Tag Archives: crime

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Michael Fortner Talks to Salon About 1994 Crime Bill & More

With #BlackLivesMatter bringing the 1994 Crime Bill back into the fore, and a competitive race for the Democratic presidential nomination that has placed Bill and Hillary Clinton’s record back on trial in the court of public opinion, more people than ever are asking: what really happened in the 90s? How did we get here, into a world of harsh sentencing and mass incarceration? And how can understanding what happened in the past help us move forward?

The Murphy Institute’s Michael Javen Fortner, author of the widely-reviewed book Black Silent Majority: The Rockefeller Drug Laws and the Politics of Punishment, recently spoke with Salon.com’s Chauncey Devega to address some of these questions. Check out some of this fascinating interview below, and head to Salon to read it in full.

As I watched Bill Clinton’s exchange with the “Black Lives Matter” protesters in Philadelphia several weeks ago, I immediately thought of your book “The Black Silent Majority.” What was your response to Bill Clinton’s behavior at the Philadelphia rally?

I had two reactions. One was that Bill Clinton is obviously out of practice and he continues to be amazingly thin-skinned. In terms of a political performance he acted badly. I thought he was condescending and way too defensive. I also thought it was strange at first, because he also has in the past repudiated some of his anti-crime strategies. His wife also gave a speech on the era of mass incarceration saying that it needs to end. So Bill Clinton’s attitude and posture towards the protesters given all those factors seems strange and unwise.

My second reaction to Bill Clinton was that there was some truth to what he was saying. The part where he suggested that he had been hearing from African-American groups and individuals that the federal government needed to do something about crime in the streets and that their children were dying was largely correct. Continue reading Michael Fortner Talks to Salon About 1994 Crime Bill & More

Crime, Punishment and the Black Community: the Untold Story of the Rockefeller Drug Laws

Next month marks the launch of Murphy Professor Michael Javen Fortner’s eye-opening new book, Black Silent Majority: the Rockefeller Drug Laws and the Politics of Punishment. A controversial and important account of the role that some in the African-American community played in encouraging punitive policies during the 1970s, in particular the Rockefeller Drug Laws, the book asks vital questions about agency, history and how we can strive for real peace and justice in an era of mass incarceration.

Today, the Chronicle of Higher Education published an article on Fortner and Black Silent Majority (Defending Their Homes: How crime-terrorized African-Americans helped spur mass incarceration, by Marc Parry, Aug 3rd, 2015). In it, Parry describes Fortner’s engagement with Michelle Alexander’s explosive 2010 book, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness:

What vexed Fortner was that The New Jim Crow seemed to be two different books. One did a powerful job showing how mass incarceration undermines black communities and perpetuates racial inequality. The other — and this was the vexing part — advanced a political theory about how we got here. That history stressed the resilience of white supremacy. First came slavery; when slavery ended, a white backlash brought Jim Crow segregation; when Jim Crow crumbled, a backlash to the civil-rights movement spawned yet another caste system, mass incarceration. Each time, writes Alexander, an associate professor of law at Ohio State University, proponents of racial hierarchy achieved their goals “largely by appealing to the racism and vulnerability of lower-class whites.” Continue reading Crime, Punishment and the Black Community: the Untold Story of the Rockefeller Drug Laws