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Author Topic: Historical memory and Baltimore: Urban Blacks, Disposable Labor, Austerity Logic  (Read 632 times)

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Offline kylieTopic starter

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       A Guardian mention, in the wake of the Freddie Gray case, of Ruth Gilmore's work on the policing of race in America and the prison-industrial complex.  You hear some of this if you study urban sociology, but this might be helpful for those who don't have much exposure to it.  These are just some pertinent samples from various recent editorials that reference research.  Still, I hope that the string of news stories about police brutality and racial inequality the past few months may inspire some people to at least take another look.

       The typical negative rejoinder will be something like 'Oh but Black neighborhoods failed to prevent violence and to lift themselves up by their bootstraps working day and night in this great anything is possible society.'  But if you take some time to read the community history and to look at the urban areas that the Black population has largely been funneled into through housing - disproportionate incarceration without cause and with harsher sentences, and corporate employment policies?  There is not much foundation for that. 

Where race and austerity come together.

Quote

Read the Kerner commission’s report into the race riots of 1967 and it seems to describe much of what has recently happened in Ferguson and Baltimore, where angry protests followed the death in police custody of a young black man, Freddie Gray. “What white Americans have never fully understood, but what the Negro can never forget,” the report said, “is that white society is deeply implicated in the ghetto. White institutions created it, white institutions maintain, and white society condones it.”   ...

A leader in the New York Times last week cited the prescient work of the sociologist William Julius Wilson, which explained how deindustrialisation and reduced demand for low-skilled labour created “poor, segregated neighbourhoods in which a majority of individual adults are either unemployed or have dropped out of or never been part of the labour force” and why most were black.

Black writers since Wilson have set out to develop his labour-based research to examine the wholesale exclusion and criminalisation of black people. One of the foremost, Ruth Wilson Gilmore, put it this way in a recent lecture: “The US is more segregated by race and income now than in 1960.”

Gilmore is a professor of geography at City University of New York, and her book The Golden Gulag was awarded a prize by the American Studies Association; it is set in California, which has America’s largest prison population and has pioneered much of the punitive legislation adopted by other states.
Despite declining crime in California, the state’s prison population has at its peak increased by 500% since, in 1982, the state embarked on building a massive system of prisons, many the size of large towns...

... 

Gilmore is eager, she says, to emphasise that the “prison-fix” described in her book is not – “as it is commonly seen” – an encroachment by the private sector into a public sphere, but “the policy of the state: mass devastation, mass criminalisation and mass deportation into jails. Of all those in American jails, 92% are in publicly administered institutions. The public money turns through the system in the salaries of public employees, and falls into the hands of the private sector selling food, services and utilities, because these prisons are cities… Fundamentally, this is the state reverting to a default legitimacy in the age of austerity: the state saying: ‘What else can we do?’”


       I think this is probably the NYT editorial column referenced above.

Quote

An analysis in The Times — “1.5 Million Missing Black Men” — showed that more than one in every six black men in the 24-to-54 age group has disappeared from civic life, mainly because they died young or are locked away in prison. This means that there are only 83 black men living outside of jail for every 100 black women — in striking contrast to the white population, where men and women are about equal in numbers.

This astounding shortfall in black men translates into lower marriage rates, more out-of-wedlock births, a greater risk of poverty for families and, by extension, less stable communities. The missing men should be a source of concern to political leaders and policy makers everywhere.

While the 1.5 million number is startling, it actually understates the severity of the crisis that has befallen African-American men since the collapse of the manufacturing and industrial centers, which was quickly followed by the “war on drugs” and mass imprisonment, which drove up the national prison population more than sevenfold beginning in the 1970s.

In addition to the “missing,” millions more are shut out of society, or are functionally missing, because of the shrinking labor market for low-skilled workers, racial discrimination or sanctions that prevent millions who have criminal convictions from getting all kinds of jobs. At the same time, the surge in imprisonment has further stigmatized blackness itself, so that black men and boys who have never been near a jail now have to fight the presumption of criminality in many aspects of day-to-day life — in encounters with police, in schools, on the streets and on the job.

The data on missing African-American men is not particularly new. Every census for the last 50 years has shown the phenomenon.

...

As deindustrialization got underway, earnings declined, neighborhoods grew poorer and businesses moved to the suburbs, beyond the reach of inner city residents. As Mr. Wilson wrote in his 1996 book, “When Work Disappears,” for the first time in the 20th century, most adults in many poor inner-city neighborhoods were not working.

Joblessness became the norm, creating a “nonworking class,” that lived in segregated areas where most residents could not find jobs or had given up looking. In Chicago, where, Mr. Wilson carried out his research, employers wrote off the poor by not advertising in places where they could see the ads.


 
        The Washington Post has this column by Dionne, which also mentions Wilson's work and relates it to the Baltimore situation.

Quote
“We need to reframe the problem more broadly than racial profiling and police brutality,” Vicino, a professor at Northeastern University who grew up in Maryland, said in an interview. “These are major issues and have been for decades, and we need to deal with them. But the bigger context is the globalization of the economy, technological change and deindustrialization.

“This is a double whammy for poor black people left in the city,” he continued. “They are not in a position to share in the development downtown and, with the loss of manufacturing jobs, they are left, at best, with access to relatively low-paying service jobs. This, in turn, creates a spiral for those left behind, damaging families and devastating neighborhoods.”

This cycle hurt working-class whites as well, Vicino added, “but whites were in a better position to move elsewhere, whereas black mobility was limited by housing discrimination.


       To me, this all shows that once again:  Where the blame is directed at Black (and we could add also increasingly now, Latino) communities...  Well: "Who benefits??"  That largely represents a refusal to confront the nature of an economic system that demands everyone single out a very large population and blatantly, systematically abuse them.  Perhaps many people are in the same position as the government: "Well, what else can we do?  You can't possibly have a workable idea for human society other than the law of the jungle.  You can't possibly be wiling to go to the trouble to start from the bottom of our lovely, top-down republic and try to convince enough people that anything could be better for many of them -- I mean, really knowing that all along you'll have corporations trying to buy you for millions to moderate your message and authoritarian evangelicals off in that other corner prattling about what a danger to family values or tradition it might be if people don't all grow up supposedly 'equally' struggling when it's obviously not.  And you'll probably get arrested or gassed or shot in a few protests along the way..." 

      More generally and in your face:  It's the classic, particularly (blatantly) Republican line (though not only/always theirs) which I have seen played out in government, including personally heard from representatives: "We don't completely understand what would happen if we tried this new policy, so you see that just isn't prudent, heaven only knows there might be disruptions or waste of money/a slight weakening of confidence somewhere (particularly for business!!), and we shall have to wait and discuss with all the stakeholders some more." 

       And then you come back in a couple years with more hard-accumulated sorrowful evidence of the same damaging problem dragging out, and they conveniently add all that time that has passed to the clock in order to argue something that leans toward this.... 'Well this is the way it's always been and what we know and are familiar with, and it would only be foolish to change it.  Surely all of these people must be suffering for some good reason, if it isn't their fault they haven't become happy managers to begin with.  How honored they must be to be consistent martyrs to the (by now) less than 1%'s offshore accounts and whatever scraps the shrinking middle class can make up from the rest...  And it's been fineagled into this direction more or less over and over by the leadership in various ways for much of a century or two on end from outright slavery.  Just happens to have been largely Blacks at the very bottom of the vast working class barrel?!  Meanwhile big business is racking in giant profits, the central government goes on about how good the bottom line is compared to "yesterday" (when umm there was a massive financial crisis, as opposed to say compared to 1970 when people remembered living wages increasing, or even say 2000.  No, let's forget about that for a while longer).   

