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Black Community, Its Lawbreakers, and a Politics of Identification

NCJ Number
Southern California Law Review Volume: 65 Issue: 4 Dated: (May 1992) Pages: 1769-1817
R Austin
Date Published
49 pages
This article discusses the phenomenon of black lawbreaking and the threat it poses to the black community through the ongoing debate over the causes, consequences, and cures of black criminality.
The politics of identification varies with the class of the identifiers, their familiarity with the modes and mores of black lawbreakers, and the impact that black lawbreaking has on the identifiers' economic, social, and political welfare. The article explores the most romanticized form of identification that prompts emulation among young and poor blacks. In the 1960's, segments of the black middle class identified with black criminals as sources of authentic blackness. The young bourgeoisie extracted a style from lawbreaker culture and turned it into the symbol of a political militancy that is still accepted today. The article also considers the unique positions and lack of identification of female black lawbreakers and those blacks situated somewhere between the middle class and the lawbreakers. Among evidence that the quintessential black community no longer exists, this author argues that a new politics of identification, fueled by confronting the question of the positive significance of black lawbreaking, might restore some vitality to what has become an irrelevant metaphor. 210 notes