United States has reached another numerical benchmark in its
unique saga of racial oppression: two million Americans incarcerated
on any given day, half of them Black. Without fanfare and
as a matter of daily racist practice in every hick town, suburb
and urban center of the land, the U.S. has gathered up Black
bodies to create a Gulag such as has never existed in the
history of the world - irrefutable evidence of the barbarism
that throbs at the deepest core of American society.
released Sunday by the grotesquely misnamed Justice Department
showed 2,019,234 persons in prisons or jails at the end of
June 2002 - one out of every 142 Americans but an astounding
12 percent of Black males in their twenties and early thirties.
Among Hispanic men of the same age, the incarceration rate
is 4 percent, for whites, 1.6 percent.
has become integral to the collective Black experience. Twenty-eight
percent of African American males will do jail time at some
point in their lives.
of Justice Statistics provides a panoramic view of the
ongoing American civil war:
yearend 2001 there were 3,535 sentenced black male prisoners
per 100,000 black males in the United States, compared to
1,177 sentenced Hispanic male inmates per 100,000 Hispanic
males and 462 white male inmates per 100,000 white males.
percent of Black Americans of both genders are under some
form of criminal justice supervision, compared with two percent
Justice Department statistics are understated, failing to
take into consideration juvenile jails and other forms of
confinement in the U.S. In 2000, the overall
incarceration rate for the United States was 699 per 100,000
population. Russia's rate was 675 in 2000, and declining.
Next in descending order are other nations of the former Soviet
Union, Singapore (effectively, a military dictatorship), then
South Africa, with roughly two-thirds the U.S. rate. Britain
locks up only 100 of every 100,000 persons.
is modern America's response to the Black presence. No ethnic
group in the world confronts such institutional oppression
- except one: the Gypsies of Eastern Europe and Spain.
made this comparison in our first issue, April 5, 2002, with
the commentary, "Psychologically
Unfit: The U.S. Can't Handle the Death Penalty."
beleaguered Gypsies, or Roma, constitute 5% of the
population but account for around 60% of the nation's male
prison inmates. The penal system of Romania, home to the
world's largest concentration of Gypsies, appears to have
been designed mainly for the purpose of keeping the Roma
out of circulation. In Spain, the descendants of the women
who bequeathed Flamenco dancing to humanity represent just
1.5% of the population, yet comprise 25% of female prisoners.
is important to note that Romania's Gypsies were enslaved
until the mid-19th Century, and that Hitler tried his best
to erase the Roma from the face of Europe during World
War II. This is the kind of historical company the U.S. keeps.
is no correlation between crime and punishment in the United
States - crime rates have been declining since 1994. White
America's racial fury rages unabated, oblivious to the facts
of crime, consumed by a frenzied, collective will to
lock up ever increasing numbers of Black men - and women.
prisoners now account for 6.7 percent of all inmates - more
than 96,000 - overwhelmingly women of color.
populations increased 5.4 percent in the year that ended last
June, and federal prison populations grew by 5.7 percent.
State prisons, forced by budget cutbacks to downsize corrections
personnel, nevertheless added one percent more inmates. Since
the 1980s, incarceration rates have quadrupled. Race is the
only constant factor.
relentless increases in prison and jail populations can best
be explained as the legacy of an entrenched infrastructure
of punishment that has been embedded in the criminal justice
system over the last 30 years," said Malcolm Young, executive
director The Sentencing Project, in an interview with Reuters
dictates the demography of the American prison landscape.
Maine has the lowest incarceration rate, at 137 inmates per
100,000 residents. Louisiana is the most enthusiastic incarcerator,
at 799 per 100,000. Race makes all the difference.
United States has long been a world leader in imprisonment,
having virtually invented the modern penal system, and Blacks
have always been disproportionately represented behind bars.
White America's answer to the Black assertiveness that sprang
from the movement of the Sixties and early Seventies was to
create a Gulag, a system of social death that expands, relentlessly.
In a little over a generation, Black America has been purposely
deformed in uncountable ways.
Sentencing Project has attempted to tally the damage in a
new book, "Invisible
Punishment: The Collateral Consequences of Mass Imprisonment."
