Sunday, July 28, 2013

It's "Always Nigger Season" Even When the President is Black

Or I might add especially when the President is black. At least when 'W' did something horribly  racist and criminal, as he often did, there were loud voices protesting  in opposition. But when Obama does the same thing, it’s considered good leadership. President Obama received 95% of the black vote. In return, African Americans received a check that came back stamped: insufficient funds. He tells African Americans to stop whining and pull themselves up by their own bootstraps while his actions set these same people up to fail and keep them trapped by his support of legislation--specifically, in this case, by actively trying to maintain racially discriminatory prison sentences--that further empowers and emboldens the New Jim Crow Lulled to sleep by the rhetoric of color-blindness and the appearance of great racial progress, most of us are blind this new form, or should I say, formless invisible institutional racism.

In UNITED STATES OF AMERICA v. CORNELIUS DEMORRIS BLEWETT (12-5226) and JARREOUS JAMONE BLEWITT (12-5582),, "a crack cocaine case brought by two currently incarcerated defendants seeking retroactive relief from racially discriminatory mandatory minimum sentences imposed on them in 2005," President Obama quietly tried to enforce racially biased federal crack cocaine laws that have since been repealed" by the  2010 Fair Sentencing Act. The Obama administration asked a federal appeals court to make sure thousands of people--almost all of them poor and most of them black--remain locked in prison despite a total lack of justification.

Crack cocaine and powder cocaine are "pharmacologically identical," the only difference being who consumes these pharmacologically identical substances: crack cocaine, the drug of mostly poor black folk, and powder cocaine, the drug of wealthier white folk. To be sure, young African American males are the most disposable, yet at the same time, profitable--for the for-profit prison industry--demographic in this prison nation. Not only do the private prisons prosper, corporations can put these people to work for a few cents an hour, not to mention, these human-beings are excluded from poverty statistics and unemployment data thus masking the severity of issues more than they already are.

Although Black people make up only 34% of crack users, they are 85% of those convicted on crack charges. As early as 2011, 30,000 people were serving time for crack charges in federal prison, 85% of them Black.

…persistent bias occurred with respect to the contemporary enforcement of drug laws where, in the 1990s and early 2000s, blacks constituted a minority of regular users of crack cocaine but more than 80 percent of crack defendants.” -- Harvard Professor William J. Stuntz
As legal scholar Michelle Alexander argues, "we have not ended racial caste in America; we have merely redesigned it." One such strategy is through targeting black men and women (often mothers) through the "War on Drugs," decimating communities of color.
There are more African American adults under correctional  control today, in prison or jail, on probation or parole, than were enslaved in 1850, a decade before the Civil War began. As of 2004, more black men were disenfranchised than in 1870, the year the 15th amendment was ratified explicitly prohibiting laws that deny the right to vote on the basis or race....During the Jim Crow era, poll taxes and literacy tests, circumvented the 15th amendment and operated to deny African Americans the right to vote. A black child born today has less of a chance of being raised by both parents than a black child born during slavery. This is due in large part to the mass incarceration of black men....The mass incarceration of black men take them out of the dating pool at the years they would be most likely to commit to a partner, to a family.  But, what's worse is that by branding them criminals and felons at early ages, often before they're even old enough to vote, they're rendered permanently unemployable in the legal job market, virtually guaranteeing that most will cycle in and out of prison, sometimes, for the rest of their lives. 
[...]
Today, in many states, felon disenfranchisement laws accomplish what poll taxes and literacy tests ultimately could not. This does not effect some small segment of the African American community. To the contrary, in many large urban areas, more than half of working age African American men now have criminal records and thus subject to legalized discrimination for the rest of their lives. In some cities--Baltimore, Philadelphia, Chicago (80%), DC--the statistics are far worse." -- Michelle Anderson, highly acclaimed civil rights lawyer, advocate, and Associate Professor of Law at Ohio State
The incarceration rate has quintupled over the last 30 years, from a prison population of 300,000 in the early 1970s to well over 2 million! During this same period of time that the incarceration rates increased exponentially, crime rates have fluctuated, leading most sociologists and criminologists to admit that incarceration rates and crime rates have moved independently of one another.

So for now the grant of en banc review puts Blewett relief for Sixth Circuit prisoners on hold. Why?  Is  the Department of Justice afraid of re-hearing thousands of old cases?  If so, can't President Obama just commute all of the pre-Fair-Sentencing-Act minimums to their equivalent minimums under the new law? Or is the reason for en banc review far more nefarious?

Links:

How the mass incarceration of black men harms black women.


Race to Incarcerate: A Graphic Retelling by Sabrina Jones and Marc Mauer

Stop the Drug War

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