      Oh, but all we are supposed to hear is the "equal time to how protests always turn to violence and every new reform always turns to exploitation."  So don't get concerned about any of this.  Totally natural state of human affairs in the jungle.  No one's responsible at all.  No one's complicit at all.  No one's going to put up any sweat or blood or risk first, so it can all just stay with that Dark Continent and its descendants (and a second tier of somewhat less punished working class Whites and others), who have been soaking up the cost for how long now.  And they'll keep on prattling about the American Dream and how all it takes is will and sacrifice for the first five to fifty years if one is very lucky, and better not in the stigmatized minorities, but most likely if one begins somehow better financed and sheltered away from all of that "oh so terrible, why don't they save themselves!" political strife.   ::)
 
« Last Edit: May 03, 2015, 08:54:50 AM by kylie »

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I appreciated your post, Kylie.  I've been reading many similar things on DailyKos today.  This is a systemic, long-lived problem, and while it has been with us for a long time, it is certainly not something we should throw our hands up about and claim it was always so, thus we must accept it.

I'm a teacher at an elementary school in a very economically depressed area, with a roughly balanced population of blacks, latinos, and whites.  The black students, however, score the lowest out of all ethnic groups in language...even below English learners newly in the country.  Aside from taking the racist position and saying they were born this way, I instead see the lack of parental support with the vast majority of them living in single parent homes, often with relatives, because one or both of their parents are in prison.  I see them struggle with the kind of poverty that means often the only two steady meals they get during the day are breakfast and lunch at school.  I see them fall asleep in class, because the night life around or in their home is not the kind that is conducive to a peaceful night's sleep.  They are not cyphers and statistics in my class--they are human beings like their peers--but they did not get to begin life at the same starting line as other children in my class.

There are terrible black parents as well, like in other ethnic groups, but poverty and struggle in general seem to be the cause for this.  Stress and uncertainty and hopelessness tend to bring that out in people.  Most black parents, like all parents, love their children and want them to succeed--but they have to work that much harder from their lower rung in society to make it happen.

Desperate people, throughout history, will eventually react in the only way that is left to them--violence.  What is surprising is how little violence has come out of Baltimore in the wake of the Freddie Gray murder.  It speaks much to the humanity of the inhabitants when you see even gang members coming together to advocate for non-violence and working to improve their community.

As an aside, I found this story be sobering and relative to your post...comments made by John Angelos, chief operating officer of the Baltimore Orioles and son of the owner, to sports radio host Brett Hollander, on the unrest in Baltimore:

Quote
Brett, speaking only for myself, I agree with your point that the principle of peaceful, non-violent protest and the observance of the rule of law is of utmost importance in any society. MLK, Gandhi, Mandela and all great opposition leaders throughout history have always preached this precept. Further, it is critical that in any democracy, investigation must be completed and due process must be honored before any government or police members are judged responsible.

That said, my greater source of personal concern, outrage and sympathy beyond this particular case is focused neither upon one night’s property damage nor upon the acts, but is focused rather upon the past four-decade period during which an American political elite have shipped middle class and working class jobs away from Baltimore and cities and towns around the U.S. to third-world dictatorships like China and others, plunged tens of millions of good, hard-working Americans into economic devastation, and then followed that action around the nation by diminishing every American’s civil rights protections in order to control an unfairly impoverished population living under an ever-declining standard of living and suffering at the butt end of an ever-more militarized and aggressive surveillance state.

The innocent working families of all backgrounds whose lives and dreams have been cut short by excessive violence, surveillance, and other abuses of the Bill of Rights by government pay the true price, and ultimate price, and one that far exceeds the importances of any kids’ game played tonight, or ever, at Camden Yards. We need to keep in mind people are suffering and dying around the U.S., and while we are thankful no one was injured at Camden Yards, there is a far bigger picture for poor Americans in Baltimore and everywhere who don’t have jobs and are losing economic civil and legal rights, and this makes inconvenience at a ballgame irrelevant in light of the needless suffering government is inflicting upon ordinary Americans.

And also this:

Quote
I decided I'd do a quick bit of research to see just how many riots have happened in our country in this century, and how many were race related...

Guess what?

Of the 22 large scale riots that have occurred in the US over the past 14 years a whopping 5 have been over race relations... And one of those wasn't black/white, it was white/white - Neo-nazis. All but two of the rest was sports related. One of those two was because a brewery ran out of beer during a festival.

I've denoted the incidences that were racial relations with +

1.    Philadelphia Mardi Gras Riots, February 2001
2.    Seattle Mardi Gras Riots, February 2001, (Seattle, United States)
3.    University of Maryland student riots, 2001 (College Park, Maryland, United States)
4.    2001 Cincinnati Riots, April 2001, (Cincinnati, United States) +
5.    University of Maryland 2002 NCAA tournament, (College Park, Maryland)
6.    Ohio State University, November 2002, (Columbus, Ohio, United States)
7.    Ohio State University, April 21,2002 (Columbus, Ohio, United States)
8.    Benton Harbor Riot, June 2003 (Benton Harbor, Michigan, United States) +
9.     Red Sox Riots, October, 2004 (Boston, MA)
10.   2005 Toledo Riot, October 2005, (Toledo, Ohio, United States) + Neo-nazis
12.   San Bernardino punk riot, March 4,2006 San Bernardino, California
13.   Red Sox Riot, October, 2007 (Boston, MA)
14.   Phillies World Series Riots, October, 2008 (Philadelphia, PA)
15.   Springfest Riot, April, 2010 Harrisonburg, Virginia
16.   Anarchist Riots, 2010 Santa Cruz, California
17.   Riots in Anaheim, California, July, 2012 +
18.   Riots in Anaheim, California, July, 2013
19.   Cigar City Brewing Company Riots (Tampa, FL) March, 2014
20.   University of Arizona Riots, March, 2014 (Tucson, AZ)
21.   World Series Riots, October, 2014 (San Francisco, CA)
22.   Ferguson Riots, 2014 (Ferguson, MO) (two separate instances) +

So I think everyone needs to dial it back, and remember that sports fans are the real problem when it comes to riots.

(On an aside the country with the most riots this century is Canada over hockey, and Britain comes in a close second rioting over soccer... It seems white sports fans are violent, destructive assholes the world over.)

« Last Edit: May 03, 2015, 06:04:03 PM by HannibalBarca »

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This post ended up being practically an essay, with how it felt.  I do want to warn any readers, it...can sound a little preachy at points, and probably greatly smacks of it at the end (What Now?), but...I really do believe what I wrote in here, and that for what you were talking on, Kylie, it needed to be said.

On Schools and the Economy
Ditto what Hannibal said on schools.  I served a year as a long-term substitute in an inner city school less than a dozen miles from where I live.  The majority of kids struggled, even in subjects where mastery or proficiency were necessary skills - English is the one that most immediately pops to mind, everyone needs to be proficient in language and communication (and no, as I would tell some kids, "where you at" and phrases of that nature are not viable substitutions).

After almost a quarter, I asked one of the veteran teachers of the school what, if anything, could be done to improve the school, which was on a state-mandated turnaround program.  Instant response: "every kid has two parents at home."  And the more I thought on the statement, the more I realized it was true.  I had been all over the state, observing in schools while I studied to become a teacher.  The very best to the very worst, by both reputation and by testing scores.  Night & Day.  What I noted was that in the schools were parents were active, they were involved, they were a part of the process - those were the schools that excelled.  Black, white, rich, poor - while it still mattered, it mattered less.  Thing is, parents can really only be involved in the process of learning if they're not busy trying to work on keeping a roof over everyone's heads and food on the table.