Edited by Marc Mauer and Meda Chesney-Lind, the volume "reveals
how the two million imprisoned Americans and their families
are being punished by factors well beyond incarceration. Leading
scholars and advocates explore the far-reaching consequences
of thirty years of 'get tough' policies on prisoners, ex-felons,
and families and communities."
books and facts are for reasonable people. The new incarceration
numbers are essentially casualty statistics from a centuries
long, one-sided war that is escalating toward some unknown,
ghastly conclusion. We cannot go on like this.
nine mediators of justice at the U.S. Supreme Court decided
April 7 that states may consider cross burning a criminal
offense. Justice Sandra Day O'Connor delivered the opinion
for four of the 6 - 3 majority, upholding Virginia's right
to treat cross-burning as a "true
threat" rather than protected, symbolic speech.
once, the law and order faction was on the right side of an
issue, although certainly for the wrong reasons. Clarence
Thomas, who justifies the beating of prison inmates as a constitutional
form of punishment and who has never seen an unfair death
penalty sentence, felt confident enough to declare, "those
who hate cannot terrorize and intimidate to make their point....
The cross was a symbol of that reign of terror."
Anthony M. Kennedy, David Souter and Ruth Bader Ginsburg generally
agreed with civil liberties lawyers, who feared that a ban
would take the court down the proverbial "slippery slope"
to prohibition of a widening circle of political speech.
are sympathetic to this position, knowing full well that American
federal and state governments will mangle their own constitutions
to selectively smother Black and "radical" freedom
of speech. For this reason, 's
publishers opposed mainstream Black demands that racist J.B.
Stoner, of Georgia, be banned from the airwaves for his virulent
anti-Black broadcasts, in the 1970s. We knew that Minister
Louis Farrakhan's weekly radio "Muhammad Speaks"
would be next on a banning list that might ultimately include
any Black critique of white racism, based on the politicized
"community standards" of a racist "community."
we all live in specific contexts framed by history. The American
burning cross has always been a terrorist threat, an incitement
to mass murder - a crime against humanity that merits execution
under widely accepted international standards of justice.
Its appearance on any acre of American soil represents
a "clear and present danger" to a specific people
who continue to be ritually slaughtered on the cue of the
symbol's illumination - a far more exigent threat and incitement
than a swastika in Skokie, Illinois.
High Court found Virginia's prohibition unconstitutional,
however, since it allowed a jury to infer that the act of
cross burning is intended to intimidate. Under the
new standard, prosecutors must prove intent - a problematic
exercise under American conditions of low-level race war.
authorities of tiny Tulia, Texas decided one summer night
in 1999 to arrest 10 percent of the town's Black population.
So they just... did it - and threw in a few whites involved
in interracial relationships, for good measure.
the uncorroborated word of sleazy white undercover investigator
Tom Coleman, who presented no physical evidence and little
else but the testimony of his own, changing memory, 46 people
were roused from their beds on drug charges and ushered directly
into hell. It took four years, many anguished columns by Bob
Herbert, of the New York Times, the resources of the NAACP
Legal Defense and Education Fund, two prestigious Washington
law firms, a dedicated non-rich lawyer from Amarillo, thousands
of man-hours of work by many small, activists groups like
the Drug Policy Alliance, and ceaseless agitation to throw
out the convictions of 38 of Tom Coleman's victims.
is established by all parties and approved by the court that
Tom Coleman is simply not a credible witness under oath,"
said Judge Ron Chapman. His ruling left 16 people still in
prison. Tulia's 5,000 white residents had reason to be embarrassed
that the tale they so readily bought from Coleman could not
withstand scrutiny. But the damage to Black Tulia was already
done, as reported in the April
3 New York Times.
of the 38 who were convicted based on his accusations went
to trial, receiving sentences of at least 20 years. Fourteen
other people received prison sentences after pleading guilty.
Twelve pleaded guilty and were sentenced to probation or
had earlier probation revoked. Two people pleaded guilty
to misdemeanors and were fined. Three had cases dismissed
but had probation revoked in other counties while the Tulia
charges were pending.
County has agreed to pay $250,000 to the Tulia 38. Defense
lawyers say the money will be divided based on the hardships
Silja J.A. Talvi writes in "Finally,
Justice In Tulia," Coleman's crime was abetted by
the entire Sheriff's Department and the larger community.
Black Tulia was horribly violated.
fall, I watched one Tulia resident, Mattie White, stand
in front of a small room of reporters, struggling to find
a way to put her grief into words. Four of White's relatives
were arrested that morning in 1999. A son and a daughter
wound up in prison, so far away from her that she had only
seen them twice in the years since their separation.
watched as White, a big, strong woman - a full-time prison
guard herself - trembled in front of the room. Mattie wanted
nothing more than to be able to see and hold her children
who had been sent hundreds of miles away to sit in isolated
Lubbock lawyer brought in on the case as a special prosecutor
proclaimed, "What we've seen here is the beginning of
a vindication of the system."
means, he didn't learn a damn thing.
law activists say that the 46 men and women arrested in 1999
were victims of a "senseless" drug war run amuck.
