This week’s racial profiling allegations by New York City college student,Trayon Christian, have provoked me to take a long hard look at the manner in which blackness is consistently criminalized within retail environments. In the case of Christian, things may have gone even further than is usual, as the 19-year-old claims that he was not only falsely accused of debit card fraud by a sales associate at a high-end department store last April, but arrested and detained for two hours by the NYPD as a result. Those of us who share Mr. Christian’s racial and socio-economic identities know well the suspicion with which we are met when we walk through the doors of far too many retailers. We know what it’s like to try, in every way possible, to clearly exhibit our law abiding intentions, but are still rendered “criminal” by the prejudicial eyes of “loss prevention” strategies ostensibly aimed at saving retailers money. These degrading practices, such as being arrested for buying an expensive belt with your own money, as Christian experienced, are more often thinly veiled instances of the same sort of profiling that has perpetuated the “stop and frisk” culture of law enforcement in locales such as New York City. Trying valiantly to avoid suspicion So we do our best to never shop with large backpacks, or oversized outerwear. We attempt never to linger too long away from other shoppers and retail associates, and balk at the notion of running errands for family members who request that we use their credit cards without proper identification. We know that we will not only be denied the benefit of the doubt if questioned, we will often risk not being able to prove our innocence upon accusation. This ongoing compromise of one’s basic civil liberties and integrity is at the core of Trayon Christian’s allegations, as he is now suing the NYPD and the luxury retailer Barneys for violating his rights. (Barneys has posted a response to the allegations on its Facebook page.) The factors reflected in Christian’s scenario feature centrally as re-occurring themes in this writer’s life narrative. I am a fashion professional who has worked for a decade designing apparel, and now works writing about apparel industries. Often I’m in stores to flush out a piece I’m researching, or to see how accurately certain runway trends are being translated at mass market retailers. I’m not just in stores to score a retail fix and rack up credit card debt (though, I must admit that I end up making endless personal purchases as a result of my work). A consummate shopper — treated criminally I must stress: I pay for everything that I leave a store with. Yet, I’ve learned that my possession of receipts and adherence to by-the-book behavior are regularly undermined by the fact that I fit the racially-informed profile of a shoplifter “to a tee.” Zara on lower Broadway in New York City, Intermix near the Flatiron building on Fifth Ave., Trader Joe’s near George Washington University in Washington, D.C., and most recently The Home Depot on Manhattan’s Upper East Side are among the stores in which I have endured humiliating accusations of shoplifting, or worse. (TheGrio has reached out to the stores named above for comment. Only Home Depot responded by publication time with the following statement. “Respect for the diversity of our customers, as well as our associates and communities is a core value,” wrote Home Depot representative Stephen Holmes in an email to theGrio. “The Home Depot takes extremely seriously, and we have clear procedures in place, to ensure one’s race has nothing to do with whether an individual is stopped and accused of shoplifting. “Additionally, our policy specifically states that ‘surveillance should not be based on individual characteristics such as age, gender, race, sexual orientation, disability, national origin or relgion.’”) Judged: Not by the contents of one’s character I offer up myself as an example of how one’s assessment under the inequitable eye of profiling can drastically differ — for the worse — from one’s reality. I am an Ivy League-educated professional, with no criminal record, who has never stolen. I have held endless retail positions as an adolescent and make every effort to respect and acknowledge the work of retail associates. Those may be my realities, but they seldom factor into my treatment in stores. I’ve learned that I don’t have to commit illegal acts to be seen as criminal. My mere presence is criminalized. I know what it felt like to be Trayon Christian at the incredulous moment that he was detained for simply buying something he wanted. Reality check: Thieves come in all races I once asked a guard, as he physically removed me from a store under the premise that I had been de-magnatizing sensors: “You have assumed I’m shoplifting because I’m a black young man wearing a cap, and somebody fitting that description has shoplifted in your store before, but don’t you think a blond woman with a ponytail has shoplifted in this store, too? “Are you asking everybody that fits that description to leave your store?” Probably not, because I recall a certain “waspy” friend of mine who marveled about how she always got her favorite hair accessories at J.Crew via just picking the ones she wanted, and wearing them out of the store. Another white, female friend of mine who shopped (and shoplifted) a great deal at J.Crew. each spring would dutifully go to the Washington, D.C. flagship store on M Street, put on upwards of five swimsuits under her street clothes, and walk right out of the door. No police officer accosted her after leaving, as happened to Trayon Christian after legally paying for his item. (TheGrio has reached out to J.Crew for comment on these allegations, but calls were not returned by publication time.) Yes, there was the time in 2001 when Winona Ryder got caught trying to head for her car with upwards of $5,000 of unpurchased designer merchandise. But would her black, female counterpart have even gotten that far? Retailers are not assuming that white Americans could be sticky-fingered, clepto-boosters at the rate that they are making that assumption about me and people that look like me. Solutions to avoid racial profiling in shops And that my friends, is the issue: people of all colors steal — but only some of us are made to carry the stigma associated with doing so. And these stigmata carry over into our broader lives. We often unfairly wear these stigmata of dishonesty and untrustworthiness in the classroom, boardroom, and (most frighteningly) within the courtroom. Too often, we are deemed guilty of lies and deceit before any substantiated evidence would indicate so. What’s the answer? To retailers I offer: train employees to monitor all shoppers for suspicious behavior, because those who are successful career shoplifters rarely fit the outmoded profiles of troubled teens of color. Yes, this means that you are going to have to accuse white women (and men) of shoplifting more often. But trust: if they are shoplifting and caught on camera, they are prosecutable. Their tears and indignation will not absolve them of their crimes. A few of these arrests will send a strong message to those thinking about shoplifting from your store, and you will in turn see less shoplifters of any color trying their tricks. To people of color I offer: DO NOT SHOPLIFT. Not only are you putting yourself at risk of incurring the sort of criminal record that makes it incredibly difficult to secure full-time employment, you are also making it difficult for those of us people of color who don’t shoplift to merely live our day-to-day lives. It’s a lose-lose situation. Unfortunately, as Trayon Christian’s story shows, as a group we don’t have the luxury of taking silly risks for minor thrills that members of other groups enjoy. I will also add that we can and should utilize digital recording devices to our advantage when dealing with the phenomenon of profiling. In other words, pull out that camera phone. The moment you are asked to have your bag searched, or are told that you look suspicious, pull out your phone and start recording. Ask probative questions such as, “What exactly indicates to you that I am stealing?” and “Do you have a sign that clearly states that you have the right to the check bags of all who enter this store?” Ask, “I didn’t set off an alarm, but that person did. Are you going to search his/her bag as well?” Record all of this for two reasons. One, retail associates are less likely to compromise your rights when they know that they are being recorded. And two, if they do, having the entire experience video-documented may provide you with the grounds for successful legal action. An incentive for racial soul-searching What happened to Trayon Christian has been described on social media as “shopping while black,” echoing the familiar phenomenon many African-Americans experience when getting stopped while driving by police for no other reason than having a nice car. The police in these instances cannot conceive that a black person can afford that automobile without being a drug dealer, just as the police and Barneys associate in Christian’s case could not comprehend that he possessed $350 to buy a belt. Well, times have changed, and so must people’s perspectives. Just as there are white and other non-black thieves and criminals, there are of course millions of African-Americans with the means and right to possess objects of quality. It is a violation of our rights to project criminality onto those persons because their “type” does not fit a sadly persistent stereotype. One begins to wonder: From Trayon Christian, to Forest Whitaker, who was wrongfully accused of shoplifting on the Upper West Side of Manhattan – among the countless others who continue to meet undue criminalization through profiling — when will American communities will wake up and take an active role in assessing the insidious ways in which racism still operates so actively in our lives? Those of us who bare the burden of these injustices have been rendered wide awake regardless of whether we want to be. We must commit ourselves to sounding the alarms that will shake the rest of the nation out of its complicit slumber.
