Feeling the pulse of the ‘NuSkool’
Photos and question by Christopher McIntyre
Feeling the pulse of the ‘NuSkool’
Photos and question by Christopher McIntyre
by Ivory A. Toldson, Ph.D
(The Root) — “There are more black men in jail than in college” is a line that has transfigured our understanding of persistent problems among black men in the United States. Many activists and scholars recite it to invoke urgency to fight unjust social structures, while culture critics say it to condemn the social failings of black men. The line is memorable, immutable, provocative and piercing, but as I revealed last week, it is not true.
This realization creates a sense of reprieve and ambivalence among many black people. Since the first article was released, many have argued that the rate of graduation among black males is still too low, and the rate of incarceration is too high — assertions I will not dispute. However, the natures of these issues are different and should not be contorted to produce a pedestrian soundbite.
The Overrepresentation of Black Men in Prison Continues to Be a Problem
Trends (pdf) over the last 10 years reveal long-standing racial disparities in sentencing and incarcerating black men in the U.S. According to the Department of Justice, there were 841,000 black men in jail and prisons in 2009, 49,400 more than there were in 2000; however, the rate of incarceration dropped slightly. Although the rate increase among white males was higher during that time period, the current rate for black males is still almost seven times that of white males. In 2009, black males represented 40 percent of the total male prison population, compared with 45 percent in 2000.
In many ways, propagandizing “Cellblocks or Classrooms?” the report that started the myth, led to the black community missing an opportunity to deal with a pressing issue. Beyond the numerical flaws, “Cellblocks or Classrooms?” argued for responsible allocation of public resources from state and federal governments. Recent evidence suggests that priorities to incarcerate compete against priorities to educate. Louisiana, the state with the highest rate of incarceration among males, has the lowest percentage of black males who have completed college (9 percent).
Other states with low percentages of black males who completed college (9 to 10 percent), including Mississippi, Arkansas and South Carolina, also had incarceration rates well above the national average. By contrast, Vermont, the state with the highest percentage of black males with college degrees (46 percent), has one of the lowest incarceration rates.
We might miss an opportunity again. Recently, a new popular soundbite has emerged. The line “More black men are in prison today than were enslaved in 1850” has become the favorite takeaway from a remarkable book called The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander. Alfred Edmond Jr. explained the flaws in such a statement in his article for Black Enterprise, so I won’t repeat them here. Instead, I’ll offer lines from an article I wrote last year that focus the problem away from black men and onto the system:After the dust settled from the Iran-Contra scandal, the War on Drugs continued to function as the middle passage between poor black neighborhoods and prison industries that thrived on cheap prison labor. Inmates with better health and lower security risk typically worked for a prison industry called UNICOR for about 23 cents per hour. In 2008, UNICOR reported $854.3 million in sales, nearly twice their earnings of 1996. From this, one can surmise that a system that gives longer prison sentences to less violent offenders can generate a healthy profit.
No, this is not as easy to say or digest, but it is a more accurate depiction of the link between slavery and the prison industrial complex. Read The New Jim Crow to get a clearer perspective on the systemic challenges and policy solutions for mass incarceration among black males.
“This has negative effects on both ends, as teachers formulate stereotypes about black male students, and these students fight less to battle those stereotypes. The result is the academic failure of black male students who feel as though the school system failed them long before they gave up on the system.” –White female teacher, New York City
I remember showing the film Bring Your ‘A’ Game to a group of black male high school students in Harrisburg, Pa. In the movie, narrator Mario Van Peebles emphatically states, “There are more black men in prison than in college — that’s a fact!”
When the movie concluded, I asked the young men to react to that specific line. Their response was sullen and disappointed. When I told them the real numbers, their mood immediately changed to hopeful and inspired. Producer Clarence L. Terry shared similar experiences with young men in his movie Expectations of the System.
In addition, the idea that we are losing black males in college to the criminal-justice system leads to the erroneous conclusion that violence-prevention and gang-abatement programs will increase college enrollment among black males. Merely achieving college enrollment levels that exceed incarceration is not an acceptable objective. Black males need programs — like honors and Advanced Placement classes, academic advisement and academic clubs — to help them excel in school and graduate from college.
Conclusion, Context, Dissection and the Surge of White Women in Prison
According to the Department of Justice (pdf), between 2000 and 2009 the rate increase among white women in jails and prisons was greater than any other race-gender group. During the 10-year period, the rate of incarceration decreased for black men by 0.6 percent, decreased for black women by 12 percent and increased for white women by 44 percent. In 2000 there were more black women in prison than any other race of women. By 2009, at 92,100, the white female prison population was nearly as high as the black female (64,800) and Hispanic female (32,300) prison populations combined.
These are factual statements, but skeptics will point out that because of “regression toward the mean,” percent changes are illusive in comparisons between the large starting point of the black male incarceration rate and the small starting point of the white female incarceration rate. However, a 44 percent rate increase is not a complete anomaly, and many who work within the prison system attribute the gains to the rise of crystal meth use among poor rural white women.
Dissecting and contextualizing stats pertaining to white people is natural. We should apply the same diligence when seeking to understand stats about black people. The prison-to-college population comparison, from its onset, has been dubious because it essentially compares college life, a time- and age-restricted experience, with prison life, a condition with an unlimited range of sentences and ages.
The census estimates that approximately 17,945,068 people in the U.S. population are black males, of all ages. Among them, about 6.3 percent are in college, and 4.7 percent are in prison. The remaining 89 percent have already finished college, already served a prison sentence, have a life trajectory that does not involve college or prison or are too young for either to apply.
