Sunday, September 30, 2018

Summarizing some key points from Ellis Monk's "The color of punishment" article

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I recently read and then tweeted about "The Color of Punishment: African Americans, Skin Tone, and the Criminal Justice System" by Ellis Monk. It's a really important article. Folks often speak in anecdotes about skin color, but here is research really pinpointing how skin color matters in criminal justice.

Notably, Monk writes that the black/white gap in incarceration “is insignificant after controlling for respondents' education, earnings, and more.” By contrast, there is a “statistically significant association between skin tone and incarceration within the black population.”

At another point, Monk writes that “being black (and poor) may already predispose one to have a higher probability of contact” with the criminal justice system. But, “being perceived as blacker intensifies this contact further and may increase the harshness of one's treatment.” That “blacker” part is crucial.

Monk was like, the criminal justice system “seems to be more finely targeted than common discourse, which tends to paint matters simply as ‘black and white.’" That is, the criminal justice system knows who's *blacker.* The implications of the article are serious.

Reading Monk’s article led me down a rabbit hole. I ended up, for instance, reading "Shades of
Discrimination: Skin Tone and Wages" (2006) by the economists Arthur H. Goldsmith, Darrick Hamilton and William Darity. Reading more was a reminder than folks in have been thinking through the subject for a while, and exploring the values placed on skin color in different fields.

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