African Americans

~How Far Have We Come & And Where Are Blacks Going In America?~

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Eric Garner

A New York City grand jury declined to indict a white police officer in the case of Eric Garner, a 43-year-old unarmed black man who died July 17 in a police choke-hold.

The grand jury found “no reasonable cause” to indict officer Daniel Pantaleo, who was attempting to arrest Garner for allegedly selling untaxed cigarettes.

Amid crowds gathering tonight to protest in Manhattan and growing discord on social media about the decision, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced that the Justice Department is opening a federal civil rights inquiry.

Holder, while urging calm in the aftermath of yet another controversial grand jury action, promised that the federal inquiry would be “independent, thorough and fair.”

President Obama said the grand jury decision will spark strong reaction from the public, especially in the wake of a similar decision in Missouri last week not to indict officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of unarmed Michael Brown.

The biggest crime in the U.S. criminal justice system is that it is a race-based institution where African-Americans are directly targeted and punished in a much more aggressive way than white people.

Saying the US criminal system is racist may be politically controversial in some circles. But the facts are overwhelming. No real debate about that. Below I set out numerous examples of these facts.

The question is – are these facts the mistakes of an otherwise good system, or are they evidence that the racist criminal justice system is working exactly as intended? Is the US criminal justice system operated to marginalize and control millions of African Americans?

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Information on race is available for each step of the criminal justice system – from the use of drugs, police stops, arrests, getting out on bail, legal representation, jury selection, trial, sentencing, prison, parole and freedom. Look what these facts show.

One. The US has seen a surge in arrests and putting people in jail over the last four decades. Most of the reason is the war on drugs. Yet whites and blacks engage in drug offenses, possession and sales, at roughly comparable rates – according to a report on race and drug enforcement published by Human Rights Watch in May 2008. While African Americans comprise 13% of the US population and 14% of monthly drug users they are 37% of the people arrested for drug offenses – according to 2009 Congressional testimony by Marc Mauer of The Sentencing Project.

Two. The police stop blacks and Latinos at rates that are much higher than whites. In New York City, where people of color make up about half of the population, 80% of the NYPD stops were of blacks and Latinos. When whites were stopped, only 8% were frisked. When blacks and Latinos are stopped 85% were frisked according to information provided by the NYPD. The same is true most other places as well. In a California study, the ACLU found blacks are three times more likely to be stopped than whites.

Three. Since 1970, drug arrests have skyrocketed rising from 320,000 to close to 1.6 million according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics of the U.S. Department of Justice.
African Americans are arrested for drug offenses at rates 2 to 11 times higher than the rate for whites – according to a May 2009 report on disparity in drug arrests by Human Rights Watch.

Four. Once arrested, blacks are more likely to remain in prison awaiting trial than whites. For example, the New York state division of criminal justice did a 1995 review of disparities in processing felony arrests and found that in some parts of New York blacks are 33% more likely to be detained awaiting felony trials than whites facing felony trials.

Five. Once arrested, 80% of the people in the criminal justice system get a public defender for their lawyer. Race plays a big role here as well. Stop in any urban courtroom and look a the color of the people who are waiting for public defenders. Despite often heroic efforts by public defenders the system gives them much more work and much less money than the prosecution. The American Bar Association, not a radical bunch, reviewed the US public defender system in 2004 and concluded “All too often, defendants plead guilty, even if they are innocent, without really understanding their legal rights or what is occurring…The fundamental right to a lawyer that America assumes applies to everyone accused of criminal conduct effectively does not exist in practice for countless people across the US.”

Six. African Americans are frequently illegally excluded from criminal jury service according to a June 2010 study released by the Equal Justice Initiative. For example in Houston County, Alabama, 8 out of 10 African Americans qualified for jury service have been struck by prosecutors from serving on death penalty cases.

Seven. Trials are rare. Only 3 to 5 percent of criminal cases go to trial – the rest are plea bargained. Most African Americans defendants never get a trial. Most plea bargains consist of promise of a longer sentence if a person exercises their constitutional right to trial. As a result, people caught up in the system, as the American Bar Association points out, plead guilty even when innocent. Why? As one young man told me recently, “Who wouldn’t rather do three years for a crime they didn’t commit than risk twenty-five years for a crime they didn’t do?”

Eight. The U.S. Sentencing Commission reported in March 2010 that in the federal system black offenders receive sentences that are 10% longer than white offenders for the same crimes. Marc Mauer of the Sentencing Project reports African Americans are 21% more likely to receive mandatory minimum sentences than white defendants and 20% more like to be sentenced to prison than white drug defendants.

