It’s Utterly Inhumane

A number of people have taken up the sisters’ cause, including Ben Jealous, the president of the N.A.A.C.P., who is trying to help secure a pardon from Gov. Haley Barbour of Mississippi. “It makes you sick to think that this sort of thing can happen,” he said. “That these women should be kept in prison until they die — well, that’s just so utterly inhumane.” Bob Herbert - New York Times

This quote is about a case in Mississippi were two young women were sentenced to life in prison for allegedly being involved in a robbery that involved $11.00 and no one was injured. Only in Mississippi could this happen according to the article and while I can sympathize with the plight of these two young women, one of whom has lost the function of her kidneys. There is an even greater inhumanity taking place in every state in this country.

The inhumanity that I am speaking of involves the systematic disenfranchising of young black and minority men. It takes place when these young men are arrested for oftentimes minor drug offenses and given felony convictions. These convictions then condemn these young men many of them before the age of 20 to a life of poverty. Think about that; for the next 40 to 50 years these young men will be discriminated against in employment, education, and housing.

You see the only group in America that you can discriminate against with impunity is the convicted felon population. You see we now have laws that prevent convicted felons regardless of the offense from receiving student loans and grants, housing assistance, and any other government assistance that they desperately need to change their lives and become reconnected to their community and our society. As if that were not enough most employers refuse to hire ex-offenders as a matter of policy except for menial low wage positions. No one challenges an employer for doing so, because we have the canard that most businesses have money and property on hand and the ex-offender cannot be trusted to be an honest person. After all, they are convicted felons. So we prevent them from receiving the support to change their lives and we won’t give them jobs to improve their lives, many of them for nothing more than having a bag of weed.

By condemning these young men to this fate of hardship we are also condemning the neighborhoods they live in to a future of violence and apathy. Once you remove the hope and the future of the young people in a community you suck the rejuvenating life blood out of that community. These young men now exist outside the system and the economy. They have been made invisible by a system designed to marginalize them and prevent them from competing successfully for their share of the American dream. These young men now have no reason to become involved in the improvement of their communities and often times their own lives. Many are not allowed or don’t vote. Many are unemployed. Many are not fathers to their own children and so the cycle continues.

What I think fails to get mentioned enough is that we are not only condemning these young men but entire communities to suffering. We set in motion the demolition of the underpinnings of these communities. Throughout history the fortunes of a culture or a community is driven by the fortunes of its young men and if you are able to somehow undermine those young men you in fact commence the destruction of that culture or community. You show me a vibrant community and I will show you one where the young men are intricately involved in the fabric of that community. Our community cannot afford to allow this destruction of our young men to go on unabated.

Just one galling statistic of many: in some states African Americans comprise 90 percent of the total drug prisoners and are 57 times more likely to be incarcerated for a drug offense than whites, even though whites use five times the amount of drugs as African Americans. - Michelle Alexander

The time has come for us to stand up and demand an end to this systematic destruction of our young men. We must begin to change a criminal justice system that routinely and selectively gives our young men felony convictions while at the same time giving whites diversion and other less punitive measures. We must begin to teach and train our young men to not participate in their own destruction. The training of our young men into responsible men is not being advocated and promoted as it should be in our community. There is this false assumption that boys just naturally grow into men, nothing could be further from the truth.

There will be racist elements who will seek to keep this pipeline in place. But in addition there will also be economic forces to contend with. Prisons now employ over 400,000 people throughout the country. Because many prisons are located in rural areas they have replaced other forms of employment such as manufacturing and farming. This source of jobs has kept many small towns afloat following the shrinking manufacturing and unskilled labor base. We now have a prison-industrial complex second only to the military in its size and scope. In order for prisons to be profitable they have to be filled. As a result of these policies we are pitting the employment and future of rural folks against the freedom and future of the urban folks.

As a society we cannot continue to operate on this level. The results of our inaction will be a permanent underclass in urban areas and a permanent siege mentality for those living there. It will also continue to foster and promote racial and geographical prejudice within our society. With two million of our fellow citizens incarcerated or on paper many for non-violent offences we must begin to seek and to promote alternative methods to incarceration and felony records. We should also support an atmosphere of support for second chances for these unfortunate people caught up in this “war” mentality. Businesses respond to customers and if customers were more receptive to second chances so would the business community. I ask you to begin speaking out in your communities for these young men. Become a part of the reentry movement where you live. You see condemning people before they are even 20 for a non-violent drug offense to a life of poverty is not just unfair or inhumane, it is immoral.