Milwaukee Alderman Robert Donovan seems baffled by the lack of outrage as it related to the 12 infant deaths due to co-sleeping in the last 10 months. Well, if he wants outrage he’s got it. But not so much at the tragic deaths of 12 infants, the majority of whom lived in the city’s African American community. Trust us when we say the community IS outraged, and sickened, by the deaths of the most innocent and vulnerable among us. No. The outrage being expressed is with the Southside alderman and his call for jail time to anyone who contributes directly to a co-sleeping death while under the influence of either drugs and/or alcohol. “We don’t need more restorative justice. We don’t need more handholding. We don’t need more parenting classes. We don’t need more free cribs. The answer—what we DO need—is pure and simple: JAIL,” Donovan railed in a press statement in which he challenged Mayor Tom Barrett and his colleagues on the Council to address the problem. And the parents of the infants who die don’t need jail either, Mr. Donovan! What they need is compassion. What they need is someone to hold their hand and comfort them in their bereavement. What they need are classes (more if necessary) that help them become better, more responsible and aware parents who can couple the newfound knowledge they learn with the already present love they have for their children to help them grow and thrive! And while we’re on the subject of parents, Mr. Donovan, you and your colleagues can do you’re part in helping them too! You and your fellow councilmen can do a better job addressing the lack of decent and affordable housing, the extreme unemployment, the prevalence of violence in our neighborhoods, the low graduation rates and high dropout rates, not to mention the lack of health coverage and access. Believe it or not, Mr. Alderman, these factors contribute to infant mortality a lot more than co-sleeping, which occurs when parents are juggling two jobs and child rearing, sometimes with little—if any—support from other family members. Unfortunately,some parents cope with these societal factors in ways that do more harm than good—to themselves and their children. If they had the aforementioned economic and educational resources, they might not resort to substances to deal with the pressures of raising a family on an income at or below the poverty level. What parents of infants who die DON’T need, alderman is to be labeled criminals for making an unfortunate mistake. We agree that parents shouldn’t co-sleep with their children if they are under the influence or extremely tired. The Milwaukee Healthy Beginnings Project, in its pamphlet on co-sleeping warns against it. What infants and their parents DON’T need Ald. Donovan is your brand of extremism that doesn’t address the problems facing poor and low-income families. It’s jobs and understanding that are needed, not attention grabbing bluster! We need to empathize with—not criminalize—the parents who suffer the ultimate loss…their children!
As an artist, I owe it to my community to inform you about the hidden world right before your eyes. The world is nothing more than letters, numbers, symbols and codes. I see the hidden world but now I bring it to you for you to do your own research, tell your loved ones & to be aware of what surrounds you. The first Code Cuts will deal with one of the biggest names in the music industry today. When you hear the name Jay-Z, you may begin to think of words such as 'mogul,' 'entrepreneur,' 'hustler,' 'entertainer,' and 'businessman.' Do words like 'Illuminatti,' 'baphomet,' or 'occult' come to mind as well? Jay-Z's new album "Magna Carta Holy Grail" made headlines as the album went platinum before even being released due to an unprecedented deal with Samsung. The album is now beyond double platinum status. Apart from singles such as "Picasso Baby" and "Holy Grail," have you ever looked into the history of the song title? As Jay-Z once said in the song "Renegade" featuring Eminem "Do you fools listen to music or do you just skim through it?" The Magna Carta is a document that was forced upon the King of England in the year of 1215 with the intent of limiting the King's power with special people's privileges protected. This document was given to the King by his own subjects, including an influential religious order called the Templar Knights. The Templar Knights were a power hungry group with a history of sexual perversion and satanic worshiping rituals in private while professing love and fidelity to Jesus Christ (and allow them to be exempt from paying taxes) in the guise of being religious monks. The Templar Knights rose to power after receiving a religious book called "The Qabalah," or "Kabbalah," which is very popular today amidst pop culture figures such as Madonna due to its spiritual nature. However, the book has a dark past. According to legend, a demon relayed this book to a human who transcribed it word for word. After the Templar Knights finished a bloody crusade in an effort to collect all the books of the Kabbalah, the King of England succumbed to the will of the Templar Knights (who also were the first international bankers). Out of this deceptive faction of monks came the “Illuminati.” The Holy Grail is a mythical item which has various meanings. Jerusalem is riddled with underground tunnels constructed by the Templar Knights due to a successful search of the secret that is the Holy Grail. It is said the Holy Grail is not an actual grail, but a deep occult secret. The secret is that physical matter can be transformed by the use of demonic incantations and that reality is an illusion. Some believe that this is how the antichrist, the physical manifestation of Satan, will come into humanity's reality of existence. Others believe the Holy Grail is a reference to the Ark of the Covenant or a code word for the family of Jesus. Some believe that Jesus had a child with Mary Magdalene, which started a holy bloodline on earth, as popularized by Dan Brown's bestselling book, “The Da Vinci Code.” But the Bible teaches us God is not the author of confusion. Considering Jay-Z has amassed such wealth, one must think that Jay-Z is quite aware of what he writes musically, not to mention the perceptions that his conjures in the minds of those who listen to it, wither he speaks on it or not. This is also coming from a man who wants the world to call him by the biblical name for God, Jehovah. Jay-Z calls himself “Jay Hova,” or “Hov,” which he often cries out over the music he creates. Considering Jay-Z wears this hoodie that embossed on it the phrase, "Do What Thou Wilt," says it all about his “house of thought.” That phrase comes from a man who calls himself, "The Beast 666," professed Satanist named Aleister Crowley. Perhaps Jay-Z simply liked the phrase and has no knowledge of the roots of the words which he bears in this image. Let's hear what he has to say on this. The lyrics below are taken from Jay-Z's song from his new album, “Magna Carta Holy Grail: "Conspiracy theorist screaming “Illuminati!” / They can’t believe this much skill is in the human body..." "Getting ghost in the Ghost, can you see me? Can you see me? / Have mercy on a Judas, angel wings on a (Lambor)'ghini " "I confess, God in the flesh. / Live among the serpents, turn arenas into churches. / I'm like Michael, recycle, these are not 16's. These are verses from the Bible. / Tell that preacher he's a preacher, I'm a ************ prophet. / Smoke a tree of knowledge, drink from a gold chalice." In his own words, Jay-Z is sarcastically making light of the allegations while stating who he is in the minds of those who may bear Christ as their Savior with lyrics like "Have mercy on a Judas!" Judas was the betrayer of Christ, giving him up to the Romans for 40 pieces of silver. Judas would later commit suicide when he realized the seriousness of his actions (and recalling Christ’s words to his Disciples that one of them would betray him). Jay-Z's “savior” is his money and himself as he states, "I confess, God in the flesh." We have already established that Jay-Z thinks he is God or a god as he says in another song called "Crown.” Music is powerful. According to religious scholars, Lucifer, also known as Satan (or commonly known now as the Devil), was the minister of music in Heaven before being cast out. Jay-Z yet again confirms the power of music as he has become an idol of adoration with words like "Live among the serpents, turn arenas into churches." Jay- Z even goes as far to say he is better than any preacher because he's a prophet. In Christian churches, believers “catch the Holy Ghost.” If Jay-Z's concerts are religious ceremonies conducted in arenas-turned-churches, what spirit is being caught and what sermon is being preached? The “tree of knowledge” he mentions is found in Genesis chapter 3 which he smokes from as a form of pleasure or rejoicing in his death as he drinks from a gold chalice. 