“So High You Can’t Get Over it, So Low You Can’t Get Under it” by Rashad Shabazz explains similarities between the Robert Taylor Homes, Mining Compounds, and prison. Similarities lie in containment, policing, surveillance, and restrictive architecture. These similarities illuminate how Black masculinity is performed and embodied. It is striking to see the similarities with spatial geographies and prison, but even more so to recognize similarities in my own life. I live in the dorms at the University of Maryland and found myself relating to the descriptions in the reading. I first noticed a similarity with how the Robert Taylor Homes consisted of twenty-eight identical sixteen-story buildings. There are many dorms on campus, they all look very similar. Not just people from off-campus, but I do not know the differences between all of the buildings and even get the ones neighboring mine mixed up. The dorms are grouped in fours instead of threes, but have a similar “‘yard’ for recreation in the center” (278). Residents also do not have control over things like the heat. They are also small rooms with more than one resident in most cases. Resident life has also been known to make “forced doubles.” This is when two beds are put in a room that was designed to hold one. There are also fees and other incentives for residents not to have cars. This seems like a form of a barrior to fix residents in their place. There are also not grocery stores in close proximity and residents are required to purchase a dining plan, so they use points that cannot be used except for in the dining halls on campus for their meals.
In reference to policing and surveillance, on campus, there are enclosures on the ground floor that force to enter through a central entrance. There is a limit on how long this door can stay open. Residents also have to carry ID cards at all times. We cannot enter the building without them. They also send information about what doors and elevators are used, what time the resident comes in, and it is also used for the dining hall, so they know all of the food I eat and at what times. I am unaware of what they do with this information. Resident assistants are similar to the “special police force” (280) They can search the residents’ rooms for drugs, alcohol, weapons, and other items without warrants.
I also noticed that there are similarities in how older prisoners/students in schools are known for intimidating the younger people. Both institutions have hierarchy ingrained in social relationships.
The similarities that I noticed between school and prison in this article reinforce Dr. Richardson’s idea of how young black men are basically set up through the school system to be in prison one day. I previously did not understand this idea in such a personal manor. Of course there are more factors that are similar, which are likely more prevalent in other schools in different geopolitical locations, but these similarities were obvious and glaring.
**Not saying that dorms and the housing in the article are the same. I agree that dorms allow for more freedom. Maybe this is a critique about the article. Maybe a lot of housing complexes are similar to prison simply because this is a cheap way of arranging residence. In terms of security, this is not the case, so why are the security measures exactly the same? As the article suggests all of the similarities may be a way of preparing the college student for prison as well. The fact that they are expensive could be a way of taking money away from the student. The student basically lives like a poor person at least in terms of the food they purchase, and stress level. The high costs insure that this is the case.