Perfect example - parent-teacher conferences.  We had them 2x a year.  98% of the parents who showed up were the parents of kids who were already doing well in my classes, I didn't really need to talk to them about how their kids could improve.  The 1 exception to this was the single mom of one of my students who was SpecEd, and the reason she came should be fairly obvious.  Now, out of all the other parents who didn't come, maybe some of them didn't give a crap about their kids success - but I have trouble believing it's all of them.  No, I'm fairly convinced that a good portion of those parents didn't come because they simply couldn't make it, because the labor market of today...well, follow along.

You have the de-industrialization of the US that coincides with the rise of the overall global economy, and the fact that it's now cheaper to make & ship things from overseas than to have them made here.  (Otherwise, why would businesses do it?)  Manufacturing was an enormous job market while it lasted here in the US, and those jobs either left to go to other countries (with lower minimum wages and safety regulations), or were automated (in the event that it couldn't be sent out of the US) as much as possible.  As a result, the US today is much more of a service economy than it was back during our parents' or grandparents' days.  People do things now rather than make things.

This, combined with the brilliant (solely from the business perspective) tactic of substituting multiple persons for the work of 1 person, is one of the major economic woes of the working class of citizens in the US today.  It's just so much easier for the bottom line of a business to have 2 or 3 people work a 15-20 hour work week than it is for them to have 1 person work a full 40 hours.  Why?  Because once you hit that magic number, stuff kicks in.  Stuff about benefits, or other things, things that businesses back in a younger day provided to the people who worked for them.  Stuff that costs businesses beyond the simple wages that they have to pay to anyone who works for them.

This has had the incredibly shitty result of forcing the working class into a job-searching frenzy.  Whereas parents were capable of supporting families on the income of a single job, held by one of two parents, in a past year, today you will frequently find people working two, three, even four jobs just so they can keep above water and make sure that everything keeps running.  But if you're working 3 20-hour jobs a week, that's 60 hours a week, or about 10 hours every day, with 1 day off.  And you can be assured that it would be a rarer thing for all three jobs to give an employee the same day off every week.  Most likely, you would have no actual days off, but rather 3 days during the week where you work fewer hours than 10.

To bring this home thru an educational perspective, follow me.  A parent, the only one at home, works 10 hours on Tuesday.  6 hours at one job and 4 at another.  Let's say they start work at 9AM, assume they get 1 hour for lunch and dinner break, during which they travel to their other job.  They get up, get their kids up, make sure they get on the bus to school.  They leave the house at 8 AM to get to their first job on time, for 9.  This is the four hour job (for ease of scheduling in this example).  They work until 1PM, and they need to be at their second job at 1:30.  They pick up lunch (if they didn't make their own), eat on the way, and get there on time.  Start 6 hours - except, no, it's 6.5 because they get a mandated 1/2 hour break for dinner.  Starting @ 1:30, they finish their job at 8PM, and are home by 8:30.

Contrast with their kids' schedules.  Middle/High schools around here let out around 2, and elementary schools around 3.  So, the kids get home, and they have 5-6 hours before they know Mom or Dad is gonna walk in the door.  They have homework, or studying they could do - particularly for older kids.  Now, therein comes the big question: "Uhhhh...do I study for the next 4 hours, or do I just hop on the 360/PS# and play GTA V?"

Answer: Usually the latter, because big surprise, kids make horrible parents.

So Mom or Dad gets home at 8:30, and they need to be up for their job tomorrow, so they'll be up for an hour or two, maybe three if they're lucky, and then they're out.  That's not enough time to spend with your kids to help them get their homework done; particularly if they're a product of our fine public institutions located in the inner city, as well.

And I'm not even bringing into the equation things like "What if the older kids are also working?"  (A probability I saw in action at my job last school year.)  Or some other semi-common scenarios.


On What Plagues Us
I've probably gone on too long with this already, so...if I can, let me try and break down the major contributors to woes like what you're talking about, Kylie.

1 - Fragmentation of community.  The breakdown of community bonds that would, and did, serve as a brake on bad behaviors.  This includes teachers as much as it does the folks next door.  Growing up, I knew to be on good behavior both at school and around the neighborhood, because if I did something wrong, then either the teacher or a few neighbors would call my parents, and I would be in hot water when I got home.  (And this assumed that they didn't come out and tan my hide themselves, then call my parents.)

This phenomenon isn't just limited to our inner cities, either.  It happens even in 'serene' suburbia.  How do I know this?  I came up with a very simple test.  Think back to when you were a kid, growing up in your parents' house.  How many of your neighbors do you remember?  (Names are preferred, but if you can remember anything distinctive about them, they count.)  Okay.  Now, think about where you live today (hopefully it's not the same place).  How many of your neighbors do you know now?  More than when you grew up?  Fewer?  The same?

In short: how much effort do you put into getting to know the people who live near you?

As noted - this isn't limited to our inner cities, but it is magnified there the most because of the following other contributors.

2 - Business' abandonment of their ethical responsibilities to pursue their mission (which is to make more money).  In civics class, students are taught that every citizen has rights, but they also have responsibilities, as well.  You have a right to free speech - but it's also your responsibility to vote (and hopefully be well-informed when you do).  Well, whether or not corporations are people, they've got rights and responsibilities, too.  And their #1 responsibility is to the people who keep them running day in and day out.

That isn't the case today, if you've taken even a cursory look at how business behaves today.  I had a friend who was a Business major at university, and he was required, by his program, to take one year's worth of Business Ethics courses.  First, I want to note this - you have to have mandated courses teaching you ethics for the business profession.  I was a science major and I didn't have any courses on Science Ethics - and you might argue that ethics are actually more important in science than in business (but that's not the talk here).  I would ask him regularly what he was learning in 'Business Ethics,' and from his various responses, I compiled a short, three-point summary of what he was learning.

A: How to foresee potential ethical situations in the future and head them off (IE, prevent them from even happening in the first place)
B: If a situation arose that was unforeseen, how to resolve the situation with a show meant to please the public while not actually changing anything (IE, cheating).
C: If all else fails, the mantra is: "We have a responsibility to our stockholders."

It was, in short, a joke.  A whole year-long course, where they were not even told how to act as leaders of business when they were out in the field, because the sacred cow of business is - and this is what they abandoned their responsibilities for - more money.  (This despite the fact that money is just paper, data, entirely transient and cannot be transferred to your afterlife locale of residence, should you believe one exists.)

Now, I'm not saying that businesses could afford to hire and keep full-time every person that works for them.  (And in some cases, probably shouldn't.)  But the drive of the people at the top of the corporate chain to protect their precious profits - even though if something is declared as profit, that means (in my mind) that those aren't funds being used to better the company.  (On this, I may be wrong, if I am, please correct me.)  A number of the really big ones post double digit billions of dollars in profits every year.  You're telling me you can't afford to take at least some of your part-timers and convert them to 40 hrs/week?  Then I would like to tell you about a bridge I have to sell you...

3 - Racism.  It's there.  Despite what all the Faux News persons are saying about living in a 'post-racial' society (because the President happens to be black), or that 'traditional America is gone' (because white people no longer make up over 50% of the population), the leaders of society - both in the public and private sectors - are still largely of the background that led the country when it was first formed.  And that puts them in positions of power, where they can subject vast quantities of everyday persons to their own whims and beliefs.  A good number of our leaders today were grown men and women when the 60s happened, or are the spawn of people who were.  In short, they either were adults, living in a time when society was quite openly segregated - or they grew up with people who had values from that era, which were taught to them.  (Because you don't grow up for 18 years in your parents' house and not turn out at least something like them.)