1 John 2:15-17 says: "Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. “For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. “And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth forever." (KJV) To confirm what I am saying, research the lyrics of Jay-Z’s songs. But don’t listen to any Jay-Z’s music. Don’t listen, watch or even entertain the idea of partaking in the album, "Magna Carta Holy Grail." The album’s demonic and dark roots may cause portals to open in your life that you may not be aware of. If you’ve already purchased and listened to the album, throw it in the trash immediately. The music industry supports this type of music because of the influence it and the artists who make it have over the uninformed. But the more aware communities become of the messages within the music--whether it be Jay-Z or another artist professing to have “a message,” the easier it is to resist. I am only a messenger sent to bring awareness and warning to you. As an artist, I would not be doing my community a good service if I did not share with you what I am blessed by the Most High God to see and articulate to you in a way you can understand. Art is a reflection of life or the lack of it. Be careful what you watch, listen to and engage in. Lastly, think about this. So many artists and higher-ups in the corporate or political world are glorifying the devil. It makes you wonder if darkness exists? If that’s the case, then light must exist as well; meaning if the devil is real then God must be real. I am a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ, the same Christ that can save you if you believe upon Him. In "Empire State Of Mind," by Jay-Z and featuring singer Alicia Keys, Jay-Z says: "Jesus can't save you. Life starts when the church ends." This a man, an “artist” who does not profess to believe in Jesus; who spends an inordinate amount of time and “talent” bashing the Lord. I encourage you to study Genesis chapter 3 & then to study John 3:16-17. I encourage you to seek God for yourself. I encourage you to pray to God. You are beyond valuable which is why a war is taking place for your soul right now as you read this. We all have freewill and must choose today whom we will serve, wither God or man. I pray that you choose well. Next week on Code Cuts, we will dive deeper into Jay Z's empire, family & spiritual ideals. May the Most High bless you, keep you & protect you from the wiles of the evil one. Shalom.
by Taki S. Raton
I read with deep concern the remarks of African American politicians and organization stakeholders in the Black press this past August 16 weekend regarding the “rash” of shootings in Milwaukee.
As of Thursday August 13, it is reported, seven people have been fatally shot and 16 injured by gunfire. My concern was fueled by the reasoning given for this sudden rise in violence citing poverty, unemployment rates, and disparities in income and opportunity – the traditional African American mainstreamed response locally and nationally.
Our children need to know that Black people are the only people in the country and indeed the world – per my concern – that blames everyone else and everything else for our problems and that we assume absolutely no responsibility, personal or collectively as a group, for our condition and dire decaying circumstance here in 2013 America.
And we certainly cannot afford another generation to carry forth this same semblance of powerlessness, dependency, and irresponsibility, both personal and collectively, as an African American culture.
Why is it, and perhaps I may need just s little bit of help here, why is it that we expect everyone else to invest in us when we obviously do not invest in ourselves? Why should we expect everyone else to do for us when – obviously – we do not do for ourselves?
And when it comes to economics and job development, we are always “begging” and expecting others to provide for us as presumed last week in the local leaders response wording.
Black people literally do just the exact opposite of what White people and each and every other ethnic group do in America and globally to generate a job producing economic base amongst and for their own people.
Black folk go against just about every rule of thumb when it comes to community economic development as it all starts with family, culture and in-group aggregated alignments locally, regionally, nationally and globally.
On Friday, July 26, I was invited down to Lafayette, Louisiana to keynote the opening of their annual Ujamaa 2013 Conference held at the Imani Temple # 29.
In observance of Kwanzaa’s fourth principle, Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics), my presentation theme was “Retrieving Black Family Values for Economic Development.”
Primary sources used in preparation for this 120-minute power point delivery were Dr. Amos Wilson (“Blueprint for Black Power,” 1998), Dr. Claude Anderson (“Black Labor/White Wealth,” 1994), and Dr. Michael D. Woodard (“Black Entrepreneurs in America,” 1997).
Wilson informs us clearly that in America’s pluralistic society, ethnicity, family and in-group cultural alignments are cornerstones in respective group economic empowerment, not dependence on the system. He cites the Jews, British, Japanese, Chinese, Indians, Koreans, Afghans, Dominicans, and Hispanics to name a few. Black folk have been here in America longer than any other culture of color.
But right now as of 2013, we are on the bottom and still slipping economically. And don’t talk about slavery, Jim Crow or discrimination.
Woodard reveals Black entrepreneurial activity during the enslavement and Jim Crow era that would make us proud.
Over a 313-year period since Anthony Johnson, who in 1651was cited as the first Black entrepreneur of record, we had over 60,000 free Africans (Negroes) dealing in manufacturing, construction, transportation, extraction industries, services and carpentry. In 1890, exactly 123 years ago, 74,000 Blacks were self-employed in various cities nationwide, in such fields as draymen, bankers, merchants, salesmen, packers, shippers, hotel-keepers, livery stable keepers, and undertakers. Our children should be taught these modeled examples.
But civil rights took Black folk into another direction, away from “Race First” agendas, which all other groups follow.
In New York, cites Wilson, there are 300,000 Koreans in the metropolitan area with 10,000 Korean-owned businesses of which 500 are deli’s, grocery stores or supermarkets. Their total sales annually approach $1.5 billion. They hire and train their own kind.
The Afghan refugees are the smallest and later arriving group in New York. Numbering less than 4,000, almost all are war refugees.
Lacking higher education, trade skills, and having little knowledge of English, Afghans, reveals Wilson, have “become specialists in the fast food chicken business, owning more than 200 area fast-food restaurants.
All of their carpenters, painters, and chicken suppliers, note the “Blueprint” author, are Afghans. One Afghan owns as many as 40 franchised fried chicken restaurants.
