Book Review: Dark ghettos: Injustice, dissent, and reform

Date01 December 2018
Published date01 December 2018
Subject MatterBook Reviews
Justice Department on how to avoid “exclusionary school discipline” (pp. 151–152). In brief, these
recommendations state: Racial disparity is significant; such disparity is not the result of misbeha-
vior; instructional time is lost when a student is excluded; exclusionary discipline harms education
and increases the “school-to-prison pipeline”; positive interventions are needed; exclusionary dis-
cipline should only be used for extreme behavior and school safety; that psychological and testing
services should be used when social, emotional, or psychological symptoms become evident; and
that clear and appropriate behavioral expectations should involve all stakeholders within the com-
munity. Simmons’ study on the Prison School is significant and should be considered as a primary
tool in teaching diversity, and ethics, to both educators and to criminal justice practitioners.
Shelby, T. (2016).
Dark ghettos: Injustice, dissent, and reform. Cambridge, MA: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.
1–340 pp. $29.95, ISBN 978-0-674-97050-2.
Reviewed by: David E. Barlow, Fayetteville State University, Fayetteville, NC, USA
DOI: 10.1177/0734016817724502
Tommie Shelby is the Caldwell Titcomb Professor of African and African American Studies and of
Philosophy at Harvard University. His book, Dark Ghettos: Injustice, Dissent, and Reform, boldly
addresses some of society’s most profound moral, political, and strategic questions as they relate to
race, class, and justice. How should we respond to crime when our system is seriously unjust? What
does justice require us to do? How should we respond, individually and collectively, to injustice?
What is a responsible and dignified response on the part of the ghetto poor to their oppression and the
social problems of their community? As Shelby points out, many social scientists are likely to
initially recoil from the suggestion that Shelby, or anyone else, should tell other people, especially
the oppressed, how they ought to live or what they ought to value. However, as Shelby notes, it is
important for the reader to remember that his work is philosophical and not a social scientific study.
In Dark Ghettos,Shelby constructs a politicalphilosophy for what hasbeen referred to as the “Third
Reconstruction,” or what Shelby refers to as ghetto abolitionism. It has been argued that the First
Reconstruction took place after the Civil War along with the abolition of slavery, and the Second
Reconstruction was the Civil Rights Movement, which brought about the abolishment of Jim Crow.
It is possible that the Third Reconstruction is being initiated by the mobilization or militarization of
Black people within the Black Lives Matter Movement and other less structured and more individua-
lized actsof defiance out of a sense of justice.Shelby argues that the current movementwill only lead to
real changeif they are focused on the abolitionof the ghetto and if theyare informed by a specificset of
valuesand principles. DarkGhettos is Shelby’s effortto provide a moral and philosophicalfoundation to
shape the development and implementation of proposedsolutions and to guide grassroots movements
engaged in this struggle as well as other political activists and social scientists who seek to solve the
problems of racism,economic inequality, and the injusticesof the criminal justice system.
Shelby’s political philosophy is based on liberal egalitarianism. According to Shelby, liberal-
egalitarian theory places a high value on individual liberty and formal equality, but it also recog-
nizes the critical importance of economic fairness. Therefore, he emphasizes that any proposed
solution to the ghetto must respect the dignity, humanity, self-respe ct, and freedom of all people,
but, especially of those who are most disadvantaged or vulnerable, and it must address the iss ue of
economic inequality and disadvantage. Under this philosophy, it is critically important to ensure
that any social program or policy designed to abolish the ghetto empowers residents to make free
Book Reviews 515

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