That explanation fits the bare facts of the case, but is not
the essential truth. Black Tulia was viciously assaulted because
white Tulia wanted it to happen. Larry Stewart, the elected
Sheriff who hired Coleman, is still on the job. That's proof
enough of white Tulia's intent. We can safely assume that
a large proportion of the "good" white folks of
Tulia got arrested with the Blacks, four summers ago, and
that the rest have since left town.
Black Anti-war opinion
anti-war sentiment evaporates to barely one-fifth the white
population under the even whiter heat of "solidarity"
with the troops - just as the Bush men knew would happen -
the corporate press ponders the mystery of stubborn Black
opposition. The March
28 Gallup Poll - almost certainly weighted in favor
of war sentiment based on cultural factors well known to Black
demographers - showed only 29 percent of African Americans
support the war. The divide is even more dramatic when it
is considered that military families overwhelmingly support
the Iraq invasion, and Blacks are far more heavily represented
in the military than whites.
general nonsensus among the corporate media is that
Blacks oppose the war with such intensity - at higher levels
than they opposed the 1991 Gulf War - because they so vehemently
dislike George Bush. "To Blacks, its 'Bush's War',"
chortled CNN's chief political honcho, as if he had just discovered
the Holy Grail. Delusional, he cannot perceive African Americans
as anything but cardboard characters, too dumb to seriously
weigh the merits of a war that will have vast consequences
for their own nation, their sons and daughters, their
individual and collective futures. No, Blacks just hate Bush,
that's all. (Very much like "they" in the Muslim
world "hate us" for no reason other than "our
way of life.")
racists (that's the name for people afflicted with this delusion)
are incapable of considering that Black people possess an
historical memory. As one million incarcerated Blacks
can attest, there are also certain contemporary realities
of African American life that would logically lead Black people
to a different set of opinions than their white fellow Americans
- who actually have every good reason to dislike Bush, too,
but are too delusional to know why.
it was refreshing to see the corporate Knight-Ridder newspapers
unleash upon the general public an article by Alfred Lubrano
that actually makes sense regarding Black public opinion.
in Iraq points up racial divide," Lubrano goes to
the trouble of speaking to real Black opinion molders (as
opposed to GOP check-cashers):
American decision to attack Iraq pre-emptively, without
proof that Saddam possesses weapons of mass destruction,
reminds some black people of hostile police behavior. "It
rings of the experience of cops' saying, `I thought I saw
a gun' to justify the shooting of an unarmed black suspect,"
says the Urban League's [William] Spriggs. "You gotta
give us more evidence than, `I thought I saw a gun'...."
repressed by slavery, prejudice and limited choices, black
Americans are uncomfortable witnessing the "might-makes-right
perspective," according to sociologist Darnell Hunt
of the University of California at Los Angeles. And why
intervene when oil is on the line, and not black people's
lives, as in Rwanda? asks the Rev. Steven Lawrence, president
of the Metropolitan Christian Council of Philadelphia.
years, says Ron Walters, professor of African-American politics
and culture at the University of Maryland, "war has
been made on us. Our mentality is that of a defeated people,
and we tend to identify with many of the oppressed and defeated
groups around the world."
the corporate media allowed room for more Alfred Lubranos,
Black media could spend its limited resources exploring the
question, What is to be done? instead of having to daily explain
to our audience, What they told you in the newspaper was a
color of need
Dr. Walters said, "war has been made on us." It
is often a war much like the type Gen. Sherman introduced
with his scorched earth march through Georgia, destroying
the material basis for Black sustenance. Generations of psychological
warfare operations have so befuddled the (already delusional)
white electorate that they readily scuttle programs designed
for themselves once the impression has been created that these
programs benefit Black people.
his April 3 New York Times column, "Mugging
the Needy," Bob Herbert provided needed exposure
to a Center on Budget and Policy Priorities study of how the
Republican House plans to pay for $1.4 billion in tax cuts.
cut in Medicaid, if achieved entirely by reducing the number
of children covered, would lead to the elimination of health
coverage for 13.6 million children."
cut in foster care and adoption programs, if achieved by
reducing the number of children eligible for foster care
assistance payments, would lead to the elimination of benefits
for 65,000 abused and neglected children."
cut in the food stamp program, if achieved by lowering the
maximum benefit, would lead to a reduction in the average
benefit from an already lean 91 cents per meal to 84 cents."
decades ago, Rev. Jesse Jackson never delivered a speech without
reminding the audience that white people were the largest
beneficiaries of federal social programs. As subsequently
observed, the message did not penetrate delusional brains.
