The history of not only the United States but the world, knows racism all too well. Races and groups have been discriminated against time and time again, solely based on the color of their skin. With these prejudiced people and their views have come racial caste systems, Jim Crow being one of the most widely recognized.
Jim Crow laws were local and state laws that imposed racial segregation in the South. More specifically, African-Americans had a “separate but equal” status but were treated far from equally. Their facilities were inferior and underfunded compared to others, or simply inexistent. Jim Crow established countless educational, social, and economic disadvantages for African Americans, ones that are still being felt and channeled today, as Michelle Alexander discusses in her book The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness and Carson Barlett in the corresponding research paper.
Carson, a psychology, multimedia journalism, and political science triple major hoping to attend law school, was inspired to research the social psychological perspective of Alexander’s book when she simultaneously had classes in social psychology and jurisprudence. Black Lives Matter and police brutality were also major topics of national concern, as the Justice Department had recently released its investigative report on the police department in Ferguson, Missouri.
Carson recognizes Alexander’s book as a hallmark of modern research on race and mass incarceration, but believes it leaves out a large part of the cause for the problems it discusses, which can be drawn from social psychology. “As racial tensions and police policies continue to plague our political environment, it is important to view these issues through a lens that is informed not only by facts and history, as Alexander analyzes them, but also through the lens of human behavior and expectations,” she says. She hopes that her research gives this second look at these long-lasting issues.
Alexander boldly accuses the United States of unfairly targeting blacks as criminals, however she does not believe that people are explicitly racist. Using social psychology, Carson attempts to explain what Alexander does not, which is that race changes the way we behave toward others, whether we are conscious of it or not.