Jason Stanley - Is the United States a ‘Racial Democracy’?

January 21, 2014

Host: Lindsay Beyerstein

This week, Point of Inquiry welcomes Jason Stanley, professor of philosophy at Yale and co-author of a provocative essay in last week’s New York Times entitled "Is the United States a ‘Racial Democracy?"

Dr. Stanley and his co-author, Dr. Vesla Weaver, argue that the disproportionate surveillance, imprisonment, and post-conviction voter disenfranchisement of black Americans threatens the very integrity of our democracy. On any given day, 5.85 million people are unable to vote because they are in prison, on parole, or disenfranchised as felons. A disproportionate percentage of them are black. Of the nation's 2.3 million prisoners, about 1 million are black, despite the fact that black people represent just 13% of the population. If current trends continue, 1 in 3 black men born today can expect to go to prison in his lifetime.

The essay raises pointed questions of interest to any skeptical citizen: Why do we strip prisoners of the right to vote in the first place? Does our fervent belief in democracy and equality blind us to the realities of our political system? Host Lindsay Beyerstein explores this question in this week’s episode.

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