In short - actual, active racism will not die out with the current generation passing away.  It will need at least another (the generation of my parents), and that's a best-case scenario.  And even when it is gone, racism can be a subconscious thing, which adds on a whole new dimension to this.

4 - the prison boom.  As my grandmother said: Idle hands are the devil's workshop.  IE, if you aren't busy, then you often find ways to get into trouble.  This, alongside a number of laws with political intent behind them, plus old cultural perceptions (such as racism), and a few other logs you can throw on the pile, have resulted in a huge, rapid rise in the prison population of the US.  In this respect, our claims of American exceptionalism are entirely correct.  We are #1...in locking people up.  We lock up more people than China.  China.  Where you can be locked up for criticism of the government, and they have a way bigger population base than we do.  (I believe it's currently 4x the US'.)

A number of critics have been saying for years that the War on Drugs is not only not working, it's making our problems worse.  Depending on your system, somewhere between 25-50% of all persons incarcerated are for drug or drug-related offenses.  This isn't a number that's changed over time, as far as my research has yielded, either.  I've heard some people refer to it as the New Prohibition - which, if the charge is true, has enormous implications.  Prohibition was nearly single-handedly responsible for the creation of a good bulk of the organized crime apparatus we still deal with today.  The Wise Guys - like Johnny Torrio and Al Capone - got their start hauling bootleg liquor and evading the Prohibition agents.  Enormous monetary gains were made by illegal criminal outfits during that time - profits that ended when Prohibition did, and booze was legalized again. 

This is one of the major arguments presented by those in favor of legalization of certain drugs, like marijuana.  Another is the fact that decriminalizing weed and its analogues (meaning, lesserly dangerous drugs) would free up enormous portions of our prison population.  Even if you don't buy the legalization argument, the least anyone with sense in their head can do is admit that locking up a guy for carrying three ounces of weed should not be housed next to a guy who held up a bank or a guy who shot three teens in a gang drive-by.  Mainly because their crimes are not in the same grade.  And yet that does happen.

The other major thing driving the prison boom is a flawed and fundamental misunderstanding of what prisons do.  As much as we might want to believe otherwise, prisons do not reform, prisons do not deter.  Those who believe prisons are sources of criminal reform are those who like to refer to them as 'correctional facilities' or 'reformatories.'  Inmates are put through therapy sessions and other devices in order to 'fix' their bad behavior.  Which sounds reasonable, until you look at the high recidivism rate of the incarcerated in the US.  Obviously, not much real reforming is going on if people keep going back to prison.  (Usually for the same stuff - or worse.)

The other way - the people who want prison to deter crime - are the folks who organize stuff like Scared Straight.  Which, again, sounds reasonable - until you look at the statistics.  Over various incarnations of the Scared Straight program, it's been shown that kids who participate in the program actually have a higher chance of going to jail.  Yes.  Higher.  Not lower, not even the same.  Higher.

Prisons do not reform, they do not deter.  They contain.  That is all they do, and all they can do.  A prison is meant to be a place to put the people in our society who are too dangerous to be trusted to function in society in a way that is healthy to it.  It is meant for rapists, murderers, and people unrepentant of the wrong they have done.  This is not to say that someone who is ignorant of their wrong should be placed there.  An ignorant man can be educated.  What I am talking about, when I say unrepentant, is a man who knows in his heart that what he has done is wrong, and is unwilling to engage the possibility of recompense to those he has wronged (because no crime is truly victimless; it would not be a crime if it was), and unwilling to try and change himself in the future. Because a man like that will endanger men as long as he is free, and can even when he is not.


What Now?
That brings me now to the question: what do we do?

The answer is, at first glance, simple: We cannot do nothing.  Things cannot go on like this.  They will only destroy us - all of us - if they do.  But we must accept a few things before we begin.

One - we cannot fix the problems our society has made in one election cycle.  They are too big, too much, too massive, to do so.  It will take time.  To quote MLK's last speech: "And I've seen the promised land. I may not get there with you."  What we start, we may not be able to finish.  We may need to pass the torch onto others.  But we know the promised land is there.  And even if we don't get there, we owe it to the future to start the journey.

Two - we (and by we I mean anyone who takes up this cause) will face resistance.  It can be business, the prison industry, even our own people.  They will not shrink back from us in fear simply because we blaze with light of righteous fury.  They will mislead us, wheel & deal us, try anything at all to keep us from our goal, because they are afraid, even if they pretend not to be.  They are afraid that when the shoe is on the other foot, that when they are no longer in charge, they will be treated by us like how they treated us.

And this brings Three: we cannot do that.  I repeat.  We cannot do that.  We must be better than the people who are the oppressors.  We must be better.  When they fall down, and reach to us from the dirt gasping for "help," we must help them up, even though memory - and memory we will have - of a time when we were down in the dirt, and they kicked more of it in our faces and told us to "help ourselves," though we starved.  It will go against our impulses to leave them there, as we were left, every single impulse we have as a human being.  But we must resist and help them anyways.  For, to paraphrase Abraham Lincoln - in giving aid to the fallen we assure aid to the standing - honorable alike in what we give and what we preserve.

We help them - because when we help them, and we do so without thought of personal gain - because were the shoe on the other foot, you would want someone to help you.

In doing so, helping those that scorned us and spit upon us and called us thieves and cheaters, it will heap shame and dishonor upon their heads.

And when that happens, then, and only then, will we find King's promised land.  Where "justice rolls down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream."

Offline HannibalBarca

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An excellent post Reiji.  One can see an unholy combination of three factors that have worked to greatly harm the economic and social well-being of working-class Americans, particularly African-Americans:

1.  The corporate focus on profits to the exclusion of all other factors.  You would think that pro-business (read: Republican) advocates, normally stressing individual responsibility, would connect that to the Citizens United ruling, and expect more social responsibility from big business.  The pursuit of profit above all else has led to fewer jobs, even among college-educated citizens, and the working class has seen a decline in jobs with pensions and health benefits, as well as an increase in the percentage of jobs that are part-time positions.

2.  The War on Drugs has managed to put an inordinate number of black men in prison, and unethical and murderous police behavior has put others in the morgue.  This lack of black men has led to even fewer fathers than would otherwise have been, and coupled with the diminished job prospects, has led to even more black children being left at home after school to parent themselves--which means no parenting at all.

3.  Lack of time to actually parent leads to diminished outcomes in school for black students.  This not only continues the spiral, but worsens it with each succeeding generation.  It can be seen in other ethnic and cultural groups as well, but not to the extent that is occurs in the African-American community.

4.  Technology in general has progressed much faster than human development.  The rise in ADD and ADHD may simply be the response from our savannah-evolved brains in trying to adapt to our information-overload, mass media society.  The lack of connection with neighbors can be directly attributed to the increase in television, internet, and phone time, because the amount of time one has in a day to communicate is indeed a zero-sum game.  As time spent with technology and media has increased, the time spent in face-to-face communication with our neighbors and other humans has commensurately decreased.  Lack of communication is a problem in any relationship, personal or otherwise.


As for what to do now, I can agree with most of what you say.  Younger generations of Americans have many positives going for them--tolerance and acceptance of those different than them is one of the best of these.  At the same time, the astonishing lack of ability in basic communication does not bode well for the public at large--those who control the media will control the dialogue much more than if people spent more time communicating with each other in person and avoided the gatekeepers, as it were.  Since we're still dealing with the same species that existed 50,000 years ago, on a biological level, the only thing we have going for us compared to early homo sapiens is education--and not just that of schools, but the education that comes from interacting with one another and learning just how similar we all are at our core.