How do they do it? Nearly the same way as other groups build their businesses.
Established immigrants take “new arrivals” by the hand and teach their cultural kin the intricacies of running a business. “It’s like a formula,” one Afghan is quoted as saying. “When the new one comes to the store, they sit. They watch. They learn, and then they work.”
Black people per civil rights leadership did just the opposite. Wilson positions that the economic emphasis of this agenda was “on jobs supplied by White businesses instead of on community-based economic expansion; on income rather than wealth; on spending rather than saving.”
He adds that the freedom to spend money with, around and next to White people became almost synonymous with “freedom” and “First-class” citizenship in the minds of many African Americans.
And while this freedom of consumption legally was not to be denied, cites the scholar, it effectively “led to the redistribution of Black consumer spending away from Black businesses toward White business establishments with the result that many Black businesses lost a large portion, if not their complete Black clientele.” In many ways, observes Wilson, the civil rights movement “proved to be a boom to White-owned businesses by providing them with a large new clientele, a new market, and a very sizable pool of money unavailable to them before.”
So what about Black businesses and the effort to inspire Black folk to support and buy Black? We did just the opposite.
Unlike the Jews, British, Japanese, Chinese, Indians, Koreans, Afghans, Dominicans, and Hispanics and all other groups in pluralistic America; unlike the natural sense of working for and building amongst one’s own kind first, foremost and always, buying Black and supporting Black was viewed by many African Americans, says Wilson, as a “form of self-segregation, as indicative of separatism, anti-integration, and anti-the struggle for racial equality.”
This is the madness that Black folk have been following now for over the past 43 years. Our children should know this so that they won’t, moving forward, make the same mistake.
Citing such sources as the September 1993 edition of Target Market News, Black people nationally spend over $154 billion dollars annually with other people outside of our community on such consumables as footwear, clothing, coin operated laundry and dry cleaning, food, alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages, vehicle purchases, personal care products, electronic products, housing and health care.
We greatly assist in securing, for example, the economic base of retailers, manufacturers, producers, distributors of others.
Our dollars help to keep other people employed while our own politicians and organizational leaders nationwide run to the system asking for jobs and resources for our community when very easily we can provide for our own using such examples as the Garvey, Booker T. Washington and Nation of Islam models.
And we have other historical guides such as Tulsa, Durham, and Natchez. Our children need to know, for instance, that according to Robert Roderick Johnson in “Wake Up Black American, You’re Sleepwalking Back Into Slavery,” Natchez, Tennessee had a Black business district in the main section of the downtown area. There were Black doctors, lawyers, restaurants, nightclubs, soda fountains, barbershops, beauty/nail shops, gambling joints, five funeral homes and a Black lottery.
These businesses provided income for many families and kept money moving around this small Black community.
During the 1940’s, more than 150 businesses were owned by African Americans and flourished in Durham, North Carolina.
Among these businesses were restaurants, movie theaters, barbershops, nightclubs, boarding houses, pressing ships, grocery stores, banks, savings and loan establishments and funeral parlors.
Dr. Claude Anderson shares with us that one of the largest and most successful Black businesses in the nation was the North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance Company with remains the largest African American owned insurance company in 2012 with an excess of $200 million.
Up until 1921, Tulsa, Oklahoma’s Black Wall Street had created 600 Black owned businesses to include 21 churches, 22 Black owned restaurants, 30 Black owned grocery stores, two Black owned movie theaters, six Black owned private airplanes, one Black owned and operated hospital, one bank and its own school system.
And most assuredly, in addition to preparing its young for college and professional careers outside of Tulsa, accounts disclose that Tulsa’s Black owned and operated school system generationally prepared a proud and competent young Black work force for their businesses.
Our children need to know this (their) history. They need to know these models. They need to know that throughout enslavement, despite Jim Crow, the KKK and the like, Black people transcended, excelled and triumphantly mastered over any and all obstacles and challenges of racism, White Supremacy and segregation.
They, our children, need to know how we did that – the path, the models, the lessons, the examples of victory, growth and progressive ascension above, apart and beyond Black leadership, which was always calling out for that extended White hand and “lift-up” by others as though we are eternal child-like weaklings unable to do for self without someone else’s meager paternalistic hand-outs.
Our children (and others) need to know – then and now – that we have a legacy of masterful perfect Black communities where Black-on-Black violence was unheard of; where we ourselves lovingly prepared our children for dignified pluralistic humane interaction, civil cooperation, work ethic competency, competitive skill sets, and contributory orientation towards the advancement of humankind ideals; where parents, intact Black families, and Black community based institutions – like all other groups in America and throughout the globe – had a collective sense of self-esteem and self-group ideals; where there was a collective group sense of identity, purpose and direction, and where our beautiful Black children were raised to know, embrace and cultivate their own talents, skills, gifts, and genius.
This we did then, without the now present worry or need for a local police force to spend $500,000 dollars on police overtime because Black youth were killing one another and Black adults have lost control over Black youth.
Anderson tells us that right now, Black people “are on their own.” It is very clear that the system has given up on Black folk, particularly Black males. We are no longer needed, thus the proliferation of mass incarceration. Public schooling is shutting down across the country because now there is no need to educate Black youth. For what? Anderson has said on many occasions that the Hispanics, Asians, Koreans, Indians and all other cultural groups will be the work force of the foreseeable future. This factual pattern, posits Anderson, actually began in the early 1970’s with Affirmative Action.
While we were so busy integrating and trying to be “accepted” by White folks, Anderson, in the May 6, 2011 post, “Black People Wake Up and Do For Self,” claims that Hispanics, women – where suitable – and everybody else per Affirmative Action framed themselves “under the categories of minority, diversity, multi-cultural, and people of color.”
He says that it is “amazing” that 95% of all the Hispanics now living in the country have been here less than 30 years and have now surpassed Blacks socio-economically and politically.
He adds that “No one, not one single Black civil rights leader” has ever challenged why Hispanics, women, and other groups were then able to call themselves a “minority” thus eventually knocking the Black man all the way down to the bottom of the barrel where we have since remained.
He shares that the difference with Black people and other folk of color, with an emphasis on Hispanics, include the fact that all other groups see themselves and collectively function as a distinct ethnic group while we Blacks see ourselves only as a racial group; that all other groups embrace and use their culture for their own economic, social and pluralistic advancement while Black people ignore, if not outright reject, Black culture and history; and lastly, all other cultures of prominence can speak, think and exist in their own native tongue while Blacks can only speak to one another in the language of our former oppressor.
So for those of you planning to attend the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington August 24, 2013 and celebrate King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, just know that this was just a dream that will never see the light of day.
There is not, nor will there ever be, nor can there ever be this “Black and White together” thing as envisioned because this is not the natural way of men or of cultural groups.
Each and every group in a multicultural pluralistic society; all men of respective cultural groupings nationally and globally are responsible for their own well being, for their own advancement and for the raising, grooming and preparation of their own children without looking for social assistance from their local mayor.
