Priority: Righting Wrong Spring 2011

by Patricia Obletz, Editor

www.MilwaukeeRenaissance.com/PeaceOfMind/HomePage

UPDATE May 24, 2011 : From the ColorOfChange.org:

In the run-up to a June 1st hearing . . ., the (U.S. Sentencing Commission has) asked for public input. Could you take a moment to tell the commissioners that people serving federal sentences for crack offenses should not be behind bars simply because deeply flawed laws put them there years ago? And after you do, please ask your families and friends to do the same. It only takes a moment: http://act.colorofchange.org/sign/retroactive

“Analysis of the Impact of Guideline Implementation of the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010 if the Amendment Were Applied Retroactively,” U.S. Sentencing Commission, 5–20–2011
http://act.colorofchange.org/go/835?akid=1989.616814.fiOp8A&t=12

The atrocity that is racism hasn’t changed much in nearly 150 years after the abolition of slavery, and 50 years after the public death of Jim Crow laws. Since the election of President Barack Hussein Obama, hate aimed at African Americans is virulent. While out in the open since he was elected in 2008, it appears that racism was built into the so-called abolition of slavery amendment #13, which has ruled since 1865:

“Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a PUNISHMENT for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.”

(E)xcept as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted….” How do you interpret this exception in the 13th Amendment that supposedly ended slavery in America?

Prisons have been growing at an alarming rate since the early 1990s. Remember, the USA is only five percent of the world’s population, and yet our country is responsible for 25 percent of the world’s prisoners (US Bureau of Justice Statistics), providing an unending supply of free workers. According to recent research in part sponsored by NAACP Headquarters:

  • Prisons grew at six times the rate of spending on education.
  • Two million plus Americans are in prison.
  • The majority of these prisoners were convicted for possession of crack cocaine.
  • 65 percent of the crack-user population are Caucasian Americans. Only five percent of them are federal prisoners convicted of crack cocaine use.
  • 85 percent of convicted federal crack cocaine offenders are African Americans. But they account for only 15 percent of all crack users.

Until last July, those convicted for possession of only five grams of crack received MINIMUM five-year prison sentences. Someone needs to be caught with 500 grams of powder cocaine to get that much time behind bars. To remedy this disparity, on July 28, 2010, US President Barack Obama signed the bill to amend the sentencing laws for crack cocaine. Unfortunately, no one yet knows if this law will be retroactive for those who already have served the new minimum of 27-month sentences versus the old 60-month punishment. Nor does anyone say why crack cocaine convictions are still higher than those for the powder: 18 to one. Journalist Gwen Ifill discusses these issues with experts at http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/law/july-dec10/sentencing_08-03.html

Treatment for addiction is cheaper than imprisonment. But too many states still imprison non-violent drug offenders. More than 90 percent of prisoners around the world are men (IRC 2009: “Health in prison: Looking after women in a man’s world.”) And 54 percent of them are fathers. Day treatment programs enable fathers to stay with their children and keep them out of foster care, which doubles the costs for taxpayers.

We know that economically sound parents can send their kids to decent schools and to summer camp, keeping them off the streets and out of trouble. Yet, before illegal drugs were dumped into inner-cities to feed on the hopelessness that overcomes so many people who are forced into poverty, communities managed to occupy their young in the summer with jobs and other positive activities, such as sports. Before the War on Drugs, fathers usually stayed with their families.

We know also that neighborhoods with high rates of incarceration have low-performing schools, and more single, working-parent homes, unemployment and limited resources. We also know that these living conditions cause people to feel helpless, as well as hopeless. These states of mind open the door to self-medication with drugs and alcohol, which often leads to addiction and crime, whatever color your skin comes in.

Amer-I-Can

James Brown, whose NFL record put him in the Hall of Fame, founded and is president of Amer-I-Can. Brown’s organization provides programs that teach prisoners life skills, such as positive parenting, study, work and relationship habits, including conflict resolution. Upon release, formal education is available to prepare them to achieve productive, lawful careers. Those who become entrepreneurs are successful only if they learn how to apply sound economics to each enterprise.

Jim Crow Jr., Esquire

Reverend Al Sharpton, president of National Action Network, recently said, “Younger people probably don’t know that they still fight Jim Crow. But today, he is Jim Crow Jr., Esq., who is a lot more subtle than his father . . . . Inequality will remain the same unless the young stand up and mobilize against it.” Rev. Sharpton’s point is made visible by the percentages of black versus white unemployment: Although 12.6 percent of Americans are of African descent, they create 21 percent of those who are unemployed (US Census Bureau 2010). Especially disturbing is the knowledge of the widening gap between college educated black and white Americans. Algernon Austin, Director of Race, Ethnicity and Economy at the Economic Policy Institute in Washington, DC., said, “If black workers who are the most prepared to compete and work in the new economy can’t find work, that’s something we as a country have to take seriously.” The whole story is at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/04/27/black-unemployment-remain_n_853571.html

It certainly looks like the 13th Amendment to the US Constitution not only abolishes slavery, this amendment also sanctions slavery when lined up with the enormous disparity between the numbers of black and white prisoners, employed and leaders. Was the second half of the 13th Amendment written to protect racism? Perhaps this is the explanation for the barriers that so many more African Americans face than other ethnicities do when it comes to getting decent education, healthcare, transportation and employment. It has ever been thus.

Now that we have Black identified, biracial US President Barack Obama, hatred toward African Americans shows up in person on our electronic screens and audio equipment. The most recent obvious racist we were too much exposed to of course is the infamous Donald Trump. But President Barack Obama is working to unite the world without prejudice or sensationalism. The importance of his restraint in refusing to release pictures of bin Laden’s gory dead face is hard if not impossible to calculate. Pres. Obama’s positivity and open desire to favor the majority of people plays out everywhere people are within reach of wired and wireless technology. Once again our Pres. Barack Obama has shown us all how to practice The Golden Rule, even as he withstands the abusive attacks hurled at him because someone of his brilliant intelligence who is so highly educated, talented, and successful, just absolutely must not have any African blood. Since our President does, racist thinking says that he cannot be an American. To think in terms of skin color first isn’t any healthier than putting profit before people.

Pres. Obama was encouraged, supported and loved in his formative years. And he has faced himself, the world and the laws of democracy; writing “Dreams from my Father” deepened his self-understanding and secured his self-respect, which enables him to keep his balance and steady others even in the midst of natural and man-made disasters. To understand how critical love is, whether it comes from parents, relatives, friends, teachers, and pets, think about this:

If child abuse and neglect were to disappear today – the ever-growing “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual,” which labels mental disorders for insurance purposes, would shrink to the size of a pamphlet in two generations, and the prisons would empty.
— Statement attributed to John Briere by Connie Valentine © 2002 via the Trauma Listserv.

It’s thrilling to watch Pres. Obama as he heals the wounds left behind by those who raise themselves above the majority and put profit before health, education and equal opportunities for all. Because not all of the majority understand the critical power of the voting booth, let’s all help others to register to vote, and then cast our ballots next November, as well as the following November 2012.

Please note: Righting Wrong appeared in PeaceOfMind last year.

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Last edited by patricia obletz. Based on work by Tyler Schuster.  Page last modified on May 11, 2017

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