Nine. The longer the sentence, the more likely it is that non-white people will be the ones getting it. A July 2009 report by the Sentencing Project found that two-thirds of the people in the US with life sentences are non-white. In New York, it is 83%.

Ten. As a result, African Americans, who are 13% of the population and 14% of drug users, are not only 37% of the people arrested for drugs but 56% of the people in state prisons for drug offenses. Marc Mauer May 2009 Congressional Testimony for The Sentencing Project.

Eleven. The US Bureau of Justice Statistics concludes that the chance of a black male born in 2001 of going to jail is 32% or 1 in three. Latino males have a 17% chance and white males have a 6% chance. Thus black boys are five times and Latino boys nearly three times as likely as white boys to go to jail.

Twelve. So, while African American juvenile youth is but 16% of the population, they are 28% of juvenile arrests, 37% of the youth in juvenile jails and 58% of the youth sent to adult prisons. 2009 Criminal Justice Primer, The Sentencing Project.

Thirteen. Remember that the US leads the world in putting our own people into jail and prison. The New York Times reported in 2008 that the US has five percent of the world’s population but a quarter of the world’s prisoners, over 2.3 million people behind bars, dwarfing other nations. The US rate of incarceration is five to eight times higher than other highly developed countries and black males are the largest percentage of inmates according to ABC News.

Fourteen. Even when released from prison, race continues to dominate. A study by Professor Devah Pager of the University of Wisconsin found that 17% of white job applicants with criminal records received call backs from employers while only 5% of black job applicants with criminal records received call backs. Race is so prominent in that study that whites with criminal records actually received better treatment than blacks without criminal records!

So, what conclusions do these facts lead to? The criminal justice system, from start to finish, is seriously racist.

Professor Michelle Alexander concludes that it is no coincidence that the criminal justice system ramped up its processing of African Americans just as the Jim Crow laws enforced since the age of slavery ended. Her book, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness sees these facts as evidence of the new way the US has decided to control African Americans – a racialized system of social control. The stigma of criminality functions in much the same way as Jim Crow – creating legal boundaries between them and us, allowing legal discrimination against them, removing the right to vote from millions, and essentially warehousing a disposable population of unwanted people. She calls it a new caste system.

Poor whites and people of other ethnicity are also subjected to this system of social control. Because if poor whites or others get out of line, they will be given the worst possible treatment, they will be treated just like poor blacks.

Other critics like Professor Dylan Rodriguez see the criminal justice system as a key part of what he calls the domestic war on the marginalized. Because of globalization, he argues in his book Forced Passages, there is an excess of people in the US and elsewhere. “These people”, whether they are in Guantanamo or Abu Ghraib or US jails and prisons, are not productive, are not needed, are not wanted and are not really entitled to the same human rights as the productive ones. They must be controlled and dominated for the safety of the productive. They must be intimidated into accepting their inferiority or they must be removed from the society of the productive.

This domestic war relies on the same technology that the US uses internationally. More and more we see the militarization of this country’s police. Likewise, the goals of the US justice system are the same as the US war on terror – domination and control by capture, immobilization, punishment and liquidation.

What to do?

Martin Luther King Jr., said we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values.
A radical approach to the US criminal justice system means we must go to the root of the problem. Not reform. Not better beds in better prisons. We are not called to only trim the leaves or prune the branches, but rip up this unjust system by its roots.

We are all entitled to safety. That is a human right everyone has a right to expect. But do we really think that continuing with a deeply racist system leading the world in incarcerating our children is making us safer?

It is time for every person interested in justice and safety to join in and dismantle this racist system. Should the US decriminalize drugs like marijuana? Should prisons be abolished? Should we expand the use of restorative justice? Can we create fair educational, medical and employment systems? All these questions and many more have to be seriously explored. Join a group like INCITE, Critical Resistance, the Center for Community Alternatives, Thousand Kites, or the California Prison Moratorium and work on it. As Professor Alexander says “Nothing short of a major social movement can dismantle this new caste system.”

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May and I are really concerned for our family and our community. I know my faith will see us through this American experience and we will have answers from on high on how to empower our grand children and God’s gifts of human beings in our life. We strive to know His will for our life to help others. Pray without ceasing for us and our world.

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New Innovation Is Required Within Criminal Justice System

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When people rely on surface appearances and false racial stereotypes, rather than in-depth knowledge of others at the level of the heart, mind and spirit, their ability to assess and understand people accurately is compromised.