“Jails and prisons are designed to break human beings, to convert the population into specimens in a zoo-obedient to our keepers, but dangerous to each other.” - Angela Davis

The Disputed Truth

It’s Utterly Inhumane

A number of people have taken up the sisters’ cause, including Ben Jealous, the president of the N.A.A.C.P., who is trying to help secure a pardon from Gov. Haley Barbour of Mississippi. “It makes you sick to think that this sort of thing can happen,” he said. “That these women should be kept in prison until they die — well, that’s just so utterly inhumane.” Bob Herbert - New York Times

This quote is about a case in Mississippi were two young women were sentenced to life in prison for allegedly being involved in a robbery that involved $11.00 and no one was injured. Only in Mississippi could this happen according to the article and while I can sympathize with the plight of these two young women, one of whom has lost the function of her kidneys. There is an even greater inhumanity taking place in every state in this country.

The inhumanity that I am speaking of involves the systematic disenfranchising of young black and minority men. It takes place when these young men are arrested for oftentimes minor drug offenses and given felony convictions. These convictions then condemn these young men many of them before the age of 20 to a life of poverty. Think about that; for the next 40 to 50 years these young men will be discriminated against in employment, education, and housing.

You see the only group in America that you can discriminate against with impunity is the convicted felon population. You see we now have laws that prevent convicted felons regardless of the offense from receiving student loans and grants, housing assistance, and any other government assistance that they desperately need to change their lives and become reconnected to their community and our society. As if that were not enough most employers refuse to hire ex-offenders as a matter of policy except for menial low wage positions. No one challenges an employer for doing so, because we have the canard that most businesses have money and property on hand and the ex-offender cannot be trusted to be an honest person. After all, they are convicted felons. So we prevent them from receiving the support to change their lives and we won’t give them jobs to improve their lives, many of them for nothing more than having a bag of weed.

By condemning these young men to this fate of hardship we are also condemning the neighborhoods they live in to a future of violence and apathy. Once you remove the hope and the future of the young people in a community you suck the rejuvenating life blood out of that community. These young men now exist outside the system and the economy. They have been made invisible by a system designed to marginalize them and prevent them from competing successfully for their share of the American dream. These young men now have no reason to become involved in the improvement of their communities and often times their own lives. Many are not allowed or don’t vote. Many are unemployed. Many are not fathers to their own children and so the cycle continues.

What I think fails to get mentioned enough is that we are not only condemning these young men but entire communities to suffering. We set in motion the demolition of the underpinnings of these communities. Throughout history the fortunes of a culture or a community is driven by the fortunes of its young men and if you are able to somehow undermine those young men you in fact commence the destruction of that culture or community. You show me a vibrant community and I will show you one where the young men are intricately involved in the fabric of that community. Our community cannot afford to allow this destruction of our young men to go on unabated.

Just one galling statistic of many: in some states African Americans comprise 90 percent of the total drug prisoners and are 57 times more likely to be incarcerated for a drug offense than whites, even though whites use five times the amount of drugs as African Americans. - Michelle Alexander

The time has come for us to stand up and demand an end to this systematic destruction of our young men. We must begin to change a criminal justice system that routinely and selectively gives our young men felony convictions while at the same time giving whites diversion and other less punitive measures. We must begin to teach and train our young men to not participate in their own destruction. The training of our young men into responsible men is not being advocated and promoted as it should be in our community. There is this false assumption that boys just naturally grow into men, nothing could be further from the truth.

There will be racist elements who will seek to keep this pipeline in place. But in addition there will also be economic forces to contend with. Prisons now employ over 400,000 people throughout the country. Because many prisons are located in rural areas they have replaced other forms of employment such as manufacturing and farming. This source of jobs has kept many small towns afloat following the shrinking manufacturing and unskilled labor base. We now have a prison-industrial complex second only to the military in its size and scope. In order for prisons to be profitable they have to be filled. As a result of these policies we are pitting the employment and future of rural folks against the freedom and future of the urban folks.

As a society we cannot continue to operate on this level. The results of our inaction will be a permanent underclass in urban areas and a permanent siege mentality for those living there. It will also continue to foster and promote racial and geographical prejudice within our society. With two million of our fellow citizens incarcerated or on paper many for non-violent offences we must begin to seek and to promote alternative methods to incarceration and felony records. We should also support an atmosphere of support for second chances for these unfortunate people caught up in this “war” mentality. Businesses respond to customers and if customers were more receptive to second chances so would the business community. I ask you to begin speaking out in your communities for these young men. Become a part of the reentry movement where you live. You see condemning people before they are even 20 for a non-violent drug offense to a life of poverty is not just unfair or inhumane, it is immoral.

“Jails and prisons are designed to break human beings, to convert the population into specimens in a zoo-obedient to our keepers, but dangerous to each other.” - Angela Davis

The Disputed Truth

Watch the new Restore Fairness documentary and "Face the Truth" about racial profiling

From the Restore Fairness blog-

“I’ve seen a lot in my life but to be degraded…  not just stripped of my clothes, being stripped of my dignity, was what I had a problem with.”