Offline Dimir

I found all of your opinions and insights on this matter to be quite interesting and provided me with perspectives I had never seen before so I appreciate you three for your posts.

As a result of white flight and the riots in the 1960s, most whites moved into the suburbs and blacks got the majority of the population in cities like Detroit and Newark. It can't be denied that urban blacks got the short end of the economic and social benefits of that time period.

In regards to the high incarceration rates of blacks compared to other races and the high proportion of blacks being born to single mothers (NBC reported it as 72% in 2010) how much of that can be blamed on the social structure of the United States when compared to personal responsibility? When the US Government established the war on drugs, trafficking of narcotics and joining street gangs would be appealing to at-risk young black men, but it is still a personal choice as to decide whether you want to live a moral life or join a criminal group. The DEA is not pointing guns at the heads of high school children and demanding they get involved with drugs.

Which brings to the other point, and that is why parents of any race in improvished urban America who make very little to no income, decide to have children? It is still a personal choice to engage in sexual intercourse without birth control methods at any childbearing age and the rates of teenage pregnancy and children born to unwed mothers are higher among blacks and Latinos when compared to Caucasians. Why don't minority advocacy groups come onto national television and address this? Being in poverty does not excuse you from having unprotected sex unless you are in an abusive relationship or if you are being raped.

I have made many friends over the years who are ethnic minorities and do not harbour racist views towards any group. All I'm doing is presenting some statistics (which can be URL cited if requested) and bringing up that people are usually in control of what life they want to live in accordance to their personal and socialogical capabilities. Sadly, much of this issue of inner-city crime and generational poverty, is directly related to children being born in impoverished households. Some of these children will make it in life and all the credibility to them for dealing with a very difficult upbringing, but many won't. That does not excuse the mistreatment of minorities by those in positions of power but you can't blame all of the issues facing minorities in America on the Caucasian community.

I intriguingly do await any counter-responses towards my post and any of the points mentioned. *offers hugs to all of you*
« Last Edit: May 12, 2015, 02:09:36 PM by Dimir »

Offline Deamonbane

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Just a small nitpick (And I read this on the internet so there's really no saying that it's actually true) that the statistic that see that 72% of of the blacks being born to black mothers are in fact 72% (Not sure of this percentage, but I'm using your post as base) of black children born out of wedlock, not necessarily single mothers. Which means that the father can be living with the mother, raising the children with her and helping support them while still having her count to the system of analysis as a 'single mother' because the father's name isn't on the birth certificate.

Again, I only read this on the internet, so there's no saying if it's actually true, but it is an interesting alteration to the perspective of that statistic.

Offline Dimir

Just a small nitpick (And I read this on the internet so there's really no saying that it's actually true) that the statistic that see that 72% of of the blacks being born to black mothers are in fact 72% (Not sure of this percentage, but I'm using your post as base) of black children born out of wedlock, not necessarily single mothers. Which means that the father can be living with the mother, raising the children with her and helping support them while still having her count to the system of analysis as a 'single mother' because the father's name isn't on the birth certificate.

Again, I only read this on the internet, so there's no saying if it's actually true, but it is an interesting alteration to the perspective of that statistic.

http://www.chron.com/life/mom-houston/article/72-of-black-babies-born-to-unwed-moms-data-1709669.php


That was where I got the statistic from and I assume it was the same for you. I do realize that "unmarried" can very easily mean just in a girlfriendxboyfriend relationship. The same study however found that only 29% of white children are born to single mothers, so are more white parents getting married rather than staying as boyfriendxgirlfriend?

Offline Deamonbane

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It could be. Could be taht white families are a bit more traditional in the aspect that if a boyfriend gets his girlfriend pregnant there is more pressure from the families for them to get married? Could be a matter of cost too. If you're not doing so well financially and are hit was an unexpected child, it makes sense that you wouldn't want to either go through the hassle of getting a marriage liscense or go through a potentially expensive wedding ceremony.

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In regards to the high incarceration rates of blacks compared to other races and the high proportion of blacks being born to single mothers (NBC reported it as 72% in 2010) how much of that can be blamed on the social structure of the United States when compared to personal responsibility? When the US Government established the war on drugs, trafficking of narcotics and joining street gangs would be appealing to at-risk young black men, but it is still a personal choice as to decide whether you want to live a moral life or join a criminal group. The DEA is not pointing guns at the heads of high school children and demanding they get involved with drugs.

I remember at one point back when the 'War on Drugs' was in its earlier days, when it was pointed out that possession/selling of crack cocaine garnered stiffer sentences than possession/selling of powder cocaine.  There was some rationale given that crack was considerably more addictive, but the other point that was brought up was who was typically using these forms of the drug.  The image of powder cocaine (at the time) was movie stars, rock stars, and other 'high class people', snorting lines at society parties through rolled-up $100 bills - and almost universally white.  Crack cocaine users were stereotyped as wasted junkies, smoking rocks in back alleys - and almost universally African American.

So, as a result of these stiffer sentences - and the relative ease of prosecuting low-income people vs. prosecuting high-income people - it's not really surprising that a disproportionate percentage of inner-city African American men ended up in jail.  After that, you have what I like to call the 'Valjean effect'.  A man gets into some dubious endeavor to provide for his family.  Following his conviction and jail time - which is supposed to reform him and make him fit to be a contributing member of society - he finds it impossible to find legitimate employment, due to the fact that he has this conviction on his record.  true, prison time doesn't reform everyone.  But those that it does reform are given little choice to prove their rehabilitation.
« Last Edit: May 13, 2015, 06:49:35 AM by Oniya »

Offline la dame en noir

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I know this isn't adding much to the conversation...

But I'm getting so tired of "blacks" "the blacks"

It just doesn't sit well with a lot of people...sigh

Offline TheGlyphstone

I know this isn't adding much to the conversation...

But I'm getting so tired of "blacks" "the blacks"

It just doesn't sit well with a lot of people...sigh

What does sit better? I've seen people argue in 100% sincerity that 'African-American' is in fact more racist than 'black', because it implies people of that demographic are only 'part-American'.

Offline la dame en noir

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What does sit better? I've seen people argue in 100% sincerity that 'African-American' is in fact more racist than 'black', because it implies people of that demographic are only 'part-American'.

This is not something you want to discuss with me. I get very heated. I don't say "whites" or "the whites" I don't like it. It's insensitive and gives me a feeling that people think that I'm an animal. Do not group people like that.

Offline TheGlyphstone

This is not something you want to discuss with me. I get very heated. I don't say "whites" or "the whites" I don't like it. It's insensitive and gives me a feeling that people think that I'm an animal. Do not group people like that.

Noted. I thought you were objecting to that particular term, not the idea of using one word to refer to an entire demographic in general.

Offline la dame en noir

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Noted. I thought you were objecting to that particular term, not the idea of using one word to refer to an entire demographic in general.
I was objecting to it

Offline Caehlim

What does sit better? I've seen people argue in 100% sincerity that 'African-American' is in fact more racist than 'black', because it implies people of that demographic are only 'part-American'.

I don't know through my own personal experience but from what I've seen generally in modern language 'person of colour' or 'people of colour' is considered a more polite terminology to use.

If it helps, just remember that black is an adjective, not a noun so at the very least you should be saying 'black person' or 'black people'. Saying 'he's a black' doesn't make any sense on an individual perspective, so why is it that when we discuss a group of people of colour we frequently reduce it to such a blunt, crude and ungrammatical term as 'blacks'.

