Unavailable for a decade, now completely updated to the 1990s, this landmark book is a powerful indictment of federal use of the Constitution to maintain a racist status quo. Constitutional scholar Mary Frances Berry analyzes the reasons why millions of African Americans whose lives have improved enormously, both socially and economically, are still at risk of police abuse and largely unprotected from bias crimes. From the arrival of the first twenty slaves in Jamestown in 1619 through the founding of the nation, from the Civil War and Reconstruction to the Reagan-Bush years and the Howard Beach, Yusef Hawkins, and Rodney King incidents, federal law enforcement has pleaded lack of authority against white violence while endorsing surveillance of black rebels and using "constitutional" military force against them. Whether by action or inaction, the national government has used the Constitution to deny blacks their effective legal rights. The recent upsurge in racial intimidation and violence makes this completely revised and expanded edition of Black Resistance/White Law essential reading.
Arguing that federal law still perpetuates racial subordination through toleration of police abuse and racial violence, Berry here updates a study she originally published in 1971. Aimed mainly at students, the book presents an account of the policies and theories of repression spanning from the introduction of slavery in 1619 to the suppression of the abolitionist movement, violence under Reconstruction and 20th-century lynchings. Berry, who teaches law and history at the University of Pennsylvania, shows that concern about the country's world image led to a more vigorous federal role in the 1960s. Analyzing events of recent years, she observes that even under the more progressive Carter administration, the federal government was reluctant to prosecute police abuse under federal statutes, and she cites numerous instances of hate crimes and police brutality under subsequent Republican administrations--the 1985 arson of a black family's home in a white area of Wren, Miss., for example, and racial harassment on college campuses. She concludes that until government treats racial violence against blacks as seriously as it does attacks on whites, black rebellions will continue. (Feb.)