The Rage of Innocence: How America Criminalizes Black Youth

Pantheon. Sept. 2021. 512p. ISBN 9781524748906. $30. SOC SCI
What will it take for U.S. courts, politicians, and overall policing culture to finally recognize the harm it routinely inflicts upon Black citizens? In this first book, lawyer Henning (Blume Prof. of Law, Georgetown Univ. Law Center) takes a focused look at the racist reality that underlines American cultural perceptions of Black youth and the systemic treatment of Black communities, by examining the lives of Black children primarily in the Washington, DC, area. Henning uses extensive primary resources, including firsthand interviews, and a blend of contemporary data and history to contextualize the stories of children she sometimes represents juvenile courts. The findings highlight the differences between experiences of white childhood and Black childhood in the United States to make the case that biases against Black youth are dangerous and normalized. Most of the narratives in this book are disturbing and have resulted in deeply rooted psychological damage that reflects the collective trauma inflicted upon Black communities. With this in mind, Henning makes her stance clear—this book is not meant to fulfill mere intellectual curiosity; rather, it is a “call to action.”
VERDICT Henning’s incisive book is highly recommended for readers interested in sociology, African American studies, criminal justice reform, and activism.
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