I can somewhat relate in that I've always found 'gays' to be a likewise dehumanizing term.

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@Hannibal:  I’ll go through your points, one at a time, offering my own commentary on them.

1
Yes, that would be a reasonable thought.  If corporations are people (as per Citizens United), and the Republican philosophy of personal responsibility holds, then corporations should exhibit increased attention towards their responsibilities (such as making sure their employees can eat).  The problem is, quite simply, that the people we’re dealing with here aren’t reasonable people.  Both Citizens United and the Republican stance on personal responsibility are merely tools used by the parties in each case in order to promote their own agenda at the expense of others.

Citizens United?  Not really about the fact that corporations should be treated as people, and more about the allowance of vast corporate funds to buy candidates and therefore elections.  I once heard it this way: “If corporations are people, then corporations are psychopaths.”  Or egotistic at the very minimum.  The Citizens United ruling by SCOTUS is, quite simply, a tool used by the people at the very pinnacle of our society to further steer society along their course.

Personal responsibility?  Only exists – in the Republican mindset – at the purely individual level.  Take a person at their job.  The person is responsible, but the employer is not.  I have a friend who works at UPS.  The recent plights of two of his coworkers illustrate this.  One coworker’s delivery truck got stuck for over an hour on the highway because a semi-truck tipped over on a turn and crushed a car that was unfortunate enough to be there.  Despite this not-everyday occurrence – you might expect a little traffic, but not something like this – the company docked him for a couple packages undelivered, even though his choice was to either not deliver and be back on time, or deliver them all and be late (which is equally bad).  You are responsible, the coworker was told, you should have figured out that that semi was going to tip over and block traffic for an hour, and planned accordingly.  On the flipside, another of his coworkers had his truck break down while out on the job, and he lost a couple of hours while the roadside auto guys showed up, found the issue, and fixed it.  Now, the problem that the truck had?  That was identified in the last maintenance tune-up done on the company fleet – but the company chose not to fix it, even though the issue was significant enough that it could cause the truck to break down.  (As it did.)  The company’s response when the driver confronted management?  “Hey, that’s not our problem, how were we supposed to know it’d break down now?”  IE, it’s not my responsibility to make sure our trucks are running, that’s someone else’s job.

Persons are responsible, employers aren’t.  This is because, quite simply, the philosophy of personal responsibility is a BS tactic used to exercise control.  You must make all the right decisions, you must do all the right things, you you you.  But your boss, or your company?  Pssssssh, fuggedaboudit!

I’m not sure how familiar you are with movies, but the ’79 Ridley Scott sci-fi horror classic Alien provides insight into this: the titular alien is trapped on the ship, the Nostromo, along with the crew.  The crew is fighting to destroy the alien and survive to return home.  They’re making a plan, they’re thinking about how to outwit the alien, etc.  And then at a point…two-thirds to three-quarters the way through the movie, the series’ eternal protagonist, Ripley, discovers Special Order 937, which goes:

NOSTROMO REROUTED TO NEW CO-ORDINATES.

INVESTIGATE NEW LIFE FORM.  GATHER SPECIMEN.

PRIORITY ONE

INSURE RETURN OF ORGANISM FOR ANALYSIS.

ALL OTHER CONSIDERATIONS SECONDARY.

CREW EXPENDABLE

“All other considerations secondary.  Crew expendable.”  The Company (later named Weyland-Yutani) wanted the alien for their bioweapons program (as was suggested by Ripley in that movie, and then confirmed in sequels).  So what if it ends up killing half a dozen people before we can get it?  They’re nobodies, we can replace them.  That is the mindset of the corporate world.  The mindset that says that only the executives, the management, the people ‘who run things’ are truly important, everyone else is just a cog and can always be replaced.  Most of us react as Parker did when we run into this: “What about our lives, you son of a bitch?!”  But the Company leadership – and this is the diabolical thing – is just like the alien: “unclouded by conscience, remorse, or delusions of morality,” to quote Ash on the creature and thus the Company of the movie.  What was true in that movie is true today – companies (little c this time) have their goals, what they want, and screw anything that might get in their way: “All other considerations secondary.”

Corporate responsibility can only exist when the persons who are in the position to make that happen choose to behave in a human fashion – and they don’t, because responsibility at the top to anyone other than the shareholders/board/etc is drummed out of them at school.  Your loyalty is to the company, to make sure it goes on.  If you have to step on and squash people along the way, well, that’s just the price of doing business.


2 & 3
These I’m putting together because they’re the same issue to me.  Lack of parenting and lack of academic success on the behalf of anyone are inextricably linked.  Even if Mom or Dad or both believe that education is the way to improve the lives of their kids (and this is far from a universal belief, to my experience), if they’re not around to communicate their values to their kids, then the kids end up constructing their own value system that, surprise surprise, revolves around them and what they want to do rather than what might be best in the long run for them.  Parents need to be able to parent, and in order for that to happen, they need to be freed up from the responsibilities of having to work.

This isn’t to say, though, that parents are solely to blame for their children’s failures.  There are a handful of cultural factors in play, too.  In places like the inner city school I taught at, it was ‘not cool’ to be the smart guy in the class.  It was ‘not cool’ to excel.  You were an ‘egghead’ if you did, which usually invited others to beat on you, either verbally or physically.

There’s also what I like to call the “50 Cent” mentality – so named because it became the premier example of this thought pattern while I was there.  One of the students in my class, whenever I would sit down with him and try and express that he could do better (and I know he could, I saw it happen) in class, he would usually respond with: “I don’t need to do better, I just need to graduate – my real talent is in rapping, and I’m gonna get discovered and be the next 50 Cent.”  To which, if he was feeling particularly boastful that day, he would add: “I’m gonna get all the bitches and be making mad dollars and you’re gonna be stuck in this school teaching idiots getting paid nothing.”  (This statement has had some language cleaned up, of course.)

In short: I don’t need to do well in school, because something’s going to happen, I’ll get rich and famous, and I won’t need to do any of this [insert expletive(s)] that you’re telling me I should do.  It’s toxic thinking, because the odds are far and away against the scenario they’re describing.  More likely, they won’t be discovered, and they’ll end up asking the Philosophy major’s eternal question:

“Would you like fries with that?”

Summary: parents need to be free to parent their kids.  But we also need to disabuse ourselves of these idiotic cultural notions that being smart is bad, and that we’ll beat the odds and become famous.  It’d be nice if we could, but we should plan our lives on the premise that we’ll be just like everyone else we know.  Or maybe slightly better – but not celebrity status.


4
Maybe.  There was a study done a number of years ago, taking people from one particular ethnic background (Western Europe) and looking at diagnosis rates of various disorders like ADHD on both sides of the pond.  The common ethnic background was chosen to eliminate as much as possible genetic differences, and the study prioritized families newer to the US (IE, a family that came here 50 years ago was better than one that came here back in 1776).  The study found that kids were about 10-12 times more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD/ADD and other disorders than were their European counterparts.  And keep in mind, they tried to control for genetics as much as possible.  Now, that part of Europe has pretty much the same level of technology that is present here in the US, and yet their diagnosis rates are much lower there than here.  If that dramatic difference cannot be explained with nature, then it must be a nurture question – the environment in which children are raised.

