What We’ve read, What We’re Reading

By Craig

A patron introduced me to Paul Butler's Let's Get Free: A Hip-Hip Theory of Justice which was excellent, so I decided to read Chokehold: Policing Black Men which was also an excellent. Butler was a persecutor in Washington D. C. who, after his own unjust arrest and jailing, became sickened by being part of the system that unduly arrests, prosecutes and cages black men in the name of law and order or justice and corrections.

Chokehold is about how society constructs black men as thugs and controls them through the criminal justice system. A chapter on "Sex and Torture" describes of police and guards violate the bodies of black men. Butler identifies how police and cultural violence contribute to the "internal chokehold" of "black on black" violence; another chapter criticizes President Obama's "Brothers Keeper" program for focusing on individual choice without acknowledging or addressing systematic oppression. The center piece of the book is Butler's expansion of  "the talk" that black parents give to their sons, from his perspective of a prosecutor and frequent "suspect"; it includes advice on how to avoid police attention, what to do and how to interact with police, lawyers, judges and juries; this chapter is colloquially written and informed by interviews with groups of prisoners and lawyers. Finally, the book discusses the past and present roles of black organizations and movements, and the place of violence and disruption in throwing off the chokehold.

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