ARTICLE
“In an Avalanche Every Snowflake Pleads Not Guilty”: The Collateral Consequences of Mass Incarceration and Impediments to Women’s Fair Housing Rights
George Lipsitz* 
59 UCLA L. Rev. 1746

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Abstract

In our society, individual acts of intentional discrimination function in concert with historically created vulnerabilities; these vulnerabilities are based on disfavored identity categories and amplify each injustice and injury. Although anyone can be a victim of housing discrimination, women of color suffer distinct collateral injuries from barriers to housing that are collective and cumulative in nature. At the intersections of race and gender, the welfare and dignity of black women and Latinas are undermined by the national failure to enforce fair housing and fair employment laws, by the concentration of poverty in neighborhoods inhabited largely by blacks and Latinos, by the criminalization of poverty, by the proliferation of punishments inside the criminal justice system, and by the expansion of the collateral consequences of arrests and criminal convictions in society at large. Produced by a plethora of public policies and private actions, these injuries entail more than denials of rights and resources to individuals. They evidence the existence and extent of a concentrated political attack on communities of color. Women play a central role in these practices because punitive policies are almost always legitimated by allegations of nonnormative behavior by poor people and people of color, allegations that occlude the actual intersectional vulnerabilities created by multiple forms of raced and gendered exploitation inscribed inside the routine practices of contemporary capitalism. This Article delineates how housing and employment discrimination combine to make black women and Latinas particularly vulnerable to surveillance, arrest, and incarceration. It shows how race and gender discrimination make reentry into society especially difficult for women ex-offenders from aggrieved communities of color. It establishes the historical causes and consequences of moral panics about the putative misbehavior of women of color, and it concludes by proposing a combination of litigation, legislation, and social mobilization to address the execrable consequences of intersectional discrimination and mass incarceration.


* George Lipsitz is Professor of Black Studies and Sociology at UC Santa Barbara.

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