Look here in the US.  Everything is go go go, gotta get to this place, gotta do this thing, gotta gotta gotta.  The ur-example of this in my mind is hearing parents talk about their schedules.  Nobody has time to be a family anymore, to do stuff together like what I remember growing up – Theater & Taco Tuesday!  (Dinner & a movie, not always tacos, but sometimes.)  Instead, what’s popped up in its place is one of a few things.  Either both parents are working, and aren’t really home to parent the kids (the possibility already noted).  OR one of the parents is home, and they’re responsible for driving all the kids to soccer practice and piano lessons and all the various extra little things they do so they can put it on their college applications (or on their resume, or whatever).  These are kids!  They’re no more thinking about college than what they’re going to have for breakfast Tuesday week after next!

In Europe, or at least parts of it, it’s different.  Things are more relaxed, less stressed.  My sister spent a semester abroad in Spain (part of her double major program), and loved being over there.  Why?  Because things felt so unhurried compared to the US – when she came back, she missed siesta the most.  Siesta, for those unaware, is a part of the Spanish day where all the shops close and everyone takes a collective break.  Note – this is in the middle of the day, and usually lasts at least a few hours.  That would never happen over here, because to us, those are prime ‘get things done’ hours.  Sleep?  Pssh, when I’m dead!

(Which, ironically, is what’s happening.)  Another prime example is France – they drink wine with at least one meal a day (if not more), and they eat a lot more red meat per person than over here in the US.  While we’re over here eating vegetarian snack wraps and drinking bottled water by the bucketload.  From a purely scientific perspective, we have the healthier lifestyle – red meat and booze does not a longer life make.  And yet, and yet, we have more issues, less life expectancy than the French.  Why?  There can really be only one answer.

Our culture is toxic.  It’s enabled us to get things done and become a world power in less than two centuries of existence, but we’ve gone overboard with it to the point where we literally stress ourselves to death because of the life we’re trying to hold up.

But you are right in that communication – indeed, all our days – are a zero-sum game.  If we spend more time on one thing, then we have less time to spend on others.  And as someone I knew was fond of saying: “You make time for the things that are important to you.”  IE, if watching whatever latest reality show is important to you, then you’ll find a way to get things done so you can watch the show, or to duck out of whatever needs doing so that you can.  This illustrates what is important to people, and to a society as a whole.

Increased time talking and media-absorbing online does indeed mean that we do less of it away from our computer screen.  Humans are social creatures (unless you happen to be that one guy that is perfectly okay with being a hermit) and need contact with others.  Before the Internet, there were pretty much only two ways to do that: face-to-face and via telephone.  (There are others, but stick with me.)  Telephone calls could get expensive pretty quickly, so usually the phone was for people you wanted to call in town, or the next one over.  That leaves face-to-face, IE, getting to know the neighbors.

In retrospect, it makes sense why we made the change.  It’s a lot easier to find people like you – or who like the same things you do – online than in life.  But our change has caused a breakdown in the community bonds that are quite necessary for a healthy community.  As you noted, any relationship needs communication – and the ones holding our neighborhoods together are going.


@Dimir: Okay.  Splitting my response here.

On Drugs
You are right – the DEA does not go around pointing guns at people and demanding that they get involved with drugs.  And it does come down to a choice to get involved or stay out, in the end.  Do I sell?  Do I not sell?  That said: it can be incredibly hard for minorities not to get involved with drugs, because of cultural pressures I’ve mentioned before.  Drug use, or drugs as a career, is a highly-utilized theme by today’s rap artists (the more classical ones, this isn’t necessarily the case – guys like Biggie and Tupac talked about social injustice frequently).  And rap artists are frequently treated as the role models or idols of inner city culture, and not just by the black community.

Even if you ignore that, though, one of the major reasons that people get involved in drugs is because, while illegal, it’s highly lucrative.  You can make piles and piles of money selling and/or being involved in the drug manufacturing process, as long as you don’t get arrested.  For young people trapped in the inner city, desperate to escape, drugs can seem like a viable alternative.  Being involved in the drug trade is a choice – but there are times when saying ‘no’ can be supremely hard, especially when you think that if you don’t, you’re going to live in a ghetto for the rest of your life.

Drugs also tend to be on the ‘easier’ side of how to get out of poverty.  Look at it from this perspective: you want to get out of the inner city, to do that, you have two options.  (I know there can be more, but stick with me here.)  You can: go to school for a dozen years, work really hard all that time, and get into college – where you get to work really hard some more for four years, then go out and look for a job.  And oh, none of this effort you’re putting in is guaranteed to get you the results you want.  There are ten thousand ways that what you’re trying to accomplish can be derailed in some way.  The grades you get in school aren’t good enough to get you to college; college turns out to be too hard and you have to drop out; you graduate from college and nobody’s hiring whatever your degree is.  Plus, all this time you have to make the right choices over and over and over again.  Don’t get pregnant (or get someone pregnant), which means no sex or very careful sex; don’t get involved with drugs; don’t get into trouble with alcohol (which, if you don’t wait until you’re 21, means being very careful); and whatever you do don’t run afoul of the law.  Because everything you are and have built can be destroyed in mere moments by comparison if you get arrested and go to jail.

Option B?  Get involved with drugs – make lots of money relatively quickly, prove that you’re smart enough to outwit the cops for just a few years, then either you’re the guy running things, or you’ve made enough coin to be able to at least make a start on getting out.  Oh, and you can do whatever the hell you want.  You want to screw half a dozen girls all in a row?  Done.  Firewater?  Not a problem.  Drugs?  You’re rolling in them.  And you’ll be fine, just as long as you don’t get arrested and sent to jail.  But hey, even if you do, you can always get involved again once you’re out.

To sum up: people choose to get involved with drugs because it’s the easy way out, and the thing you’re trying to avoid having happen (go to jail) is something everyone else is trying to avoid, too.  For kids with little or no parenting, who lack any sort of self-restraint or ability to control themselves, it’s the perfect solution to their issues.  Plus, for minorities, who are already under suspicion by law enforcement, taking the first choice can be really difficult when the cops keep harassing you or your friend even though you’ve done nothing wrong.

In short, yes, while it is a choice to get involved in the drug business, it is not necessarily a 50-50 choice.  It’s usually weighted.


On Children
Because the fact of the matter is is that people make poor decisions, and this is true regardless of any differentiating factor you might think of.  Usually it’s not a decision – it’s more an ‘oh shit, I’m/she’s pregnant’ situation.  It’s a panic, and panic does not usually condone good decision making.  While it might make more sense for an inner city teen to give up their child for adoption, where they might have a chance to grow up in a better environment, sensible options are not usually the ones immediately exercised.  A teenage girl who gets pregnant might be forced to keep their child by their parent or grandparent (or authority figure) who decides that the girl needs a lesson in responsibility, and to teach them that through this experience.

Of course, that is basically using a sledgehammer to break an egg.  It’s overkill, mainly because as it’s pointed out, teens are not well-equipped to the task of raising a child.  “Babies shouldn’t be having babies” is not a saying for no reason.  Young mothers – or first timers, or both – often need help in this task, since they lack experience.  The problem is that this help is usually not forthcoming.  Why?  Simple.  The whole reason the daughter got pregnant in the first place is that Mom or Dad wasn’t around to parent them to teach what was right.  Now, they’re not gonna be around to parent their kid on being a parent.  The absence of an adult presence at home simply magnifies the problem already present.

In short, the problems that led to the child are going to continue to cause problems for when the kid actually gets here.

I knew one teacher on an assignment who worked at another inner city school – she was pregnant while she was, and she knew a number of girls (of a certain ethnic persuasion) who were in her classes that were also pregnant.  She told me about the chatter and conversations they were having – about what clothes they were going to dress their new kids up in; about how wonderful it was that they were going to have someone who loves them (supposedly everyone else ‘hated’ them); about how their one child development class had them all ready for a kid.

