local and statelaw enforcement, based on racial hatred and racial politics,
and the training, munitions, and financial incentives that support it.
Since we finished reading legal scholar Michelle Alexander’s startling book, The New Jim Crow, we decided to speak up more on the toll and tragedy of Mass Incarceration in the United States. More than that, we want to urge everyone to join the grassroots uprising meant to cure America of its addiction to racial politics and end this national scourge.
Your banks’ investments and your tax dollars contribute to the billions being spent year after year to finance a criminal justice system and a system of Mass Incarceration that are creating a new, unredeemable American caste system and destroying the lives of millions of people of color and their families. It’s a national tragedy right under our noses.
All three branches of our government, including the Pentagon, colluding with U.S. banks and the corporate for-profit prison industry, have conspired to systematically disenfranchise almost 6 million people of color for minor infractions and petty crimes programmatically ignored among the white populace.
Because of the War on Drugs (1971), young adults of color are arrested and imprisoned, and become lifelong second-class citizens, at 5.6 times the rate of their white counterparts even though they comprise under 20% of the population. Unfairly, as felons they permanently lose all access to community benefits including public housing and job training. They lose their families and children because they can’t get housing and cannot obtain legitimate employment. In spite of having “paid their debt” to society, they often cannot vote or sit on juries. They are forever second-class citizens sentenced to a marginal life.
Consider that for every youth of color who is stopped and frisked for a small amount of marijuana today, there are 9 of his or her white counterparts who will possess and use that same amount today without any repercussions. The lucky white kids are free, unencumbered, never questioned, and go on to college or a job without a hitch.
The War on Drugs simply does not target white youth or adults. Rather, it focuses on random sidewalk searches (“stop and frisk”), sweeps of bus terminals, and profiling on our nation’s highways. Simply, people of color are the obvious “low hanging fruit” for local drug task forces to keep federal dollars, training, and munitions flowing into their local coffers, in amounts so great that no state or local governments can ever (or ever could) ignore. Alexander notes Phillip Smith’s “Federal Budget: Economic Stimulus Bill Stimulates Drug War, Too,” (Drug War Chronicle, no. 573, February 20, 2009) to point that funding has increased through the Economic Recovery Act of 2009, doubling down on money spent at the local level in prosecuting the War on Drugs.
We have now, without even realizing it or checking it, allowed for creation of a Police State.
We have been seeing this information slowly trickle in through the media. Recently, Lawrence O’Donnell, on his MSNBC show, The Last Word, very well summed up The New Jim Crow. These 5 on-air minutes should be the rallying cry for a new activism that says no, unequivocally, to the War on Drugs.
For more, go to Mass Incarceration: Follow The Money (Part 2).
Anastasia Person contributed to this post.
Image Source (Inmates Orleans Parish Prison) : Bart Everson
Image Source (Street Arrest – NARA): Yoichi R. (Yoichi Robert) Okamoto