The Wire got it backwards

My Baltimore friends who had seen the show also believed, given the police violence in their town, that The Wire‘s view of Baltimore’s finest was almost comically kind. The one policeman who accidentally shoots someone (a fellow officer) not only isn’t prosecuted but gets reintroduced later in the series as a big-hearted public school teacher. And then other people just said to me that living in Baltimore was a struggle and the idea of anyone making commerce out of their pain was simply not their idea of entertainment.

That is Dave Zirin in The Nation. I have to agree. The more I’ve been reading lately the more broken and discriminatory the policing seems to be. I don’t think this is a story of a few bad cops and many good ones, but rather normal people in a perverted system that brings out their bad.

This article by Emily Badger in WashPo doesn’t say it outright, but for lower class black Americans, this country basically looks like a failed state.

Some books and articles I recommend:

  1. Vesla Weaver’s book, Arrested Citizenship, or her shorter Boston Review article on the criminal justice system
  2. Alice Goffman’s amazing ethnography of a Philadelphia neighborhood, On The Run
  3. Jill Leovy’s Ghettoside, on murder and policing in Watts LA
  4. Mark Kleiman’s When Brute Force Fails, on the behavioral perversities of criminal justice
  5. The Harper High School episodes of This American life

With one exception, these have all been written by white people. And I would bet all fall in the category of reading The New Yorker and find Starbucks lowbrow. While I am myself in that category (well, I’m actually sick of The New Yorker) I would appreciate pointers to the best of the best books and essays by another race and class.