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We Are Always Already Imprisoned: Hyper-Incarceration and Black Male Identity Performance

21 Pages Posted: 2 Jul 2013  

Frank Rudy Cooper

Suffolk University Law School

Date Written: July 1, 2013

Abstract

Numerous scholars have pointed out that drug war racial profiling has created an attributed identity of black men as presumptively criminal. This essay points out that the possibility of being imprisoned has become fundamental to black men's self identities. It criticizes Hanna Rosin’s End of Men thesis for myopically emphasizing a recent decline in white men's power, while ignoring the drug war’s long-standing terrible effects on men of color. Supreme Court jurisprudence on strip searches shows a similar lack of empathy for men of color. Rosin and the Supreme Court are consistent with my theory of the, “bipolarity of black masculinity”: Black men are typically popularly represented as either a criminal “Bad Black Man” or assimilated “Good Black Man,” with little nuance in between. This essay adds that black men are not just represented as appropriately disproportionately imprisoned, but also must, therefore, struggle internally with the fear of being imprisoned. In that sense, we are always already imprisoned within black masculinity.

Suggested Citation

Cooper, Frank Rudy, We Are Always Already Imprisoned: Hyper-Incarceration and Black Male Identity Performance (July 1, 2013). Boston University Law Review, Vol. 93, p. 1183, 2013; Suffolk University Law School Research Paper No. 13-20. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2288166

Frank Rudy Cooper (Contact Author)

Suffolk University Law School ( email )

120 Tremont Street
Boston, MA 02108-4977
United States

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