James A. Forbes



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Incarceration Trends in America

  • From 1980 to 2008, the number of people incarcerated in America quadrupled-from roughly 500,000 to 2.3 million people
  • Today, the US is 5% of the World population and has 25% of world prisoners.
  • Combining the number of people in prison and jail with those under parole or probation supervision, 1 in ever y 31 adults, or 3.2 percent of the population is under some form of correctional control.

Racial Disparities in Incarceration

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  • African Americans now constitute nearly 1 million of the total 2.3 million incarcerated population
  • African Americans are incarcerated at nearly six times the rate of whites
  • Together, African American and Hispanics comprised 58% of all prisoners in 2008, even though African Americans and Hispanics make up approximately one quarter of the US population
  • According to Unlocking America, if African American and Hispanics were incarcerated at the same rates of whites, today’s prison and jail populations would decline by approximately 50%
  • One in six black men had been incarcerated as of 2001. If current trends continue, one in three black males born today can expect to spend time in prison during his lifetime
  • 1 in 100 African American women are in prison
  • Nationwide, African-Americans represent 26% of juvenile arrests, 44% of youth who are detained, 46% of the youth who are judicially waived to criminal court, and 58% of the youth admitted to state prisons (Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice).

 

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Drug Sentencing Disparities

  • About 14 million Whites and 2.6 million African Americans report using an illicit drug
  • 5 times as many Whites are using drugs as African Americans, yet African Americans are sent to prison for drug offenses at 10 times the rate of Whites
  • African Americans represent 12% of the total population of drug users, but 38% of those arrested for drug offenses, and 59% of those in state prison for a drug offense.
  • African Americans serve virtually as much time in prison for a drug offense (58.7 months) as whites do for a violent offense (61.7 months). (Sentencing Project)

 

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Contributing Factors

  • Inner city crime prompted by social and economic isolation
  • Crime/drug arrest rates: African Americans represent 12% of monthly drug users, but comprise 32% of persons arrested for drug possession
  • “Get tough on crime” and “war on drugs” policies
  • Mandatory minimum sentencing, especially disparities in sentencing for crack and powder cocaine possession
  • In 2002, blacks constituted more than 80% of the people sentenced under the federal crack cocaine laws and served substantially more time in prison for drug offenses than did whites, despite that fact that more than 2/3 of crack cocaine users in the U.S. are white or Hispanic
  • “Three Strikes”/habitual offender policies
  • Zero Tolerance policies as a result of perceived problems of school violence; adverse affect on black children.
  • 35% of black children grades 7-12 have been suspended or expelled at some point in their school careers compared to 20% of Hispanics and 15% of whites

 

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Effects of Incarceration

  • Jail reduces work time of young people over the next decade by 25-30 percent when compared with arrested youths who were not incarcerated
  • Jails and prisons are recognized as settings where society’s infectious diseases are highly concentrated
  • Prison has not been proven as a rehabilitation for behavior, as two-thirds of prisoners will reoffend

Exorbitant Cost of Incarceration: Is it Worth It?

  • About $70 billion dollars are spent on corrections yearly
  • Prisons and jails consume a growing portion of the nearly $200 billion we spend annually on public safety

http://action.naacp.org/page/s/naacp-criminal-justice

Why Obama’s “Black Jobs Plan” Won’t Resolve Black Unemployment or help Felon’s

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We have weapons of mass destruction we have to address here at home. Poverty is a weapon of mass destruction. Homelessness is a weapon of mass destruction. Unemployment is a weapon of mass destruction.

Dennis Kucinich

In my attempt to convey my interest in these social issues plaguing not just African Americans, but our society as a whole I apologize once again if the content of these visual aids are to explicit for the normal content associated with “Fresh Oil”.

“Even if Black employer firms, again totaling around 100,000, were all to hire one Black person, it is unlikely to make a major dent in Black unemployment.”

Recently, President Barack Obama addressed the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) and concerns that he was ignoring the disproportionately high unemployment rate among African Americans.

Defending his American Jobs Act, Obama emphasized that the measure would provide tax cuts to businesses–and specifically mentioned 100,000 Black-owned firms–if they hire a new worker or give workers a raise. One CBC member was quoted as saying that Obama’s speech “showed he’s going to fight.”

Obama’s jobs act will not make a dent in Black unemployment, which is now at a staggering 16.7%. And despite emphasizing in his CBC speech Black unemployment and Black-owned firms, his proposal demonstrates more his capitulation to white supremacy than a willingness to challenge it.

