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

A Case for Eating Your Vegetables

Parents have always had a hard time getting kids to either their vegetables--whether they live in Beijing, New York City, or Johannesburg. But in a small town in Arusha, Tanzania, a research center is helping Africans gain access to nutritious--and native--sources of vegetables.

As hunger and drought spread across Africa, however, there's a huge focus on increasing yields of staple crops, such as maize, wheat, cassava, and rice. And while these crops are important for food security, providing much needed calories, they don't provide much protein, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, calcium, iron, riboflavin, thiamin, niacin, other important vitamins and micronutrients--or much taste. "None of the staple crops," says Dr. Abdou Tenkouano, the World Vegetable Center's Regional Director for Africa "would be palatable without vegetables." And vegetables, he says, "are less risk prone" than staple crops that stay in the field for longer periods of time. Because vegetables typically have a shorter growing time, they can maximize often scarce water supplies and soil nutrients better than crops such as maize which need a lot of water and fertilizer.

Despite the focus on staple crops, vegetable production generates more income on and off the farm than most other agricultural enterprises.  And unlike staple crops, vegetable production is something that benefits urban and rural farmers alike. In addition, vegetable production is the most sustainable and affordable way of alleviating micronutrient deficiencies among the poor. Often referred to as "hidden hunger," micronutrient deficiencies--including lack of Vitamin A, iron, and iodine--affect some 1 billion people worldwide, even in the United States. Although at least 50 percent of the U.S. population is considered obese or "overfed," many people suffer from some of the same micronutrient deficiencies as malnourished people here in sub-Saharan Africa because of overconsumption of high-fat and highly processed foods--yet another ironic thing Americans and Africans have in common.

And micronutrient deficiencies, in rich and poor countries alike, lead to poor mental and physical development, especially among children, and cause poor performance and work and in school, further crippling communities already facing poverty and other health problems.

But by growing more food in urban areas and food deserts--many American cities lack affordable grocery stores carrying fresh fruits and vegetables, forcing the urban poor to rely on fast food--in the U.S. and elsewhere rates of obesity and micronutrient deficiencies can be decreased. Growing more indigenous crops--breeds and varieties that are adapted to local weather and temperatures, pests, and diseases--can help farmers everywhere become more resilient against climate change.  Perhaps most importantly, these traditional vegetable varieties taste good, encouraging people to eat more of them.

But simply growing or selling these more nutritious foods is not enough. In both developed and developing countries, people--because of urbanization, poverty, and "McMeals"--children are growing up without knowing how to cook and prepare foods. Many NGOs, including Slow Food International, are helping communities restore these culinary traditions. In Uganda, the Developing Innovations in School Cultivation Project (DISC) teaches students and teachers not only how to food, but also teaches them cooking skills, as well as how to process foods and save seeds. In California, the Berkeley Community Gardening Collaborative integrates organic gardening and cooking into school curriculums, so that a passion for food is handed down to the next generation.

When children, and their parents and teachers, grow vegetables -- whether in the village outside Kamapala, Uganda or on top of a building in Los Angeles -- it nourishes not only their bodies, but helps build culinary and cultural traditions that will last a lifetime.

There's more...

Palin's Un-America

Everyone in Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, Dallas, Seattle, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Miami, Cleveland, Minneapolis, etc., etc., etc., should be furious with Sarah Palin for equating living in a urban area of the country makes you un-American (if being un-american means potentially voting for Obama.)  

I have never seen a party that consistently classifies themselves as uniters being so divisive.  

In a Sarah Palin America those of us that live in urban America are lovers of socialism who "pal around with terrorists" while we actually read news publications that extend our elitism.  Sarah Palin, who has barely seen the world past Alaska, let alone those "furrin" countries that lie past our borders fails to see that urban America celebrates the diversity of America.  You see people of many races and religions living together side by side (mostly) in harmony.  You see people with open minds that are open to new ideas that will improve the world and willing to help their neighbors, unlike what Sarah Palin wants people to believe.  That to me is what America is about, not homogeneous groups of people that still believe that the world was created in 6 days and that we lived the same time as the dinosaurs.  

Sarah Palin comes from a town in Alaska of under 10,000 that was surrounded by 42 meth labs and forced victims of sexual abuse to pay for their own medical treatment.  Those are virtues that I want extolled upon the rest of America.  

I have traveled to most of this country, and I have seen good and bad in both rural and urban America.  In times like these, more then others, we need to come together as a nation.  Yet members of the Republican party insist on still trying to divide this nation into the "real" America and the elitist socialist America.  America will not be able to move forward as a divided country were it's rural citizens harbor a distrust of it's urban citizens that is fostered by the leaders of the Republican party.  People in this country need to realize that we need to move forward on a united front, that is the only way we will succeed and bring this country back to the status that we all want to be at.  

The voters of this country need to step up and say No! I will not let you divide my country into two parts.  We are all Americans and we are all looking for the same thing and urban America and rural America coming together will provide a strength that the two parts can separate would never be able to match.

So say no to Sarah Palin's "real" America of small towns.  We all live in one America, and we are all real Americans.

There's more...

Doctors Within Borders - America's Shame

What is it like to not be able to afford to go to a dentist?  How do you chew food with no teeth?  Imagine if your only recourse is to get a pair of pliers and do a "do-it-yourself" extraction?

Many of us are familiar with the heroic organization "Doctors Without Borders" ( Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) that does amazing work around the world bringing health care to people affected by violence, neglect, or catastrophe, but how many of us know about an organization right here in the US that does similar work for our nations poor?

There's more...

Diaries

Advertise Blogads