“It’s perfectly legal- but is it right?”

Laverne Cox- The Face of Change

Laverne Cox is a very successful actress, reality TV star, producer, and social and political advocate. She also happens to be an African American transgender woman. On December 7th 2014, Everday Feminism published a speech by Laverne Cox titled Bullying and Being a Trans Woman of Colour. In her speech, Cox discusses the violence and discrimination that trans woman of colour experience daily. Although this speech focuses on trans woman of colour, Cox has made a significant impact on the entire transgender community. Through the roles that Cox plays in mainstream media, she is helping to educate the public and challenge societal norms about what it means to be transgender.

Laverne Cox has become the face and voice for the transgender community in the media. When Orange is the New Black premiered on Netflix on July 11, 2013, Cox appeared as the role of Sophia Burset, a transgender inmate at Litchfield Penitentiary. Cox was the first openly transgendered woman of colour to portray a fictional transgender character. The character of Sophia and her interactions with the other inmates raises awareness around sex-reassignment operations, transmisogyny (the intersection of transphobia and misogyny) and the positive effects that can result from being true to oneself. Following Cox’s role in Orange is the New Black, on June 9th, 2014 Cox also became the first openly transgender person to appear on the cover of Time magazine. The title of the article by Katy Steinmetz, “The Transgender Tipping Point”, was also seen on the cover. Cox’s messages and influence has been disseminated on many media platforms; however, her exposure in OITNB and on Time magazine has been extremely important for educating the public on transgender issues.

The fact that Cox is also a trans woman of colour further places her in a very inspirational and powerful position. For she has not only become the voice for the transgender community but she has also brought awareness to major systems of oppression.

Transphobia, according to Oxford Dictionaries is: “The intense dislike of or prejudice against transsexual or transgender people” (Oxford Dictionary). According to the LGBT Mental Health Syllabus, in 1980, the American Psychiatric Association added gender identity disorder to the Diagnostic and Statistic Manual (DSM). However, in May 2013, an updated diagnosis in the DMS was made and changed “gender identity disorder” to “gender dysphoria” (Mental Health Syllabus, 2013). This change demonstrates the shift in recognizing transgender as a personal feeling rather than a disorder. This fairly recent idea has pushed societal boundaries by questioning and contradicting the gender binary, heternormativity and cisgender assumptions. Through Cox’s lack of conformity to mainstream understandings of gender identity, she has demonstrated that it’s acceptable to be different. Cox is helping to slowly break down these negative barriers; and she simply does not allow them to stop her. Hopefully over time as Cox continues to address transphobia, negative stigmatization around transgender individuals will be eliminated and more tolerance will occur.

Unfortunately, the patriarchal society that we live in further oppresses and marginalizes Cox. A transgendered individual who undergoes a gender reconstruction from male to female often experiences further oppression. Some may question why a man would chose to give up his dominant position for a subordinate one in a society that values men and male domination. This idea has made trangendered females very vulnerable by being put in the spotlight for “choosing to” experience misogyny, sexism and inequality. Nonetheless, Cox demonstrates her ability to push these societal limits by being herself and remaining true to her gender identity.

Another major system of oppression that Cox experiences alongside trans woman of colour is racism. Just Conflict’s article Systems of Oppression states that the largest most oppressive legal structure in American history was the institution of slavery, further exploring how this oppressive system (slavery) continues today in the form of racism (Just Conflict, 2015). In Cox’s speech, Bullying and Being a Trans Woman of Colour, she explains that women of colour are the most targeted victims of violence in the LGBTGIA. On Monday March 2th, Haughton discussed in her lecture the idea of anti-blackness and shared the social media hashtag #blacklivesmatter. She explained violence and discrimination black people face and how these terms further enforce their systematic and purposeful oppression. Through understanding Cox’s speech and reviewing the class material, it is clear that racism is still very prevalent. Cox’s position makes her a powerful activist against racism; however, it is clear that there is much more that needs to be done in order to eradicate violence and targeting against groups of oppressed people.

This Saturday, March 14, Clean and Clear, a skincare company launched a new ad campaign called #SeeTheRealMe. Jazz Jennings, a 14-year-old transgender teen relates her story in a short commercial. This amazing narrative combined with Cox’s efforts in advocating for the transgender community, will hopefully help to make a strong and positive impact on society. Because of individuals like Cox and Jennings, awareness, knowledge and social reconstruction is being addressed. Cornell West states: “justice is what love looks like in public.” Martin Luther King Jr. stated: “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.” (Good Reads, 2015) Both men expressed the belief that change will come once the values, morals and judgment of others are changed. It is my personal opinion that we are on the right path towards the transgender community being able to feel the love that they deserve.


Work Cited

“A Quote by Martin Luther King Jr.” Goodreads. Web. 17 Mar. 2015. Retrieved from

“Definition of Transphobia in English:.” Transphobia. Web. 17 Mar. 2015. Retrieved from

“June 9th, 2014 | Vol. 183, No. 22 | U.S.” Time. Time, 9 June 2014. Web. 17 Mar. 2015. Retrieved from

“Laverne Cox Explains the Intersection of Transphobia, Racism, and Misogyny (And What to Do About It).”Everyday Feminism. 7 Dec. 2014. Web. 17 Mar. 2015. Retrieved from <;.

Nichols, JamesMichael. “Jazz Jennings, Transgender Teen, Becomes Face Of Clean & Clear Campaign.” The Huffington Post. Web. 17 Mar. 2015. Retrieved from <;.

“Positive Space Network.” Positive Space Network RSS. Web. 17 Mar. 2015. Retrieved from <;.

“Systems of Oppression:.” Systems of Oppression- Just Conflict. Creative Commons License. Web. 17 Mar. 2015. Retrieved from

“The Advocate: Laverne Cox.” Glamour. Web. 17 Mar. 2015. Retrieved from <;.

“Transgender.” LGBT Mental Health Syllabus. Group for the Advancement of Psychiatry, 1 Jan. 2013. Web. Retrieved from

Haughton. “Seeing Is Not Believing.” GNDS 125 Lecture . Queen’s University. Bioscience Complex, Kingston. 2 Mar. 2015. Lecture.

Laverne Cox- The Face of Change