Here’s why:

Tax cuts will not address the financial disparities that already exist among firms by race. Indeed, Obama’s proposed measures for helping all (and not just Black) business owners in his jobs act privilege those firms with more money in them, who are more likely to be considered “innovative,” (hence the plan’s emphasis on patents and going global), who have a significant number of employees, and who are in the overall financial position to take advantage of a tax plan.

Black-owned firms already trail behind most other firms in most indicators. As shown in the most recent (2007) Survey of Business Owners, which is administered by the United States Census Bureau every five years, Black-owned firms make up only 7% of all U.S.-located firms. Whites are over-represented as business owners with 83% of all firms.

“Black-owned firms already trail behind most other firms in most indicators.” The amount of receipts differs among racial groups, with Blacks only having $135 billion, which comprises less than 1% (.005% to be exact) of the $30 trillion in receipts for all firms.

The disparity in receipts does not necessarily reflect the number of business owned among racial groups. For example, at an estimated 1.9 million, Black-owned firms outnumber Asian-owned firms by about 400,000, but the latter have over three times the receipts at $506 billion.

And while Blacks have about 300,000 less firms than Hispanics–the majority (91%) of business owners who identify as white, by the way–Black firms have only 40% of the former’s receipts. As a racial group, Blacks even lag behind some ethnic groups. Mexican American-owned firms, for instance, total about 1 million–a little under half of the firms for all Hispanics, regardless of race–a figure that is about 900,000 less than the number of Black firms, yet their receipts are higher at $154 billion.

The disparities are underscored when considering businesses that have employees, with the ability to have employees often related to the finances of a firm. Black-owned employer firms make up 2% of all firms with employees, and whites own 81%. Numbering only a little over 100,000, Black employer firms have receipts of $97 billion, which, like their receipts for all firms, make up barely more than 0% of all employer firms.

Asian American-owned employer firms have almost four times the total number and almost five times the receipts than Black employer firms, despite Asians comprising only one third of the population size of African Americans. Counting the race of the business owner, Black employer firms, employing a total of about 900,000 people, pay the smallest average pay per employee among all employer firms.

Given this data, it is highly unlikely that tax cuts will alleviate Black unemployment as Black employer firms are already lagging financially behind those among most other racial groups. Even if Black employer firms, again totaling around 100,000, were all to hire one Black person, it is unlikely to make a major dent in Black unemployment.

Given that an overwhelming majority of Black businesses are non-employer firms, it is highly unlikely that they will be in the financial position to grow their businesses by hiring workers–or to get the capital to do so–and thus “take advantage” of the proposed tax cuts. “Counting the race of the business owner, Black employer firms, employing a total of about 900,000 people, pay the smallest average pay per employee among all employer firms.”

One of the reasons why these statistics are so alarming is that a plethora of research, both from social scientists as well as just day to day observation and experience on the job market, demonstrates that African Americans are the least likely to be hired by non-Black firms.

And Black firms are already more likely to hire African Americans than non-Black firms. Given the small number of Black employer firms, it is not surprising that unemployment rates for Blacks have generally surpassed all other racial groups, even when the economy was not in a financial crisis.

Non-Black firms, then, are likely not to hire non-Blacks just to take advantage of tax measures (especially when there are growing numbers of non-Black unemployed to choose from) and Black firms, already lagging behind other racial groups by most indicators, cannot possibly be expected to resolve Black unemployment. Nor could they if they wanted to as they don’t have the resources.

Some will say Obama did specifically deal with discrimination and Black unemployment in both his jobs act and his speech to the CBC. For example, the proposal calls for challenging discrimination against the unemployed. However, how will he measure the unemployed in this policy? Will it include the many Black people who are not even included in the Department of Labor statistic for unemployment?

Whatever the case, Obama’s jobs plan does not talk about racial discrimination. Some may think it unnecessary for an act to do so given affirmative action policies. Yet affirmative action policies have often been more commonly applied to corporate jobs and even then, corporate powers have largely determined what politically gets defined as affirmative action these days.

As the major source of new jobs, the overwhelming majority of small businesses are not subject to affirmative action policies due to the small number of people each firm employs. And even if they were, the federal government has tended to be purposefully lax in enforcement and firms have also found ways to use what law professor Tanya K. Hernandez calls “the diversity defense” to hire non-whites but avoid having to account for discriminatory racial hiring practices.