A young advocate for social justice named Derecka Purnell once asked me, “How do you balance your research on black male achievement with a possible decrease in urgency to help black boys?” My response was, “Urgency based on hyperbole and conjecture should decrease. Urgency based on truth and compassion will endure.”
Victoire Ingabire was arrested months after returning from exile
Rwandan opposition leader Victoire Ingabire has been found guilty at her treason trial and sentenced to eight years in jail.
The prosecution had requested a life sentence for the charges of threatening state security.
The court also found her guilty of “belittling” Rwanda’s 1994 genocide.
Ingabire was not in court to hear the verdict as she has been boycotting the trial, saying it is politically motivated.
The Unified Democratic Forces leader was arrested in April 2010 and was barred from standing in elections later that year.
The BBC’s Prudent Nsengiyumva in the capital, Kigali, says her lawyer, the deputy UDF leader and a number of her supporters were in court.
They were stunned by the verdict, expecting her to receive a life sentence, our reporter says.
She had also faced terrorism charges, but these were dropped during the two-year trial.
The UDF has 30 days to appeal against the verdict.
Ingabire, a Hutu, returned from exile in the Netherlands in January 2010 – and has been in jail since her arrest.
She has questioned why Rwanda’s official memorial to the 1994 genocide does not include any Hutus.
Most of the 800,000 people killed were ethnic Tutsis but Hutu moderates were also slaughtered by the Hutu extremists.
Chakara @KaraPublishes (Rap Rehab)
Dear 2012 Dope Boy
So, street corners don’t spare feelings.
You know that.
There were risks outlined when you began – but you know that.
You picked up a bunch of “homies” and friends along the way – but you’re always questioning them. Living your life on the edge wouldn’t even be proper terminology – because you and I both know there are no boundaries in this “dope boy” hustle. So let me begin.
So you’re written off.
Can you believe it?
Some of you aren’t even 16 years old yet. You’re written off by the politicians who tell the world that you are the ones trashing our neighborhood – with petty priced drug creations – igniting useless crime amongst brothers of your same class.
You’re a creation of your environment.
The closed doors killed your hope. Being prejudged sparked your anger. Being less fortunate built your ambition, but most importantly the struggle built your tough endurance.
Its time you understand this. Its time you see your value, and its time for you to come out of the “trap”. The trap is an illusion – it isn’t a building made of natural and man made material. Its a “state of mind”. Its a caged perception of the future – its the dark tunnel that makes it hard for anyone to see the measure of their true potential.
Money comes fast – but it comes with consequences.
Charges are multiplying – and the only person taking score is the district D.A.
So what are you going to do?
Listen. I don’t think you understand your power. You’ve learned the actual art of manufacturing – except by playing with devil’s candy. You’ve learned how to dodge a business world full of snakes – set out to do you harm – by adapting to survival techniques that no “cradled” child given everything by mommy/daddy – could have learned. You’re so 1up on the world – that you must take a safe time to exit your lifestyle. You learned math – in huge quantities. You learned the art of barter and exchange – down to a tee.
Numbers can’t get by you incorrectly. You became a human calculator – and learned a HEAVY deal in “saving” and “stashing” for a rainy day. Although your morning may begin with heavy phone calls, by a nuisance crowd of addicted individuals – you learned the arts of fulfilling a customer’s needs in a timely manner.
Leave it to me to pull out the positives from a negative situation.
I know the money’s long – but the hustle is wrong. It eventually will put you in a place where you will never advance to your highest level of success. The world will not allow this type of hustle to “lift” you. It will only thin you out. It will make you thin – and then begin its destruction on those close to you. Your family. Your children.
While you live a life – watching every corner – every second – you’ve actually conditioned yourself to withstand the mightiest forces of any “corporate world’s” ups and downs – but instead of men in dress pants and ties – you were trained by take the blows of other dope boys in baggy jeans and white tees. It’s 2012.
Federal indictments are at the hands of many political officers who desperately want convictions.
Charges are carrying heavier consequences and extra months – and Federal court room sentencing feels equivalent to modern day legal “lynching”.
The prison time consequences are coming with so many months – that the intergrity and loyalty of men who swear they’d never “squeal” in an interrogation room is now being questioned.
The ONCE bravest heart on the street corner – is now becoming an employee of drug investigations – providing all detail necessary to clear his own case.
What are you going to do?
Will you continue to use all of your golden learned behavior – in the company of powdered substance and/or basement manufactured cannibus or pills? Or will you take your learned behavior and invest it in a more safe – legal – production business – keeping you available always to the ones who truly NEED you out here with them?
Only two doors and thats death and prison.
But if you trade in your product – and keep all of the things you’ve picked up – while living such a life – you have the opportunity to use the things you’ve learned to bring your family revenue for a lifetime.
Minus the funeral bells and the obituaries.
Dear 2012 Dope Boy
ITS THAT TIME
Switch Up Your Hustle – like your life depends on it.
Because it does.
Lauryn Hill pled guilty to three counts of tax evasion, she could be sentenced for three years in prison plus fines.
We reported when the news first broke that Lauryn Hill faced federal charges for tax evasion, and now Hill has owned up to deliberately not paying her taxes, she faces three years in prison if charged.
When the judge asked Hill if she “”intentionally and willingly” didn’t pay her taxes, she replied, “Yes.”
In addition to three years in prison, Hill also faces a fine of $75,000.
She was released on bail for $150,000. Her sentence hearing will be in November.