To sum up: they talked about their kids like they were dolls, or pets, rather than living, breathing human beings that, quite frankly, require a lot of care and time and effort and energy.  Not only did they lack true understanding of how difficult it is to raise kids, but far, far worse: they thought they were all prepared and ready for it because of one class that lasted a semester in high school.  They, as do many in their situation, far underestimated the task that they were undertaking; if they did understand the enormity of raising a kid, then they might not be so eager to have them, or at least adopt them out.

For birth control, that is sometimes not available because either A: too expensive, or B: requires parental consent in order to acquire.  In the case of B, no teen is going to admit to their parents they’re having sex.  Well, okay, you might get a few, but no sizeable percentage.  Plus, nearly all birth control methods have a failure rate – it can be a very very low failure rate, but the only guaranteed way to not get pregnant is to not have sex.

Minority advocates don’t usually talk about this for the same reason nobody else talks about it: people tend to react poorly when told to behave a certain way, even if the person speaking is highly respected by the community.  “Whatever!  I do what I want!”  Is the classic response to something like that.  Or its very close cousin, “who are you telling me what I can and can’t do?”  This is a human impulse – we’re all guilty of doing it, across any possible line you can think of.  As a teacher (more of an aspiring one, really), I see this happen to colleagues quite a bit, usually when confronted by defiant students and/or their parents.  “You can’t tell me what to do!”  “Who are you telling me how to raise my kid?”  (And parents will rip into the object of their ire if the teacher doesn’t have any of their own.)  This despite the fact that the teacher might actually have some salient points that could help performance in school.


@ Oniya: Racism has never really gone away.  It’s just changed forms.  Back in my grandparent’s day, it was perfectly okay for you to treat black persons like second-class citizens (and seems it doing so was required in some parts of the South, usually the deeper ones).  Now?  That’s not okay.  That’s wrong, it’s bad, we’re not supposed to do that.  But, (to quote a conversant friend of mine, the “urge to punch down” hasn’t diminished at all in those people.  How dare you try and pretend you’re as good as me?!  And other such thoughts.  Rather than give up their spiteful logic, though, they just changed it.

I remember an interview Jon Stewart had with a couple women who made a documentary about people being hungry here in the US.  They referred to the late 60s documentary “Hunger in America,” and noted that within a few years of that series airing, the US had effectively solved the problem of people going without food.  So, came the natural question, if we solved the problem, why do we have it again, now?

Because, the women explained, once the 80s rolled around, the conversation about people receiving government assistance (a lot of which had been done by Nixon, that dirty communist) changed.  The conversation now was about moochers, and takers, and people getting a free ride on the backs of hardworking, decent Americans.  And thus began the campaign against “welfare queens” and their ilk.

The persons responsible changed their ideas just enough to be able to continue to punch down on minorities, but not to look like they were doing it because they were minorities.  No, now they’re doing it because they’re poor, and you can’t really outlaw being poor.  So all this effort is being expended in making sure minorities don’t escape poverty, because once they do, then all this dialogue about how they’re lazy and moochers no longer applies to them, because they’re successful.  That change in ideas, however, forced them to incorporate other parts of America that are also poor – I think I read somewhere that impoverished whites receive more government aid than any other group…but of course, when you typically hear about moochers, do you hear about them?

I remember watching a TED Talk about the War on Drugs, and the guy giving the talk was actually ballsy enough to make this statement: “If old white guys wanted to do coke, and black men were clamoring for Viagra, coke would be legal and having a little blue pill could get you arrested!”  That is, perhaps, the ur-example of this issue today.

In short: the people in power want to keep their right to punch down, and will change their logic and reasons for doing so to anything that they can make work.

The “Valjean Effect.”  I’ll have to remember that one.  You are entirely right, of course.  If prison is supposed to rehabilitate someone, make them into a positive, contributing member of society, then why do we display this lack of trust on their part?  From where I sit, it’s probably a combination of factors.

Factors
A: we don’t actually believe that prison rehabilitates people.  This might be truer than you think, given the fact that we know of high recidivism rates amongst ex-cons.  If this is true, though, and we really do believe this, then why are we spending all this money and time and effort to try and rehab them if we don’t believe that it will work?  To make us feel better about putting them in prison?

B: people are naturally wary of those who have committed crimes.  If you’re looking for an accountant, and one of the people applying to you has a history of embezzlement, how likely are you going to be to hire that person?  Someone who has committed a crime has broken the public trust, do you want to put someone like that in a position where they might be able to really mess things up?

C: I hate to keep harping on it, but racism, again.  A disproportionate number of minorities end up in prison based on their percentage composition of our society.  Denying them anything but the most basic levels of employment functions quite well to keep them in poverty and the inner cities, which further reinforces the false discourse about them being lazy and shiftless and just mooching off the government.  Of course, this is unfair, but since when has fairness been the order of the day?

D: You mentioned the ease of prosecuting (and thus convicting) low-income persons as opposed to high-income ones.  Now, imagine that you’ve been prosecuted for theft from Burger King (your workplace) and have spent your time being reformed.  When you get out, you’re not suddenly going to get a promotion and now suddenly be regional VP for Burger King New England.  No, you’re going to have to start at the bottom and work your way up, again.  This is perhaps the most reasonable out of all the factors – except for the fact that it never really seems to matter how long you’ve been good, how hard you’ve been working, you’re never really earning anyone’s trust back, they just all seem to be waiting for you to go and break the law all over again.  In short, you get out, you start back at the bottom…but you’re never given a chance to prove yourself and thus advance.  In which case, why bother trying to go legit at all, since people are never going to trust you, and you’ll never make as much money as you were when you were a thief?

« Last Edit: May 14, 2015, 12:07:10 PM by ReijiTabibito »

Offline kylieTopic starter

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Quote from: la dame en noir
I know this isn't adding much to the conversation...

But I'm getting so tired of "blacks" "the blacks"

It just doesn't sit well with a lot of people...sigh

     It's the term many sociologists use, including umm, many minority authors.  With the understanding that "Black" particularly (but not entirely necessarily) with a capital B, is a social idea.  It is still very much in circulation and it has a certain reality here and now.  Much more than say, "Nazi," which isn't so much a group with such honorable standing in the US anymore, but people do still talk about whether things should or shouldn't be done by trying to encourage comparisons and contrasts with the historical Nazis -- their ways at least are something we more or less collectively recognize and still think about. 

       Whether or not one likes hearing the term "Black" out of the blue, many particular things are actually done or made to happen by various people/groups in society under that label.  There is a certain historical lineage and legacy of discrimination also...  And here, changing the language doesn't necessarily help us understand that, either.  Maybe sometimes, a change in language there is even pointed to as a way to obscure it. 

      Perhaps more importantly for your sort of "offense" question, plenty of the people it is applied to still use it (many would say "reappropriate it" for their own message about what's really going on) and take some positive pride in using it.  It's probably actually rather similar to gay in that respect, I would venture to say. 

      While neither of these are words I'm always happy with (sure they could be put or "read" with a negative tone if one tried), there are still plenty of times they work well enough for general explanations.  And in large part, I think the communities being discussed are still rather attached to them.

Offline Ephiral

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kylie, it's my impression (I may be wrong here) that the term being objected to was specifically "blacks" or "the blacks", as opposed to, say, "Black people". The first two terms are dehumanizing - reducing people to just their skin, rather than acknowledging that they're, y'know, people who happen to be Black. (They also have just a biiit of a history; literally every time I've ever seen them, it's been in a context that is - even discounting those terms - pretty horrifyingly racist.