So, we can check off racism as one social problem solved? Right?
√ Racism—taken care of…
Even though we elected a black man for president in 2008.
Did it again in 2012.
Did it again in 2012.
And even though Oprah Winfrey is one of the wealthiest and most respected women in America—
Consider the following:
Which country incarcerates the largest number of its racial and ethnic minorities?
___ United States
No other country in the world incarcerates so many of its racial or ethnic minorities as the United States. The US imprisons a larger percentage of its black population than South Africa did at the height of apartheid.
The US has the highest rate of incarceration in the world, surpassing Russia, China, and Iran. In Germany, 93 people are in prison for every 100,000 adults and children. In the US, the rate is 750 per 100,000.
I know what you’re thinking…
But Isn’t That Because of the War on Drugs?
The drug war does account for most of the increase in our prison population.
But if you think the War on Drugs began because of crack cocaine…think again. President Reagan announced the War on Drugs in 1982, before crack cocaine became an issue in neighborhoods or the media.
Drug crime was actually decreasing when the War on Drugs began.
Check This Out—
Studies show that people of all colors use and sell drugs at similar rates. Even though studies indicate that white youth are involved in drug crime at a higher rate than youth of color, our jails and prisons are overflowing with black and brown drug offenders.
So, what’s going on?
Penal System or Social Control?
In 1972 fewer than 350,000 people were in prisons and jails nationwide. Today—over 2 million.
One in three young African American men will serve time in prison if current trends continue.
In some cities more than half of all young Black men are in prison or on probation or parole.
The primary targets of the American Penal system can be defined largely by race.
Crime rates in other western countries are about the same as in the US.
While incarceration rates in other western countries have decreased or remained the same—
incarceration rates in the US have mushroomed.
This mass incarceration is more than just the criminal justice system.
There is also the larger web of laws, rules, policies, and customs that control those who are labeled criminals…even after they leave prison.
Mass incarceration is the most damaging backlash against the Civil Rights Movement.
Life After Prison
This system of control permanently blocks a huge percentage of the African American community from participating in mainstream society.”
Former inmates are often denied the right to vote, excluded from juries, kept from jobs and housing, and relegated to a subordinated existence.
These laws, regulations, and informal rules, all reinforced by social stigma, confine former inmates to the margins of mainstream society much as second class citizenship during the Jim Crow era.
What Can You Do?
For a more in-depth discussion, read THE NEW JIM CROW: MASS INCARCERATION IN THE AGE OF COLORBLINDNESS by legal scholar Michelle Alexander. Well-written, informative, and well documented.
Check it out at: www.amazon.com/New-Jim-Crow-Incarceration-Colorblindness/dp/1595586431 (Much of the information for this blog came from Alexander’s book.)
To thrive, this system needs for each of us to remain indifferent.
Consider writing letters to editors of local newspapers to alert others of the need for penal reform.
Contact your congressman to push for penal reform, especially ending the War on Drugs.
Agree? Disagree? What are your thoughts? I’d love to hear from you.