Monday, April 23, 2012

What is your green light?

From The Great Gatsby:
[H]e stretched out his arms toward the dark water in a curious way, and far as I was from him I could have sworn he was trembling. Involuntarily I glanced seaward -- and distinguished nothing except a single green light, minute and far away, that might have been the end of a dock (20-21; emphasis added).
The New York Times recently featured an article entitled, "Gatsby’s Green Light Beckons a New Set of Strivers". As you think about what it is that you desire most, consider the responses of these urban and immigrant students in a Boston high school.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Social Class Stereotypes

Please do not do any outside research to complete this form -- just be honest and do you best to respond as completely as possible. Full sentences are not necessary. Make sure you continue to scroll down in the form until you see the SUBMIT button.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Stripping/Civil Rights

The Supreme Court took a giant step toward dismantling the 4th Amendment last week when it (predictably) voted 5-4 in Florence v. New Jersey to permit the police to strip search anyone for any offense, regardless of how minor the offense. In the test case before the court, here are the details:  "Mr. Florence was in the passenger seat of his BMW when a state trooper pulled his wife, April, over for speeding. A records search revealed an outstanding warrant for Mr. Florence’s arrest based on an unpaid fine. (The information was wrong; the fine had been paid.) Mr. Florence was held for a week in jails in Burlington and Essex Counties, and he was strip-searched in each" (NYT).

In a dissenting opinion, Justice Breyer wrote that people have been subjected to “the humiliation of a visual strip search” after being arrested for driving with a noisy muffler, failing to use a turn signal and riding a bicycle without an audible bell. A nun was strip-searched, he wrote, after an arrest for trespassing during an antiwar demonstration (NYT).

This is an unprecedented step for the Court to take. While the decision claims to grant police more "flexibility", it also clearly opens the door to extraordinary abuse.

The Court's ruling not only tramples a basic Constitutional right, but it also opens the door for further discrimination in "predatory" race-based police practices. In The New Jim Crow, Michelle Alexander cites a study (also from New Jersey) which found that while "only 15% of all drivers on the New Jersey Turnpike were racial minorities...42% of all stops and 73% of all arrests were of black motorists — despite the fact that black and white motorists violated traffic laws at almost exactly the same rate" (133).