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


3 thoughts on “

  1. I really enjoyed your introductory paragraph as it clearly outlined the issues within the Criminal Justice System. I think the term “deeply embedded racism” is the perfect way to explain the system along with explaining that it is horrifyingly similar to slavery. You mentioned the statistics for how many black people to white people are making up the prison industry, as well as the uprising of black women prisoners. Do you think black communities are being socialized in society differently, which is causing this stereotype to happen/ continuously being involved in the legal system? For example, the parenting styles may effect how children are raised or they may be raised in lower class communities. This brings up another point about status and class. Are these individuals’ lower class which put them even lower and more vulnerable? These questions are proposed due to the questioning if this select group is trapped in a cycle of stereotypical reoccurrence? And it is the bigger picture that is continuing to socialize the black community in a negative light. Lastly, I liked how you mentioned the grassroots organizations that are fighting to help these individuals. Do you think this is enough? I found myself interested in understanding more of what they do and if it will be enough to fully break down these oppressions.

    Also, side note, you have done such a good job with embedding you photos! I tried to do it and had no idea how. So props to you! ☺


  2. piper125 says:

    I loved this post. I think we took somewhat similar approaches but I really enjoyed how you used neoliberal capitalism as a core theme to the dialogue which I think is absolutely appropriate, as neoliberal capitalism is the foundation on which, mass incarceration targeted towards racially and socioeconomically disadvantaged groups, continues to thrive. I am glad that you brought up colourblindness in your discussion, but I wish that you or I had elaborated on what subscribing to a “colourblind” notion means and looks like in oppressive structures.

    You and I both talked a lot about the US system (rightfully so) but I am curious as to where you think the Canadian system stands, relatively. Our incarceration rates don’t even come close to matching the US but is the representation still disproportionate by demographic? Why or why not?


  3. redjr21 says:

    This was a great post to read – you provided good definitions and background in the beginning, enabling one to understand why and how the neoliberal, capitalist system functions in the way it does, and why it continues to exist in American society today. As piper125 pointed out, it would be interesting to see if and what the parallels are to the Canadian prison system. Do you think that such a system is in place in Canada? If so, who do you feel to be the target of that system – perhaps Indigenous Peoples?

    Your point about the American system being a modern day form of slavery is absolutely spot on. It seems that history repeats itself, as this exact system existed at a smaller, state level prior to the twentieth century. Since the Civil War ended and abolition was established under the 13th amendment, Americans have co-opted an abundance of ways to implement their own “legal” forms of slavery, that do not exactly parallel slavery prior to the Civil War. In fact, prior to the twentieth century, African American men and women would be wrongfully accused of crimes, arrested, and placed into Florida prisons to engage in slave labour – this is only one example, but it is horrifying to see this happening presently. Your examples of companies that collaborate with the prison system further solidified this, and goes to show that anything will be done in the name of a dollar, clearly without consciousness or concern for profiting off of racialized bodies.

    I would be interested to learn what African Americans are being arrested for, and how these cases are received by the American Court System. We have recently seen the incredibly racist sentiments amongst (some of) the police force, but I wonder how the law and judicial system functions to maintain these racist practices. Additionally, do you think that a change in drug policy could have a positive impact on the high incarceration rates, as roughly 50% of inmates are imprisoned on drug charges? Why do you think that no one has protested or exposed the corporate nature of the prison system and the American government?

    Overall a great post, very informative and eye opening.


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