We’re covering issues at the intersection of race and criminal justice in my Phil 250 class (“Making Moral Decisions”) via Michelle Alexander’s 2013 TED talk, “The Future of Race in America,” and Heather Mac Donald’s 2008 City Journal article, “Is the Criminal Justice System Racist?”
Two representative vignettes from class:
Section A: A black student tells the story of how he was accosted by the police this summer on Felician’s Rutherford campus. Why? He was walking down the street while looking intently at his phone; the officer who stopped him worried out loud that he was taking pictures of buildings on campus–a worry made salient (the officer said) by the possibility that he might be affiliated with ISIS. The officer then asked to see the student’s ID, and demanded his name, address, and phone number on the grounds that it would be beneficial for the Rutherford Police to have this information in case the student ever lost his wallet in town.
Section B: On watching the Alexander video–which asserts that the American criminal justice system has come to replicate a twenty-first century form of Jim Crow–a white student asks, in exasperated bewilderment: “What the fuck is ‘Jim Crow'”?
I swear to God I’m not making any of this up.