And I think actually that it was in fact and indeed our President, Barack Obama who said it best. In his keynote address to the NAACP’S 100th Anniversary Convention held July 16, 2009 at the Hilton Hotel ballroom in New York, he urged that Black Americans would “have to seize their own fate each and every day,” and that “No one has written your destiny for you. Your destiny is in your hands, and don’t you forget that.”
Taki S. Raton is an Adjunct Professor at Springfield College, Milwaukee campus; a staff development consultant in the African Centered curriculum model, and president and CEO of African Global Images, Inc., a traveling exhibit designed to teach the unbroken legacy of Black mastery and accomplishment from humankind beginnings through the present. A host of his own Harambee Radio & TV radio show “Men Think,” Raton can be reached for consulting and presentation schedules at: [email protected].
Jineea Butler NNPA Columnist
Beginning this weekend, there will be two celebrations of the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom – one on Saturday, Aug. 24 and another one on Aug. 28, the actual anniversary of the march.
Yet, I haven’t heard or seen much enthusiasm from the Hip Hop community and began to wonder what it is going to take to bridge the gap between these two generations.
While no one can argue the importance and significance of the original March, we may have to pull teeth to get this generation to participate wholeheartedly. Let’s examine why.
If you analyze many Hip Hop songs, the content contains much of what each individual sees or interprets during their life experience. Many even fabricate or over exaggerate their experiences to emphasize their point. Listeners respond because they can relate to or vividly visualize the subject matter.
When it comes to the Civil Rights Movement, young people simply don’t see the benefit. Hip Hop has a ‘prove it to me’ mentality. It is also suffers from an instant gratification syndrome. If we want to successfully connect the generations we have to present a transparent agenda that leads to direct and tangible results for everyone.
The Hip Hop community analyzes through sharp lenses and is slow to trust anything that is presented by people who are considered outsiders. That is also why anyone who poses as Hip Hop’s ally gets away like a fat rat.
Tyrone Price, a loyal follower of Hip Hop and the Five Percent Nation, says he is sick of the illusions. He reasons, “You only have one time to convince me that the apple is green, before I look at it and see that its red and after that I will never trust you again. I feel that way about civil rights leaders. I am tired of hearing that things are going to change if I go out an March for their agenda. Things haven’t changed.”
I also reached out to 24 Hours of Peace founder and Hip Hop artist Hakim Green from Channel Live to weigh in with his perspective, “Considering it’s the 50th anniversary of the March, it’s a shame that we aren’t more focused on it and haven’t risen to the level that inspired the original March.
“I don’t understand why our elders haven’t been galvanizing people to honor the 50th anniversary as soon as President Obama started his second term in office.
“The Million Man March for me was the commemorative event that carried the spirit of the March on Washington. Even though I can’t make it, I hope the outcome is quality over quantity, and the right people show up to Washington.”
When asked about the lack of interest in the Hip Hop community, Hakim further emphasized that Rap community, (not to be confused with the Hip Hop community) is not in tune.
Hakim’s 3nd annual 24 Hours of Peace Event in Newark, N.J., sponsored by Councilman Ras Baraka, will provide a local forum for those unable to attend the Aug. 25 march in Washington.
Hip Hop artists Brand Nubian, Dead Prez, EPMD, Wise Professor, Mr. Cheeks, Naughty By Nature, Jasiri X, Redman, Lakim Shabazz and Savion Glover have all answered the call to use their voices to end violence and uplift the cause in the 24 hours from 6 p.m. on Aug. 23 to 6 p.m. on Aug. 24.
Hakim explained, “There is a large amount of work still to do, I hope we honor peace over violence, love over hate and building over destroying.”
Another recording artist, P.S. Dot, said, “I appreciate and definitely respect it, (the 50th anniversary march) but there is so much that needs to be done. While we have a Black president in office, we still have incidents like Trayvon Martin with virtually the same response we had 50 years ago.
Nothing. Personally, I feel like there needs to be a new avenue of protest. We in the Hip Hop community need to know what is the next course of action. There is only a certain amount of times I am going to ask for something before I start demanding.
“We had 400-500 years of physical oppression and 100 years of institutionalized racism and that can’t be eradicated with a Civil Rights Movement or affirmative action. A portion of the Hip Hop community will attend, but we must remember that in the Hip Hop community, there is a large gap between the haves and the have-nots and the have-nots don’t consider marching as a viable answer. I don’t either.”
It seems like we still have some convincing to do.
Jineea Butler, founder of the Social Services of Hip Hop and the Hip Hop Union is a Hip Hop Analyst who investigates the trends and behaviors of the community and delivers programming that solves the Hip Hop Dilemma. She can be reached at [email protected] or Tweet her at @flygirlladyjay.
by Gary Younge
When Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. took the podium on August 28, 1963, the Department of Justice was watching.
Fearing that someone might hijack the microphone to make inflammatory statements, the Kennedy DOJ came up with a plan to silence the speaker, just in case. In such an eventuality, an official was seated next to the sound system, holding a recording of Mahalia Jackson singing “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands,” which he planned to play to placate the crowd.
Half a century after the March on Washington and the famous “I Have a Dream” speech, the event has been neatly folded into America’s patriotic mythology.
Relatively few people know or recall that the Kennedy administration tried to get organizers to call it off; that the FBI tried to dissuade people from coming; that racist senators tried to discredit the leaders; that twice as many Americans had an unfavorable view of the march as a favorable one.
Instead, it is hailed not as a dramatic moment of mass, multiracial dissidence, but as a jamboree in Benetton Technicolor, exemplifying the nation’s unrelenting progress toward its founding ideals.
Central to that repackaging of history is the misremembering of King’s speech. It has been cast not as a searing indictment of American racism that still exists, but as an eloquent period piece articulating the travails of a bygone era.
So on the fiftieth anniversary of ”I Have a Dream,” “Has King’s dream been realized?” is one of the two most common and, to my mind, least interesting questions asked of the speech; the other is “Does President Obama represent the fulfillment of King’s dream?” The short answer to both is a clear “no,” even if the longer responses are more interesting than the questions deserve.
We know that King’s dream was not limited to the rhetoric of just one speech. To judge a life as full and complex as his by one sixteen-minute address, some of which was delivered extemporaneously, is neither respectful nor serious.
Regardless, any contemporary discussion about the legacy of King’s “I Have a Dream” speech must begin by acknowledging the way we now interpret the themes it raised at the time. Words like “race,” “equality,” “justice,” “discrimination” and “segregation” mean something quite different when a historically oppressed minority is explicitly excluded from voting than it does when the president of the United States is black.
King used the word “Negro” fifteen times in the speech; today the term is finally being retired from the US Census as a racial category.
Perhaps the best way to comprehend how King’s speech is understood today is to consider the radical transformation of attitudes toward the man who delivered it. Before his death, King was well on the way to being a pariah. In 1966, twice as many Americans had an unfavorable opinion of him as a favorable one.
