Access: The Onion
Summary: From the War on Drugs, which disproportionately targets African-American communities, to racial profiling by police, race continues to play a powerful role in our criminal justice system. In her book, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, Michelle Alexander describes how "the U.S. criminal justice system functions as a contemporary system of racial control" and has disastrous effects on the African-American community. This satirical news clip from The Onion plays on this unfortunate reality. It begins with reporting of a 16-year-old girl who supposedly stabbed a girl to death. At her arraignment, the judge in her case states "due to the extreme and violent nature of this crime, this court finds it fitting to try the defendant as an African-America. Henceforth, you will be referred to for the jury by the name Mendel Brown." The news commentator continues: "Now that Hannah has been ruled black, the court has instructed local media to assume she is guilty and the police have retroactively charged her with assaulting her arresting officer." The clip concludes by the commentator noting that the girls parents argued that, "their daughter should at most be tried as a Black celebrity, or at least a stunningly beautiful Filipino lady." Viewers might consider what makes this satire so funny? What does it say about racial stereotypes? Furthermore, how might we interpret this from an intersectional perspective? For example, would the joke work the same way if commentator reported that she would be tried as a black female or a white male? One could argue that there is something distinct about how black masculinity, as a unique intersection of race and gender, is constructed in our culture. Taken from the opposite point of view, what does this say about white privilege? If Black males are disadvantaged, white privilege may work by giving whites the benefit of the doubt in criminal activity. They need not worry about the immediate perception of guilt. For similar videos, see Dave Chappelle's satirical look at criminal justice system, an experiment on racial profiling in crime, and this analysis of racial profiling with the NYPD's stop-and-frisk policy.
Submitted By: Paul Dean