Wednesday, August 14, 2013
Daily Discussion Blog Post: Recently, Attorney General Eric Holder announced that the Justice Department will change the enforcement policies of the federal drug laws. Low-level non-violent drug offenders will likely not be charged with offenses that carry a mandatory minimum sentence in federal prisons. The War on Drugs (even at the federal level) dramatically impacted Blacks and Hispanics through a massive incarceration campaign. Is this Attorney General Holder's way of trying to right the "wrongs" of the last 30+ years? What do you think?
Tuesday, August 13, 2013
Daily Discussion Blog Post: Yesterday, a federal court judge ruled that New York's "Stop and Frisk" policy violated the constitutional rights of racial/ethnic minorities. The judge ordered that the policy undergo federal monitoring. While Blacks and Hispanics make up approximately 50% of the city's population, they made up slightly more than 80% of those who were stopped and frisked. Did the judge overstep her boundaries or was justice achieved?
Monday, August 12, 2013
Dream Defenders Impacting Real Issues? Stand Your Ground, Racial Profiling, and School-to-Prison Pipeline
For almost four weeks, the Dream Defenders have been peacefully occupying the Florida Capitol. They have the goal to affect change. They are asking Governor Scott to call a special session of Florida legislature to address issues of “Stand Your Ground,” racial profiling, and the school-to-prison pipeline. All of these issues are legitimate concerns, and many should support the Dream Defenders in their efforts because they should be OUR efforts.
For issues discussed in prior blog posts, Stand Your Ground (SYG) should be reviewed to see if it is being implemented and interpreted most effectively by jurisdictions in Florida. Recently, I attended a forum at FAMU Law School, which focused on Florida’s SYG law. Multiple state legislators were in attendance, including one of the original sponsors of the controversial legislation. After a series of serious conversations during the event, the legislators appeared open to revisiting SYG. However, who knows if that was real talk or political talk to appease the disappointed attendees! Regardless, the Dream Defenders recognize that SYG creates circumstances where prejudices become “reasonable” and the subsequent fear might increase the likelihood of violence. I would be happy to provide research that shows a fear of young minority males.
The Dream Defenders’ second issue is the racial profiling that occurs within this state. While Governor Scott cannot fully eliminate the practice of racial profiling, he can provide leadership by asking the state legislature to review laws, policies, and practices that create an environment for this type of profiling to take place. Florida is a fairly conservative state (in terms of state laws), where it is tough on offenders who use guns, sex offenders, and drug offenders. However, the state appears to be more liberal in terms offenses that derive from racial profiling. These types of (in)actions demonstrate the priorities of the state.
The Dream Defenders’ final issue is the school-to-prison pipeline. This is an unfortunate reality, not only in the state of Florida, but across the entire country. In many of the public schools, especially those in socially/economically disadvantaged areas, there are several policies that increase the likelihood of kids going from school to “prison,” or some aspect of the juvenile/criminal justice system. For instance, zero tolerance policies allow for no discretion in sanctions when policies are violated. Therefore, context and understanding are irrelevant. These policies result in kids being suspended or expelled, which increases the likelihood of criminal justice contact. Other school districts have programs where school infractions are downloaded and sent to local policies stations, allowing youth to have a record with law enforcement.
While some may feel the Dream Defenders are being unrealistic in their requests to the Governor, the fact is that there is a reasonable, logical, and empirical foundation for each request. SYG, racial profiling, and the school-to-prison pipeline are all relevant issues in the state of Florida and beyond. The criminal justice system is drastically impacted by all of these issues. When many people think of racial profiling, they think of Black and Brown people being profiled. When many people think of the school-to-prison pipeline (regardless of whether they agree with the term), they think of Black and Brown people. When people think of SYG, it now has the face of Trayvon Martin, given the shooting and subsequent not-guilty verdict. Given that these issues have a Black or Brown “face,” does it make you wonder why they are not getting the state’s attention?