Life magazine branded his anti-Vietnam War speech at Riverside Church “demagogic slander” and “a script for Radio Hanoi.”
But in thirty years he went from ignominy to icon. By 1999, a Gallup poll revealed that King was virtually tied with John F. Kennedy and Albert Einstein as one of the most admired public figures of the twentieth century among Americans.
He ranked as more popular than Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Pope John Paul II and Winston Churchill; only Mother Teresa was more cherished. In 2011, a memorial to King was unveiled on the National Mall, featuring a thirty-foot-high statue sited on four acres of prime cultural real estate. Ninety-one percent of Americans (including 89 percent of whites) approved.
This evolution was not simply a matter of ill feelings and painful memories eroding over time. It was the result of a protracted struggle that sheds light on how the speech for which he is best known is today understood.
The bill to establish King’s birthday as a federal holiday was introduced just a few days after his death, with few illusions as to its likely success.
“We don’t want anyone to believe we hope Congress will do this,” said union leader Cleveland Robinson at a rally with King’s widow in 1969. “We’re just sayin’, us black people in America just ain’t gonna work on that day anymore.”
Congress would pass the bill, but not without a fight. In 1983, the year Ronald Reagan grudgingly signed Martin Luther King Day into law, he was asked if King was a communist sympathizer. “We’ll know in thirty-five years, won’t we?” he said, referring to the eventual release of FBI surveillance tapes.
by John W. Daniels Jr.
Each year, many youngsters in our community find themselves uneducated, under qualified or unemployed at pivotal points in their lives. Too many are unprepared for life’s challenges and heading down a path leading nowhere, without guidance, direction or hope of a brighter future. Thankfully, there are business and civic leaders and organizations in our community that are committed to preparing and helping these youngsters to reach a future of success. These individuals serve as guiding lights for the young people in our community, and their leadership continues to serve as a model for us all. Former Wisconsin Senator and President of the Milwaukee Bucks Herb Kohl and Charles Harvey, chief diversity officer and vice president for community affairs at Johnson Controls, are two such leaders and their contributions to youth development have been nothing short of exemplary. In addition to his service as a four-term senator for the State of Wisconsin, Mr. Kohl established the Herb Kohl Education Foundation Award program in 1990 to provide annual grants to 100 graduating seniors, 100 teachers and 100 schools throughout Wisconsin. To date, Mr. Kohl’s foundation has awarded $8.2 million in support of education, ensuring that thousands of young people throughout the greater Milwaukee area are educated, inspired and well-prepared for successful futures. Mr. Harvey, who also serves as president of the Johnson Controls Foundation, leads the charitable branch of a company committed to distributing grants of more than $7 million each year to support initiatives like education and social services. Through his roles at Johnson Controls and his service on the boards of several of Milwaukee’s leading philanthropic organizations, including the United Way of Southeast Wisconsin and the Milwaukee Public Policy Forum, Mr. Harvey serves as a community leader, an inspiration for many young people in our community and personally embodies the corporate culture of philanthropy at Johnson Controls. I am proud to serve as the chairman of the Fellowship Open, one of the country’s largest diversity charity golf outings, which will honor those two men this year. At the 13th annual Fellowship Golf Outing on Friday, August 16, both Mr. Kohl and Mr. Harvey will be honored for their character and contributions to our youth. Mr. Kohl will receive the Fellowship Open Legends Award for his contributions in government services, business and philanthropy, and Mr. Harvey will receive the Fellowship Open Community Leader Award. Both Mr. Kohl and Mr. Harvey represent the outstanding attributes and steadfast commitment to the youth in our community that so many of our Fellowship Open attendees possess. We applaud Mr. Kohl and Mr. Harvey for the work they have done thus far and look forward to awarding them for the legacies they have built in service to so many people, especially young people, through their outstanding business and civic leadership. John W. Daniels, Jr. is chairman of Quarles & Brady, LLP, the chairman of the Fellowship Open and a long-time advocate of youth development and diversity in the business community.
Letter to the Editor
EDITOR’S NOTE: Myrle Cooper, a retired Black faculty member at Minnesota’s St. Cloud State University (SCSU), submitted the following letter to the editor about what he calls the mistreatment (if not outright racism shown) towards Black students who attend SCSU. Though this is a Minnesota issue, it still impacts Wisconsinites, especially Black Wisconsin students who are preparing to attend the school or are high school students seeking a college to attend. We think Mr. Cooper’s letter bears attention by our readers, many of whom are helping their children decide on what college their child will go to.
St. Cloud State University (SCSU) is in the bastion or citadel of racism, St. Cloud, Minnesota. It’s a last place aversion community where slaves were illegally and secretly held (1853-1865) by Appalachian whites barely able to feed themselves.
(“Sesquicentennial voices: Slaves no longer hidden in history;” St. Cloud Times, 12/29/2006)
After slaves were freed, Black residency was restricted for the next 90 years.
Twenty eight years ago a local newspaper survey revealed Blacks were still unwelcome. (“Minority recruitment unpopular;” St. Cloud Daily Times, 4/15/1985)
Since St. Cloud ranks high on Minnesota’s FBI hate crimes lists, SCSU has trouble recruiting, retaining and graduating Blacks and others of color. Black student attrition rates are particularly high. For example, SCSU claimed 385 total “African American or Black” students enrolled in fall 2006. Six years later, by August 2012, only 27 Blacks had graduated.
Quite simply, most Black students voted with their feet and transferred to colleges and universities in more accepting, diverse and safer communities. (“[U.S. Department of] “Justice official to test racial climate;” St. Cloud Times, 8/1/1998; “Molotov cocktail used in attack: Another violent incident spurs students to question safety in St. Cloud and at SCSU;” University Chronicle, 11/16/1998; “SASSO/Somali community organization building firebombed;” St. Cloud Times, 11/17/2002; “St. Cloud ranks high on hate crimes list: City was 2nd in state for number of race-based incidents in 2003;” St. Cloud Times, 11/23/2004; “Reported hate crimes up sharply;” St. Cloud Times, 11/20/2007; “Is it safe to send our children to St. Cloud?” editorial: Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder, 2/7/2007; “St. Cloud officials dispute dubious distinction;” Star Tribune, 11/25/2007)
Unlike other Minnesota communities where business owners, city government, and college or university administrators value money spent by students of all colors and aggressively attack racism for community image and income sake, if not sincerity, St. Cloud has yet to be civilized.
Efforts to avoid investigations and scrutiny forced SCSU to cook its books by illegally and unilaterally altering transcripts, changing and deleting student grades (federal crimes when student grants and loans are involved). SCSU counts as its own, Blacks who transfer away then “graduate elsewhere.”
Currently, SCSU is being investigated by the FBI and the Regional Department of Education’s Inspector General. (“Feds asking about transcript changes at St. Cloud State University;” Minnesota Public Radio, 7/3/2013; “Feds look into grade charges;” Star Tribune, 7/6/2013)
SCSU must recruit Black students to satisfy diversity expectations.
