[Marxism] Fwd: Who’s to Blame for Mass Incarceration? | Boston Review

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Fri Oct 16 17:04:25 MDT 2015

On Fortner’s telling, the supposed black silent majority countered a 
tide of intra-racial violence with a successful movement against drugs 
and crime culminating in the passage of the Rockefeller Drug Laws and 
the takeoff of mass incarceration. Thus black people themselves, rather 
than the rightward drift of American politics, are responsible for the 
huge numbers of Africans Americans languishing in prison. “Mass 
incarceration had less to do with the white resistance to racial 
equality and more to do with the black silent majority’s confrontation 
with the ‘reign of criminal terror’ in their neighborhoods,” he asserts.

Central to Fortner’s revisionist project is his desire “to tell it like 
it is.” The choice of black vernacular signifies his claim to an 
authentic black voice as well as his willingness to say unpopular things 
in service of a larger truth. Black Silent Majority opens with a very 
personal recollection of his traumatic childhood in Brownsville, 
Brooklyn, punctuated by sirens and gunshots at the height of the 1980s 
crack crisis. As a toddler, Fortner lost his brother to a stabbing, “the 
pain and sorrow” of which “stayed in [his] home like accumulated dust.”

Reading Fortner, one sometimes has the feeling of passing through the 
racial looking glass and arriving in a strange world where the unlikely 
pairing of Richard Nixon and Daniel Patrick Moynihan are used to restore 
historical agency to African Americans. Fortner does not shy away from 
the words “ghetto,” “social pathology,” and “indigenous values,” nor do 
they appear in the distancing embrace of quotation marks. Elsewhere, he 
casually references Charles Murray’s Losing Ground (1984) to provide 
black-on-black-crime statistics. In many respects, Black Silent Majority 
harkens back to an era of social science innocent of charges of racial 
bias and prurient representations of African American deviance.


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