by Natasha Chart, Wed Mar 26, 2008 at 07:32:22 AM EDT
What if a tenth of the young men in your community were in, or had been in, prison?
If you're African American, that would be optimistic, because one of every nine young Black men have been through the penal system. They don't commit crimes at higher rates than Whites of similar socioeconomic status, they don't use drugs any more often. But they're more likely to be arrested, more likely to stand trial once arrested, more likely to be sentenced to incarceration when they stand trial, likelier to be given and to serve a longer sentence than a White peer.
The statistics speak for themselves, they haven't been getting better over the years, and the war on some drugs is a prime culprit. It'd be great if legislators had more of a sense of fair play about these things, but who are we kidding?
Legislators aren't allowed to engage in public displays of compassion for people who've fallen off the straight and narrow unless those people are wealthy, White, and from 'good' families. Like, one observes, the good family that's given us our current president and his genocidal war. No, our poor people had better be moral. No, no ... super moral! Nigh angelic, really, for the privilege of sometimes getting medical care, a pittance for living expenses, college assistance, or being allowed to stay out of jail.
Color of Change is asking people to write their representative to end sentencing disparities between at least powder and crack cocaine.
Powder cocaine is done by wealthy, mostly White people who live in communities where the police aren't big into shaking down everyone they see for contraband. Crack cocaine is used mainly in communities of color, where a presumption of guilt is law enforcement's normative standard and raids and stings are far more common. We as a nation have winked at this, and many other injustices, and today, over ten percent of Black men between 20 and 34 are in jail or prison.
So it also happens that 10 percent of Ohio residents are on food stamps, and it gets worse.
... 1.1 million Ohioans receive food stamps, and 500,000 more are eligible. ...Those in households that make up to 130 percent of the federal poverty level - $22,880 for a family of three - and with assets no greater than $2,000, in most cases, are eligible for food stamps.
... Imagine the implications for a family of 3 making $22,880. Of that, $2630 goes to federal income taxes, $332 goes to Medicare, and $1418 goes to Social Security. As best I can tell, Ohio state tax is $500. That leaves roughly $18000 per year, or $1500 per month. For three people. And that is the BEST case scenario for this entire segment of 14%+ of Ohio's population. ...
Ohio's soup kitchens and other charities aren't able to keep up with the demand. The food stamp benefits, as noted at the link, are barely able to cover two weeks of groceries. And you know we're not talking about high quality groceries, but the sort of fast and dirty bulk calories that can be stretched just enough to keep body and soul together.
Though diet is a significant factor in physical and intellectual development that affects health and achievement for life, this country can't provide a decent diet to the children who've started off also with their parents' disadvantages. We've served them poorly.
America is supposed to be a Christian country. Our president and many lawmakers compete it seems to see who can more ostentatiously claim their faith and devotion to the teachings of Jesus. I suppose it's impossible to know what's in their hearts.
But I'd hope that maybe, someday, all of this maudlin display of sentiment would begin to shame more of them into reading the words of their alleged spiritual leader:
34 Then the King will say to those on his right, "Come! you who are the blessed ones of my Father, inherit the kingdom that was prepared for you from the beginning of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me a drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me."
37 Then the righteous will answer him, saying, "Lord, when did we see you hungry and fed you, or thirsty and we gave you a drink? 38 And when did we see you a stranger and we invited you in, or naked and we clothed you? 39 And when did we see you sick or in prison and we came to you?"
40 And answering, the King will say to them, "Truly I say to you, as much as you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me."
41 Then he will say to those on his left, "Depart from me, you accursed ones, into the eternal fire that has been kept in readiness for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you did not give me anything to eat, I was thirsty and you did not give me a drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I was naked and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not visit me."
44 Then they will also answer, saying, "Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison and we did not help you?"
45 Then he will answer them, saying, "Truly I say to you, as much as you did not do it for one of the least of these, you did not do it for me."
46 And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.
Our fellow citizens are in prison, they are hungry.
Who among our lawmakers will insist that they be treated with compassion? Who among them will minister to the needs of these least among us in power or wealth as if their very souls depended on it?