Since Twin Cities’ high school counselors, parents and prospective Black students are more suspicious, SCSU depends increasingly on Black students from outstate, suburbs and neighboring states. Madison and Milwaukee are targets.
After all, it’s assumed Blacks so far away know much less about St. Cloud racism.
Myrle B. Cooper
Retired Black SCSU
by Earl Ofari Hutchinson, courtesy of New America Media
The scuttlebutt is that Attorney General Eric Holder is poised to say what has long been obvious to anyone who has the faintest notion about how the wildly failed, flawed war on drugs has been waged for three decades.
The obvious is that the war on drugs has been a ruthless, relentless and naked war on minorities, especially African-Americans.
In the coming weeks, Holder may tell exactly how he’ll wind that war down. It shouldn’t surprise if he does.
President Obama and Holder have been hinting for a while that it’s time to rethink how the war is being fought and who its prime casualties have been.
Their successful push a few years back to get Congress to finally wipe out a good deal of the blatantly racially skewed harsh drug sentencing for crack versus powder cocaine possession was the first hint.
Another is the mixed signals that both have sent about federal marijuana prosecutions, sometimes tough, sometimes lax.
But if, and more likely when, Holder acts on much needed and long overdue drug law reforms, he’ll do it standing on solid ground.
Past surveys by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on the sex and drug habits of Americans and a legion of other similar surveys have tossed the ugly glare on the naked race tainted war on drugs. They found that whites and blacks use drugs in about the same rate
Yet, more than 70 percent of those prosecuted in federal courts for drug possession and sale (mostly small amounts of crack cocaine) and given stiff mandatory sentences are blacks.
Federal prosecutors and lawmakers in the past and some at present still justify the disparity with the retort that crack cocaine is dangerous and threatening, and lead to waves of gang shoot-outs, turf battles, and thousands of terrorized residents in poor black communities. In some instances, that’s true, and police and prosecutors are right to hit back hard at the violence.
The majority, however, of those who deal and use crack cocaine aren’t violent prone gang members, but poor, and increasingly female, young blacks. They clearly need treatment, not long prison stretches.
It’s also a myth that powder cocaine is benign and has no criminal and violent taint to it.
In a comprehensive survey in 2002, the Office of National Drug Control Policy, the White House’s low profile task force to combat drug use, attributed shoplifting, burglary, theft, larceny, money laundering and even the transport of undocumented workers in some cities to powdered cocaine use.
It also found that powder cocaine users were more likely to commit domestic violence crimes.
The report also fingered powder cocaine users as prime dealers of other drugs that included heroin, meth and crack cocaine.
The big difference is that the top-heavy drug use by young whites — and the crime and violence that go with it — has never stirred any public outcry for mass arrests, prosecutions, and tough prison sentences for white drug dealers, many of whom deal drugs that are directly linked to serious crime and violence.
Whites unlucky enough to get popped for drug possession are treated with compassion, prayer sessions, expensive psychiatric counseling, treatment and rehab programs, and drug diversion programs. And they should be.
But so should those blacks and other non-whites victimized by discriminatory drug laws.
A frank admission that the laws are biased and unfair, and have not done much to combat the drug plague, would be an admission of failure.
It could ignite a real soul searching over whether all the billions of dollars that have been squandered in the failed and flawed drug war — the lives ruined by it, and the families torn apart by the rigid and unequal enforcement of the laws — has really accomplished anything.
This might call into question why people use and abuse drugs in the first place — and if it is really the government’s business to turn the legal screws on some drug users while turning a blind eye to others?
The greatest fallout from the nation’s failed drug policy is that it has further embedded the widespread notion that the drug problem is exclusively a black problem.
This makes it easy for on-the make politicians to grab votes, garner press attention, and balloon state prison budgets to jail more black offenders, while continuing to feed the illusion that we are winning the drug war.
In an interview, Holder on that point was blunt, “There’s been a decimation of certain communities, in particular communities of color.”
This is no accident. The policy deliberately targeted those communities due to a lethal mix of racism, criminal justice system profit, political expediency, and media fed public mania over drug use.
This is why Obama and Holder have delicately, but to their credit, publicly inched toward a rethink of the drug war, including who it benefits and who it hurts. They should be applauded for that.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. He is a frequent MSNBC contributor. He is an associate editor of New America Media. He is a weekly co-host of the Al Sharpton Show on American Urban Radio Network. He is the host of the weekly Hutchinson Report on KTYM 1460 AM Radio Los Angeles and KPFK Radio and the Pacifica Network. Follow Earl Ofari Hutchinson on Twitter.
by Joseph Heru Coo
It’s 9 a.m. and I’m anticipating this Tuesday’s morning discussion. I’ve been employed as a tutor/life coach for a year plus here at Green Bay Correctional Institution. My students are the mentally ill, men who belong in a mental asylum, not prison.
My supervisor-the teacher-is a middle aged Black man from the south named Bob Goynes. He’s been living and working at Green Bay Correctional Institution for the last 30-years.
Mr. Goynes usually chooses the subject for our Tuesday morning discussion, which ranges from personal hygiene, to the social implications of visual art, to racial politics.
With his eclectic interest and the students eccentric personalities, the discussion usually falls into one of these three styles: 1) A monologue: One person dominates the group with a rant or a ramble; 2) A dialogue: Well thought out ideas are exchanged with falsehoods sifted out and truths acknowledged, or 3) An argument: Two people fuss and cuss at each other.
We begin this morning by removing the desks from the classroom and positioning 20 chairs in a semicircle facing the chalkboard. On the chalkboard reads: “Each generation must find its purpose and once discovered, either fulfill or betray it.” Bob’s back is to the chalkboard and he is facing us. After he reads the quote out loud, his eyes meet mine, and I can tell that this will be between him and I. That is, his intention today is to see where I stand.
“It’s been said that this is the most selfish generation. That all you guys do is take, take, take! You take away from your family the benefit of having a son, a brother, a father
“You take away from your sisters even when they have children and little to give, you don’t give a damn, you take. Then you come to prison and you don’t take advantage of the free services they provide, or the time. You guys don’t even take advantage of the free time you have. You still come to prison and want to take away from each other.
“In reality, when a brother takes from another brother, he is only taking from himself. He’s only hurting himself. Back in the day, we knew what the deal was; we knew our obstacles and how to overcome them.”
Sensing his conclusion I eased in:
“Bob, your career choice took you away from the hood and many others who could have been role models. Not just role models, but human resources. Your dollars, your taxes, your presence would have all balanced out the poverty and lack of fathers that now dominates the hood. You personally benefited from the Civil Rights Movement by having opportunities open to you that would have otherwise been closed.”
“Cook, where are you going with this man?”
“Bob, after every great movement in America comes a great loss.”
The students are now zoning out, dozing off, becoming even sleepier and somber from last night and from this morning’s medicine.
Bob looks at me with a serious face, followed by a slyness as if he was playing the devil’s advocate, testing my insight and intelligence. I’m neither serious nor solemn, but spirited.