“Black firms, already lagging behind other racial groups by most indicators, cannot possibly be expected to resolve Black unemployment.”

In terms of talking about Black unemployment in his jobs act, the fact sheet–as well as his CBC speech–does cite the aforementioned Black unemployment rate. More, the act mentions how Black youth are particularly affected so as propose a summer youth job program.

One purpose of the initiative, according to the jobs plan, is to help young people develop employment skills. But many of these Black youth likely won’t be hired by non-Black businesses so as to use and be paid for these skills, and again, Black firms do not have the capacity to hire all of them. Further, youth should not be in the position of financially supporting their communities and cannot be used to measure the financial health of their racial groups.

We would not expect whites dismayed about the financial crisis and their unemployment rates to focus simply on the employment prospects or summer job programs for white youth–indeed white youth are not even expected to work in the way Black youth are (nor is employment promoted as an anti-incarceration initiative for white youth in the way it is for Black youth, but that’s another article).

And summer programs are of course seasonal. Finally, summer youth programs do not resolve the fact that way too many Black adults cannot get jobs during any season. Similar to some of his political predecessors, including Richard M. Nixon, Obama’s emphasis on Black unemployment and Black business in his CBC speech promotes a Jim Crow economy–where Black people are largely left to their own devices with a little government support–in this case with the aid of a proposed tax plan for all firms that will purportedly help 100,00 Black firms resolve Black unemployment or increase the human capital of Black youth through summer programs but not guarantee a job after completion.

And similar to Nixon, who championed “Black capitalism” as a containment strategy to repress Black protest or criticism, Obama’s speech to a CBC increasingly and publicly frustrated with Obama’s response to Black unemployment, champions, albeit in a subtle way, Black business owners as important social actors who he plans to “support” (but not in a targeted way) through his proposed tax plan.

Like Nixon, Obama doesn’t challenge or address the larger political economy and anti-Black racism that is largely responsible for Black unemployment nor does he propose that non-Blacks have any responsibility in the economic life of African Americans, either in causing or resolving it.

Overall, an unwillingness to challenge racist hiring practices towards Blacks among firms owned by non-Blacks–again 98% of all employer firms–can co-exist with Obama’s championing of Black firms in the name of addressing Black unemployment. “Like Nixon, Obama doesn’t challenge or address the larger political economy and anti-Black racism that is largely responsible for Black unemployment.”

Thus, Obama’s jobs act and his speech to the CBC are examples of what sociologist Charles Gallagher terms “new colorblind racism,” meaning, unlike traditional colorblind racism, the approach minimally acknowledges racial inequality, and in this case, Black unemployment, without addressing racial hierarchies. Although openly discussing the issue of Black unemployment and proposing a tax measure that will “benefit” all firms–and presumably 100,000 Black businesses–Obama does not challenge the existing financial disparities among businesses–or the role of government programs and the financial institutions he perversely protects in shaping these disparities.

Rather, Obama in his CBC speech, in a Nixonian gesture that “recognizes”–some could even say celebrates–Black-owned firms, insidiously speaks simultaneously to both Black middle-class (pro-)capitalists and working-class Black nationalists who value Black business as a sign of community health. And despite his acknowledgment of the high Black unemployment rate and Black businesses, he also, like Nixon, simultaneously reassures non-Blacks that we will not be affected by his jobs act or by his overtures, even in speech, to the Black community.

In the end, Obama expects African Americans, in this case Black business owners and Black youth, to largely shoulder the burden of resolving the Black unemployment crisis. Obama’s speech to the CBC demonstrates not only his neoliberal tendencies but also his clever strategy of appearing race-specific in his policies.

Obama is an expert at racial double-speak and has found a way to promote a white supremacist agenda while still acknowledging race at certain moments. And he has also found a way to appear as if he is championing African Americans, in the case of his CBC speech, Black business owners, while still permitting business as usual, which includes an unwillingness of non-Black firms to hire African Americans, a lack of government intervention into these hiring practices, an over-emphasis on developing Black human capital, and a capitulation to the white supremacist claim that the state cannot legislate hearts and minds and thus cannot force (job) integration.

While Obama may not win hearts and minds, he doesn’t have to let Blacks suffer just because non-Blacks are racist and are unlikely to stop being so anytime soon. Instead, he can work towards another version of truly race-specific policies or adopt those that have already been proposed by African American advocates. Such initiatives are more likely to address Blacks’ economic status by creating economic programs that specifically target African Americans as a whole instead of simply shifting the burden of resolving Black unemployment on to the Black community.

 

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