California State Prison Analysis

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In Laurel P. Richmond’s and Corey W. Johnson’s article “It’s a Race War: Race and Leisure Experiences in California State Prison” and Gary Totten’s “Embodying Segregation: Ida B. Wells and the Cultural Work of Travel” there is a central shared theme between the two works in that they each address the role of race in determining power, whether this is through implicit or explicit means. Richmond’s piece discusses how race influences the disproportionate distribution of power among inmates in California State Prisons, specifically the distribution of power in the prisoners’ leisure activities (Richmond & Johnson, 2009). Furthermore, Richmond and Johnson develop their work through Critical Race Theory (CRT) in order to provide a more analytical …show more content…
Conversely, Totten’s piece examines the work of Ida B. Wells on the issue of lynching and explicit racism of these practices not as matter of punishment, but as a matter of race and establishing of power or racial dominance (Totten, 2008). It is this shared theme that I will further develop throughout this essay. While these articles have commonalities, the ways in which each author address the matter and have difference in opinions on this topic. Thus, the central premise of this paper will serve to examine the role of race in power dynamic through the works of Richmond and Johnson and Totten.
Throughout America’s history, the African American community has been adversely impacted by both explicit and implicit racism (Richmond, 2009). However, a growing body of work has been concerned with the implicit racist nature in institutions, such as its role in prisons (Richmond & Johnson, 2009). Black inmates experience imprisonment much different than white inmates in that they are incarcerated at higher and longer rates as well as receive less opportunity and free-time than their white peers (Richmond, 2009). The central
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Richmond’s work addresses a more implicit type of institutionalized racism and power dynamic in which whiteness is privileged (Richmond & Johnson, 2009). Although the prisons’ policies appear neutral in nature, the policies are not enforced in a neutral manner (Richmond & Johnson, 2009). As a result, Black inmates are limited in utilizing their leisure while White inmates are given much more access to leisure activities, thus, putting whiteness in a position of power (Totten, 2008). On the other hand, Totten’s work reflects the explicit racism taking place in the South during the nineteenth century noted in Ida B. Wells’ work. More specifically, it examines the oppression and violence that came out of the racism of the nineteenth century such as segregation and lynching (Totten, 2008). Similar to the way in which the enforcement of prison policies is carried out in a manner that promotes the interests of white prisoners in their leisure time and works to put them in a powerful position over their Black peers (Richmond & Johnson, 2009). To the similar effect, the enforcement of segregation and lynching laws were made in the interest of whiteness, especially economic issues, rather than to seek punishment for crimes; thus, serving to maintain white power and privilege (Totten, p.52). Due to this significant connection made throughout this