“Cook, ‘after every great movement in America comes a great loss?’ Break that down for me?” I replied:
“To understand the forces that shaped generations we have to understand history. Bob you are like the first generation after the Emancipation Proclamation.” Testing me, he says:
“What happened after the Emancipation Proclamation, and why is it important today?” I answered:
“Today is a continuum of history. History never dies; it stretches itself into the present day. After the slaves were freed throughout the South, the U.S. Government tried to make right on their promise of fairness by setting up the Freedman’s Bureau, which was designed to right the wrongs of slavery.
“For like 12-years after 1865, Black people in the South thrived; becoming senators, congressmen, industrious as well as intellectual. The Union soldiers were stationed throughout the South to protect Blacks from White harm.
“With an equal playing field, the Freedman’s Bureau, and with the Union soldiers on guard, Blacks had a short moment in the sun. However, eventually the Freedman’s Bureau collapsed. The Union soldiers moved west to hunt and harm Indians, and Blacks were left to the oversight of their former enslavers.
“The KKK (Klu Klux Klan) was organized to take back the land, position, and power. White racists become the police, lawyers, judges and juries. To strike fear in Blacks, a wave of hangings, rapes and brute force was displayed.
“To implement their economy, sharecropping became another name for slavery, and “Black codes” were designed to jail Blacks for the slightest offense; and once arrested, they were rented out to their former slave master. This White backlash always follows Black progress.”
Bob looks at me not in agreement or disagreement, more with an indifference followed with curiosity of my angle.
“This White backlash to Black progress never fails. It happens again with the Civil Rights Movement.”
“After the gains of the Civil Rights Movement and the national atmosphere of healing America’s systematic racist wounds by passing legislation and the “War on Poverty” was declared, White people became fearful, not only of going to school, work, and coexisting with Blacks in the same social institutions, but they thought Blacks would take over those institutions and America as a whole. This White backlash reached its height with the election of Ronald Reagan.”
Bob sits back seeing if I’m on to something, or just ranting about my plight as a prisoner.
“Bob, before crack was a part of the ghetto’s economy, Ronald Reagan declared his war on drugs. Crack hit the scene in the mid ‘80s, the war on drugs was declared in ’81. At this time, drugs were not a high priority on Americas list for things it should tackle.
“However, through Reagan’s national campaign that involved the media, drugs became a national issue, so when crack hit the seen around ’84-’85, the nation was prepared to respond with brute force and not in a well thought out manner.
“After all Bob, drugs and drugs addiction is more than a crime, it is an economic and health issue. If under Michelle Obama obesity is a health issue, under Nancy Reagan crack should have been a health issue. But America was hell-bent on changing the image of Blacks from agents of social change to gangstas’, thugs, and zombielike addicts.”
“Cook didn’t nobody tell y’all to sell crack. You did that with free will. You made a choice.”
Tempers flare as I feel he’s being narrow-minded and myopic, I’m sure he feels I’m being farfetched and denying personal responsibility.
“Let me finish Bob. When crack hit, years after the War on Drugs was declared, America was prepared to treat an economic and health issue purely as a criminal one. And even crack Bob, I think, was put in our communities on purpose.
“In 1998 the CIA admitted that the earnings of cocaine shipped from Nicaragua in the mid ‘ 80s into the ghettos of America was used to finance a war they were secretly involved in. They denied having a hand in these transactions. But it took 20 years until the U.S government admitted and apologized for using Black men in their experiments with syphilis that lasted for 30 years. I would not put it pass them.”
“As an older Black man, Bob’s relationship with America is, to quote comedian Chris Rock: ‘An uncle who paid your way through college, but raped you when you were young.’”
Bob is quiet, suggesting agreement and interest.
“Bob, you also have to look at the economy in the ‘80s. At a time when good paying factory jobs were leaving America for Asia and Mexico, Reagan was giving money to the top corporations with the idea being if you feed the top, it will trickle down to the bottom. But for most of America, the “top/down” approach never happened and communities–both Black and White–were changed. For Black America, there wasn’t a ‘stimulus package.’
“Okay Bob, say there are two 18-year-olds. One Black, one White. Both have a child on the way. Neither has academic ambitions, but just want to work 9-to-5 and live a stable life. Before the factories left both could be hired by a factory in their community and receive a mid-level income with benefits.
“Now in the ‘80s with deindustrialization, the Black 18-year-old had the crack economy as a substitute for the loss of well paying jobs, and the White 18-year-old had prison employment (a guard or warden) as a substitute.
“The thing is, one fed the other. Prison became an economic institution for both low-educated Whites and capitalists. It was like a cycle. Crack was dumped into our neighborhoods, crack dealers (who were Black) were dumped into prisons, and prisons fed low-educated Whites while capitalist lobbied state politicians like (former) Gov. (Tommy) Thompson to create tougher laws with stiff sentences for minor offenses. Not to decrease crime rates, but to insure their economic interest.
“’Truth-in-Sentencing’ is a prime example of a law that hasn’t worked and cost the state billions of dollars, but that money is providing jobs for Whites who would probably link forces with people of Color in their protest for a better America. The billions it cost the state is also going to Tommy Thompson and his cronies who sit on the broad of directors of these corporations that provide services to prisons.
“Look at Supermax (the Supermax in Boscobel) Bob. It cost the state 40 million to build and millions a year to keep operational. Boscobel is a prime example of a “stimulus package” to a small town and also reveals how lobbyists convinced Tommy Thompson to spear-head its construction, not out of an interest in reducing crime, but to earn capital.
“In Wisconsin, there are no notorious criminals or prisons. There was no need for a Supermax, but there was a need for money. First came Truth-in-Sentencing, and then came Supermax. Truth-in-Sentencing insured its population
Eventually the Supermax would be converted into a maximum prison facility when it’s realized its bed space wouldn’t be full with admission requirements based on the Supermax criteria because there aren’t enough super prisoners. Plus it opened the floodgates for vendors.
“So Bob, social policies like integration, affirmative action, or the War on Poverty, weren’t dominate shaping forces for my generation. However, the White backlash (to the positive social programs) was creating the ‘War on Drugs,’ which devastated a whole generation and, hell, probably saved another.”
“Listen to you Cook, you got it all figured out huh? You spoke about injustice and apathy from the government when it comes to Blacks. But how about the way you treat each other. You manipulate the weak when it’s to your advantage. Do you guys really care about justice, fairness, or just hate being victims of it?
“The same qualities these sick people you speak about have, you guys have them too, and use them– particularly on sisters. But when they are used on you, (all of the sudden) you care about justice now!
“But people don’t hear you or care. They don’t care about the plight of prisoners because you guys look and treated innocent people like the oppressor does. Unlike the past generations who were innocent, you guys might be getting the short end of justice, but the community doesn’t care. ‘Lock there a—up’ is how they feel because you hurt them. Your own people you hurt. Can you see where I’m coming from?”
“Yeah I agree.”
I look at bob acknowledging his truth in the same way he was looking at me acknowledging my truth.
“So which one is it Cook?.”
A heavy pause.
“Different sides of the same coin, Bob!”