Themes

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Last Updated on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 195

The themes of Locking Up Our Own: Crime and Punishment in Black America by James Forman Jr. (himself a former public defender in Washington, DC) include race, jurisprudence, crime, and incarceration.

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Forman observes how many with supreme judicial power (such as Marion Barry, former mayor of DC) have promoted and legislated tough-on-crime measures in fear of the Civil Rights Movement resulting in a culture ridden with crime. Forman discusses how many who endorsed measures such as stop-and-frisk laws and a stop to decriminalizing marijuana were themselves Black. Forman primarily locates his study in the 1980s and 1990s in Washington, DC.

Forman observes that, ironically and tragically, these measures resulted in a disproportionate increase in incarceration of Black Americans. 30% of Black high school drop-outs, one of his statistics reports, would end up in jail. To be fair, Forman notes that the Black authority figures with significant judicial power were responding to the general middle-class African American public opinion, which itself was inspired by an increase in crime from the 1960s to 1990s. The African American culture, Forman suggests, is one which is innately and mercilessly vigilant, even at the expense of members of its own race.

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