Williamson 1 Kichelle Williamson 04/22/17 Prof. Duthely Mass Incarceration is the modern day version of slavery. Within our American history one can argue that numerous ‘peculiar institutions’ have been successively operated to define, confine, and control African-Americans in the history of the United States. The era of mass incarceration can be understood as a new tactic in the history of American racism. Institutions such as the construct of Slavery, Jim Crow and the “Ghetto” can explain why mass incarceration particularly in the African American community are at its highest in today’s society. Just as the Jim Crow laws was a reaction to the freeing of the slaves after the Civil War; mass incarceration can be understood as a reaction to the Civil Rights Movement (Graff Gilda, 2015, p. 120). “Battle Royal” by Ralph Ellison depicts a period in time (1952) when African Americans were enslaved and controlled like puppets. The Battle Royal is a ruthless experience that pushes the storyteller into a riotous situation where the standards that represent a general public are out of the picture. By taking an interest in the battle royal, the storyteller discovers that life is a battle for survival, yet he finds courage in the rationality of Booker T. Washington: that blacks can make progress through training and industry. Typically, the scene presents the topic of battle among blacks for a slippery prize that regularly stays distant. This prize is freedom and equality. Battle Royal can be compared to the topic Mass incarceration because the story shows the cycle of black enslavement, the battle for equality, and the mistreatment of blacks still present today.
Williamson 2 Mass incarceration is the redesigning of the racial caste in America (Graff Gilda, 2015, p. 120). Initially, blacks that were brought to this country were not all enslaved; many were treated as indentured servants. As plantation farming expanded, particularly tobacco and cotton farming, demand increased greatly for both labor and land (The New Jim Crow, Michelle Alexander, 2010). Theses growing demand for labor on plantations was met through slavery. The white men in “Battle Royal” used these colored boys in this same way in a sense, except it was for their own entertainment. Plantation owners viewed Africans, who were relatively powerless, as the ideal slaves (The New Jim Crow, Michelle Alexander, 2010). This negative perspective of blacks by the white man was also shown in Ellisons story. At a point in the story, the boy slipped out the words “social equality” into his speech. One of the upper class white men followed up by saying “…We mean to do right by you, but you've got to know your place at all times” (Ellison, 214). This shows how the white man felt superior over these young black men. Just like in slavery, in effort to protect their superior status and economic position, planters came up with devised strategies to maintain their dominance. For example, “ racial bribery” was formulated; which
- Spring '16