Kurdish American Karwan Abdul Kader was stopped and stripped by local law enforcement for no reason other than driving around in the wrong neighborhood. This is one among many stories featured in a powerful new documentary “Face The Truth: Racial Profiling Across America”, produced by Breakthrough’s Restore Fairness campaign and the Rights Working Group, showcasing the devastating impact of racial profiling on communities around our country, including the African American, Latino, Arab, Muslim and South Asian communities.

The documentary brings to life a new report by the Rights Working Group released along with 350 local and national partners on the one year anniversary of the Face the Truth campaign to end racial profiling. Both the video and report urge Congress to pass the End Racial Profiling Act (ERPA), highlighted in a Congressional briefing on Thursday, September 30th in Washington D.C. attended by advocates, police chiefs and community organizers.

Besides compelling personal stories, the documentary features interviews with notable law enforcement and civil society leaders such as Hilary O. Shelton (NAACP), Dr.Tracie Keesee (Division Chief, Denver Police Department) and Karen Narasaki (Asian American Justice Center), all of whom decry racial and religious profiling as a pervasive problem that is not only humiliating and degrading for the people subjected to it, but one that is unconstitutional, ineffective as a law enforcement practice, and ultimately damaging to community security.

Together, we can stop the erosion of our fundamental human rights. Watch the video and take action now.

Learn. Share. Act. Go to restorefairness.org

Face the Truth: Racial Profiling Across America from Breakthrough on Vimeo.

 

 

 

GOP: When Stereotypes Come Home to Roost

As a party, Republicans have moved from mainstream conservatism toward the outer fringes of their tent.  In getting cozy with their ideological outer edge  they’ve ended up with some unsavory candidates, like Sharron Angle, Christine O’Donnell, and Sarah Palin. In essence, the GOP has been out-righted by the far right.

The party spends a lot of time defending itself from charges of supporting only rich people or Big Business. But they complicate their defense by drafting a new Contract on America™ that’s heavy on tax cuts they can’t explain and inviting de facto lobbyists to help author it.

Huzzah for the GOP
Another charge leveled against the party is racism. While you can no more profile a Republican’s race relations philosophy than you can profile an illegal immigrant, sometimes stereotypes are true. This time the GOP stereotype is NY congressional Candidate, Jim Russell.

Russell became the party nominee after previous candidate, Paul Wasserman, dropped out. Now the party wants to sue to remove him from the ballot over charges that Russell is a racist.

Judging from his public statements about minorities – like his support for eugenics – his racism seems to show as plainly and unequivocally as a southern belle’s antebellum skirt. But, Republicans shouldn’t be  surprised since Russell has run as a Republican – and lost his primaries – no fewer than three times and they’ve never objected to him before.

The GOP frequently argues against the race card charge by pointing out they’re “the party of Lincoln”. The problem is Lincoln died 145 years ago and the GOP of today bears little resemblance to the GOP circa 1860. The not your great-great grandfather’s GOP often discriminates against all manner of people they don’t like – Muslims, gays, and Mexicans alike.  With a record like that and Russell’s, its little wonder why racial stereotypes of Republicans die about as readily as their stereotypes of race.

A Breath of Fresh Air
But in the Russell case, I’ll give Westchester GOP chair, Doug Colety, props. Not only did he denounce Russell, but said, “We’re not supporting him. We’ve withdrawn funds, volunteers, all resources. This is not the way Republicans think.” Although he also used the party of Lincoln gambit, he did take strong and positive action against a virulent racist. A breath of fresh air, someone who actually does hold people – including himself – accountable.

More’s the pity more GOPers don’t do the same. Instead of praising a Governor promoting unfair – and possibly illegal – legislation against immigrants it would be nice if they actually tried to help find a rational response to the very real problem of illegal immigration instead of spreading rumors of fictional headless corpses along the border. Or, instead of attacking Muslim’s freedom of religion and Constitutional rights, they might listen to some of their saner Christian brethren who call for religious harmony.

Although I don’t think I’d ever be one – but I’d also say, “never say never” – there’s nothing wrong with Republicanism or conservatism, it’s the people, like Russell and Angle & Co., who sometimes give it a bad name. It’s admirable that leaders like Colety accept that the buck stops with them. However, if you bolster your own stereotypes, don’t bitch when they’re used against you.

You’ll be better off as will the nation.

Cross posted at The Omnipotent Poobah Speaks!

 

 

 

Time to counter hate and intolerance

Today, Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin are speaking at the same place Martin Luther King gave his historic speech. Meanwhile, the continued elevated controversy over the so called “ground-zero mosque” is evidence little has changed since 9/11. Time to counter hate and intolerance.

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