Civic Scholar Seminar

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Course # HUM 273
Instructor: Sandy Baird
Credits: 3 credits at Burlington College
Location: Burlington College, RM 239
Day and Time:  Wednesday from 6:15 – 9:15


Harvard professor, Michelle Alexander, argues in her book, The New Jim Crow, that the mass incarceration of Black and Hispanic Americans in the era of the Drug Wars has brought about a new version of Jim Crow. With the adoption of harsh penalties for the possession and sale of illegal drugs, Black and Hispanic communities throughout the United States have been targeted by a new, militarized police to search out and punish drug offenders in urban ghettos even as similar drug offenders in white communities are often ignored or more leniently treated.

The result of this Drug War is the mass jailing of record numbers of African-Americans who languish for years behind bars separated from their homes, families, and the promise of America. Worse, felony convictions and criminal records haunt offenders for life: few released felons are eligible for public housing; employment in an already crowded job market is virtually impossible to attain; financial assistance for education forbidden. Most important, felons in all but the states of Vermont and Maine, lose their rights to vote, in effect denying to them the most basic right of democracy-the right to be a participating citizen with a say in their country’s future.

A new era of discrimination, segregation, and marginalization has resulted for many African Americans, a kind of old South African apartheid when young Blacks can count on prison as a more likely future than college, when poverty will rule their lives more than promise. The United States with its harsh and discriminatory implementation of the rules of the War on Drugs has relegated many Black citizens to the harassment of the police, to the stripping of those citizens of their rights as citizens, to lifetimes of poverty and to being locked up in cages.

In this series of Wednesday night events, lectures, debates, discussions and films, The Institute of Civic Engagement and the Civic Scholar seminar invites the public and students to explore the new face of racism and America’s new apartheid. Replacing slavery and Jim Crow, the massive incarceration of Black Americans is ,as Michelle Alexander argues ,the new civil rights struggle. That struggle will involve taking the side of all Americans sometimes even those deemed criminal and unpopular. That struggle too will involve new strategies which this seminar will study, examine and hopefully create.

Course Num: 
HUM 273
Date: 
W 6:15-9:15 pm
Instructor: 
S. Baird
Location: 
BC RM 239