Monday, August 5, 2013
There is a growing myth that equates Black people (especially males) with criminal activity. Again this is a myth which is often perpetuated by the media. For instance, Fox News’ commentator Bill O’Reilly, conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh, and even some Black “leaders” often discuss Black people in such a way where it implies that they are engaging in significant amounts of crime. This myth or moral panic is further exacerbated by terms such as “Black-on-Black” crime, where it implies that Blacks are simply killing and robbing one another.
Let’s examine the “truth” of these issues. In terms of crime, there are multiple ways one can look at it. To begin, one can look at arrests. As mentioned above, if one believes the media portrayal, it would lead you to believe Blacks were involved in so much crime. According to the FBI (which collects data on all crime reported to law enforcement agencies in the United States), in 2011, Blacks made up 38% of the arrests for violent crime, while Whites made up 59% of the violent crime arrests. While there are many problems with how the FBI measures race, the point is that it is clear that Blacks are not arrested for a majority of violent crimes. In fact, of ALL crimes in the United States, Blacks make up majority of the arrests for only three offenses: homicide (49.7% Black; 48% White), robbery (55.6% Black; 43% White), and gambling (66.9% Black; 29.8% White). As can be seen, the homicide arrest percentages are almost equivalent. In all other offenses (other than these three), violent and nonviolent, Whites are arrested at a greater percentage of Blacks. The question, then, is on what foundation are these claims of the Black criminal being advanced?
If you examine incarceration rates, Blacks make up 38% of those in state/federal prison (34% White) and there are slightly more Blacks in county jails than Whites. Incarceration is not a good indication of crime because not all criminals are actually incarcerated; they can be sentenced to probation. In other words, when commentators are looking at the amount of crime committed, they appear (maybe!) to be examining arrests. I have provided a link at the bottom of this post to the FBI website, where you can see the racial breakdown of the arrests.
I make the argument that agendas are being advanced in the current media environment. The main agenda is to create a moral panic of Blacks, where it is portraying this group as crime prone and dangerous. “Black-on-Black” crime is a ridiculous term. Bill O’Reilly mentioned that 91% Black homicide victims were killed by Black offenders in 2011. This does imply a “Black-on-Black” crime issue. However, he failed to mention that 83% of White victims were killed by White offenders….and we don’t go around talking about “White-on-White” crime. Again, the former term is used as a way to enhance the negative views of Blacks. Simply speaking, crime is committed in neighborhoods in which people reside….meaning Blacks are more likely to victimize Blacks and Whites are more likely to victimize Whites. There is nothing more to this Black-on-Black crime phenomenon.
Bluntly speaking, the facts do not support any of these claims. While Blacks do make a up a disproportionate percentage of arrests (percentage of arrests is greater than Blacks’ percentage of the U.S. population), the fact is that Blacks do NOT make up a larger percentage of arrests for almost all categories of criminal offenses. Although we cannot stop people from making up lies or giving partial “truths,” we have to educate ourselves with knowledge.
Now that we know the truth about the facts, the question is that why does the media continue to portray Blacks in this way…..why create this false moral panic? Why make it seem as though Blacks engage in a majority of crime when it is a blatant lie?
Bill O’Reilly’s segment on “Black-on-Black” crime and violent crime in the media
Uniform Crime Reports (FBI) for 2011, showing the racial breakdown of arrests
Bureau of Justice Statistics (race and state/federal prison incarcerated population)
Bureau of Justice Statistics (race and jail population)
FBI (Race of victims/Race of offenders for homicides)
Friday, August 2, 2013
A few days ago, there was some agreement between CNN’s Don Lemon, Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly, and conservative Crystal Wright. In a nutshell, Don Lemon mentioned that there are a host of issues taking place in the Black community and there are five things they should do:
· Stop wearing their pants off their butts
· Stop using the "N" word
· Stop throwing down trash in the neighborhood
· Get an education
· Stop having babies, just because it’s possible to have them