White America continues to associate "poor" and
"needy" with "Black" - despite the evidence
of their own eyes. The cuts do have disproportionate effects
on Black people, however - so the severed white noses are
not totally wasted in the process of spiting Black faces.
thousand mostly young and Black demonstrators last week let
the Supreme Court know that there is still some street power
behind the demand, "Save Affirmative Action." Presidential
candidate Al Sharpton saw the turnout as evidence that new
formations are stepping forward. "Dr. King wasn't the
head of the NAACP," Sharpton told NNPA
reporter Hazel Trice Edney. "Those that led the Civil
Rights Movement in the '60s did not come out of the traditional
organizations. They formed new groups. And I think what you're
seeing is the emergence of new voices today as you saw the
war is too harsh a term for the state of race relations in
the U.S., tell that to the white supremacists who are flooding
into the northern Utah region between the Wasatch Mountains
and the Great Salt Lake. A state task force is reportedly
"tracking about 132 known white supremacists in Weber
County" alone, drawn to the area by prison gang word
on the rise include the Aryan Circle and the White Aryan
Resistance, in Arkansas; the Southern Brotherhood, in Alabama;
the Nazi Low Riders, in California and Nevada; and Soldiers
of the Aryan Culture, in Utah. One of the largest white
prison gangs, World Church of the Creator, founded in Illinois
and active here and in other states, has been tough to control,
the authorities say, because of its religious underpinnings,
which allow its members to gather for meetings in prison.
locals seem to have brought the influx on themselves, by appearing
to the white supremacists to be their kind of people. The
Utah legislature has for four years failed to pass hate crimes
legislation, a signal to the racist gangs that a friendly
and familiar environment exists among the good Mormons of
Utah. For example, one Utah town forbids on pain of law entrance
of anyone associated with the United Nations. Another Utah
jurisdiction requires every household to possess at least
Seminole County, Florida podiatrist faces only 12 ½
to 15 years in a plot to attack at least one and as many as
50 Islamic mosques. Robert J. Goldstein, the St. Petersburg
Times reports, "wanted to make a statement for 'his people'
against Arabs and Muslims in light of the Sept. 11, 2001,
terrorist attacks, according to court documents."
was arrested with two light anti-armor rockets, a number of
handguns, a 50-caliber rifle and homemade bombs, and a list
of 50 Muslim centers around Tampa Bay. His written objective:
"Kill all 'rags' at this Islamic Education Center - ZERO
residual presence - maximum effect."
local district attorney allowed Goldstein to plead guilty
to the remarkably lenient charges of conspiracy to violate
civil rights, attempting to damage religious property and
possession of unregistered firearms.
appears to be a double standard," said Ahmed Bedier,
communications director of the Florida office of the Council
of American-Islamic Relations. "This sentence also
sends a message that it just might be worth the risk to attack
later statement by the Florida office of the CAIR-FL was more
blunt. "The fact that Goldstein was not charged as a
terrorist demonstrates that the Patriot Act is a tool to be
used solely against Muslims and Arabs," said CAIR-FL
Executive Director Altaf Ali.
April 5, the day after Goldstein and the Florida district
attorney came to an understanding, a Muslim school bus was
firebombed in the Washington suburb of Fairfax, Virginia.
The DC office of CAIR asked the FBI to investigate.
a bunch of "hajis"
as the Bush men argue that the U.S. should be prepared to
fight several foreign wars simultaneously, American media
show prodigious capacity to recycle and juggle several brands
of racial hatred on the home front. The New York Post performs
its patriotic duty:
is shouldering the burden of freeing Iraq - and killing its
headlines such as this serve to justify the coddling of anti-Arab
terror in Florida, and illuminate the processes that allow
U.S. Marines to arrive in Iraq with the Middle East equivalent
of "gook" already tripping easily from their lips.
British reporter Mark Franchetti observed Marines at the battle
of Nasiriya, Iraq. A group of Iraqis emerged from a cluster
just a bunch of Hajis," said one gunner from his turret,
using their nickname for Arabs. "Friggin' women and
children, that's all."
Marine summed up the Corps' geopolitical mission, as he understands
Iraqis are sick people and we are the chemotherapy,"
said Corporal Ryan Dupre. "I am starting to hate this
country. Wait till I get hold of a friggin' Iraqi. No, I
won't get hold of one. I'll just kill him."
works for The Times (UK). His March 30 report ("US
Marines turn fire on civilians at the bridge of death")
was easily the best battle coverage to date, most notably
because Franchetti refused to sanitize the worldviews of the
Americans - who learned everything they needed to know about
"hajis" right here at home.
U.S. military believes it has assembled a volunteer force
that is well suited to the role of foreign legionnaire. Forty-two
percent of enlistees now come from the Southeast, and the
combat arms are disproportionately white.
Iraq - as in the White House, the U.S. Senate and House of
Representatives - the good ol' boys rule.