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Part A

On 3rd August, 2010, Michelle Alexander wrote an article that explores the sensitive subject of modern racism in America that is perpetuated under the cover of the supposed war on drugs and the penitentiary-industrial complex. This article was largely a follow up to her book; New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the age of Colorblindness. The author compares the situation in the modern world with the Jim Crow laws that preceded the 21st century, asserting that institutionalized racial prejudice is still present in the United States.

Alexander’s sentiments might be accurate as this county has a criminal and judicial structure that is somewhat similar to racial caste system. The United States has chosen to incarcerate over two million people for reasons that have strikingly little to do with criminal related activities. Alexander asserts that there are even more people on probation or labeled as convicted felons for life, confining them to the second-class status in life. It is of concern that most of the these mass incarcerations target poor people of color, and that this system has established itself as a caste system specifically designed to address the economic political and social challenges of modern times, which is the equivalent of the Jim Crow laws.

Alexander examines the criminal justice policies that have witnessed a radical shift over the last 30 years. The prison population over the highlighted time period has quintupled from 300,000 to the 2 million mark. Most people attribute this numbers to a surge in criminal activities but this simply is not true. Today, crime rates are at their lowest compared to historical times, however, incarceration rates have consistently soared. Most criminologists will agree that criminal and incarceration rates have relatively little to do with each other. Incarceration rates especially that of black men, has drastically risen regardless of whether criminal activities have increased in a given region or the county as a whole.

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In the Race Rebels by Robin Kelley, the author discusses how the African American and Chicano youth were exposed to discrimination and used everyday resistance as a weapon for political confrontation and contestation. As the author narrates his experiences when working for McDonald’s as a teenager, he argues that what they fought for was a crucial part of their overall story, whose rationale was often based on dignity and identity. Following the personal narrative of the cultural theorist and historian, it is clear that resistance was also present among the young working class minority groups; even if it was a Los Angeles based “Mickey D’s.”  

By the beginning of the 1990s, the AIDS scourge ravaged a large portion of the world and had been invested into with an abundance of metaphors and meanings. AIDS is a war whose stakeholders have been in the trenches for a long time surrounded by death, yet only gradually has the rest of the world realized that there is a war needed to be fought. As Hall notes, our inability to end this pandemic humbles us intellectually, and at the same time demands our attention. Additionally, he notes that AIDS is a more displaced and complex issue than just people dying. The subject of AIDS is an extremely important terrain of contestation and struggle. This question is not just a matter of who gets represented and who does not-it is also a matter of protecting the desires and pleasures of all the relevant parties and stakeholders; not just those infected but also affected.

Part B

Cultural resistance refers to the practice of using symbols and meanings, that is, culture, to challenge and fight a dominant power or situation, often constructing a different vision of the world in the process. Stephen Duncombe simply defines cultural resistance as an ongoing and often times cantankerous debate, and not some specimen that is classified, anesthetized and pinned on the wall. Some would argue that cultural resistance is a necessary element in the historical efforts to build a world that satisfies the needs of men and eventually emancipating man from ‘slavery.’

In the Cultural Resistance Reader, the author explores the paradigm of cultural resistance through basing his arguments on women’s place in classical studies and participation in resistance. Duncombe argues that the absence of women in cultural resistance was linked to patriarchy, male chauvinism and institutional sexism which kept women on the periphery. But he goes further and asserts that cultural confrontation exists in the public, “on the streets, on the barricades, or the fields or in the bars.”         

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