College of Liberal Arts & Social Sciences Theses and Dissertations

Graduation Date

8-2012

Document Type

Thesis

College/Department Conferring Degree

Women & Gender Studies

Keywords

black women, prison abolition, prison industrial complex, internalized oppression, neoliberalism

Abstract

In 2010, I attended two anti-incarceration events where formerly incarcerated Black women spoke against incarceration. While it seemed to me that the motivation to engage in anti-incarceration resistance could only allow for so much variation, I soon became painfully aware of the vital importance of considering formerly incarcerated Black women's stories while being critical of the broader context of American history and dominant political-economic paradigms. Specifically, as a result of synthesizing the messages I received at each of these events, I understood the importance of utilizing a politicized racial consciousness when considering the context within which Black women are the fastest growing population in American prisons (Roberts,2012). Black women's politicized racial consciousness becomes important as similarities are uncovered between chattel slavery (and other pre-civil rights anti-black racist institutions like Jim Crow segregation) and contemporary incarceration practices in America (Alexander, 2010, Davis, 2010). The connections made between historic anti-black institutions and contemporary incarceration practices compel many to re-engage a Radical Black Feminist tradition and call for a broad-based movement to abolish the contemporary prison system. In anti-incarceration resistance, a politicized racial consciousness would allow a formerly incarcerated Black woman to perceive herself within a larger context of American sociocultural institutions, to identify systemic racism as it relates to her life experience, and to formulate oppositional positioning against systemic anti-black racism (Brush, 2005). In this thesis, I argue that one critical step in anti-incarceration movement-building will be to invest considerable organizing efforts that politicize formerly incarcerated Black women's racial consciousness.

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