Mass Incarceration

I was Florida’s professor of the year, but my classes would now be illegal

In 2006 I used to be honored to be chosen because the Florida Professor of the 12 months by the Carnegie Basis for the Development of Instructing. The award is particularly designed to acknowledge excellence in undergraduate instructing and mentoring.

William Felice
William Felice [ UNKNOWN | Photo: Courtesy ]

But in the present day my programs are unlawful below Florida’s “Particular person Freedom Act,” often known as the “Cease WOKE Act.” This regulation is meant to stop discussions of the methods wherein racism is ingrained in America’s legal guidelines and energy buildings. The regulation successfully bans classroom examinations of institutional or structural racism. Professors are prohibited from making college students really feel guilt for previous discrimination.

State funding will probably be lower to these faculties that refuse to cancel programs that take care of racial inequality and systemic racism. Gov. Ron DeSantis and the far proper don’t see this as censorship or a free speech challenge. They argue that the concepts are so reprehensible and improper that they shouldn’t be allowed in an instructional setting. Far-right radicals declare that instructing that systematic racism exists in America is the equal of instructing in physics courses that the Earth is flat. Of their eyes, such institutionalized racism doesn’t exist in America. Professors who espouse these positions, in accordance with DeSantis, are pursuing a classy leftist ideology and are racists themselves in opposition to white folks.

Earlier than I retired in 2021, my key programs have been titled “Human Rights and Worldwide Legislation,” “Starvation, Lots and Justice” and “Ethics and Worldwide Relations.” It’s inconceivable to show programs on human rights, starvation, and ethics with out together with a dialogue of the results of structural and institutional racism.

For instance, my human rights class features a detailed part on the mass incarceration of African American males, which I imagine to be probably the most urgent human rights disaster confronting our nation. The U.S. imprisons extra of its ethnic and racial minorities than some other nation on the earth. This tragic state of affairs is a results of too many younger African American males caught up in a police and judiciary system that usually denies them fundamental human dignity and rights. Many white Americans imagine that “justice is blind” and that the principles and legal guidelines of society are utilized roughly pretty with “nobody above the regulation.” Such opinions deny both a category or racial dimension to incarceration. The legitimacy of the judicial system general is thus not questioned by many white People.

However that is too facile and deceptive because it ignores the influence of America’s ugly racial historical past on present punitive insurance policies towards folks of coloration and the severity and cruelty of our felony justice system. As documented in my e book “The Ethics of Interdependence,” racial and sophistication bias in sentencing exists, and there’s disproportionate policing and punitive measures directed on the poor African American group. The truth is, it’s only by way of the prism of institutional racism that it’s attainable to know how it’s that the USA grew to become the main incarcerator among the many world’s democracies.

Authorized equality and new social norms have, sadly, not created precise equality within the administration of the felony justice system in America. Race to a big diploma nonetheless determines who will get arrested and who doesn’t. Criminologists proceed to doc the various methods wherein imprisonment is unrelated to crime. For instance, a key examine of New York Metropolis demonstrated that the incarceration charges have been highest within the metropolis’s poorest minority communities and never these neighborhoods the place crime charges have been the very best.

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The significance of understanding structural racism was additionally central at school discussions on the appropriate of all residents to a high quality training. The 1954 Supreme Courtroom choice in Brown v. Board of Schooling decided that racial segregation in public colleges was unconstitutional. But underfunding of property in poor African American communities, mixed with exclusionary zoning legal guidelines, perpetuated segregated faculty districts. It’s thus inconceivable to know the variations in academic alternatives between the white and Black communities in 2023 with out an understanding of this historical past of institutional racism.

A closing instance considerations Americans rights to housing. After World Battle II, the G.I. Invoice was key to serving to returning veterans safe loans to purchase homes. The invoice considerably helped white People achieve residence possession and prosper. But, the invoice was structured in such a approach that it finally denied advantages to 1.2 million Black veterans who had bravely served our nation. Many banks merely continued to refuse to approve loans to Black vets. It’s thus inconceivable to know the housing, eviction and homeless disaster in minority communities in 2023 with out an examination of this historical past of institutional racism.

DeSantis clearly doesn’t need our younger folks inspecting this historical past. Along with the assaults on college professors, his administration not too long ago rejected a brand new Superior Placement course on African American research for highschool college students. But DeSantis would clearly profit from taking this AP course himself and doing his homework on African American historical past and institutional racism.

William F. Felice is professor emeritus of political science at Eckerd School He’s the writer of six books on human rights and worldwide relations. He might be reached through his web site at

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