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Monday, March 15, 2010

An interesting piece from NPR's Michelle Alexander.....But I Don't Agree Wholeheartedly-"The Nation: The New Jim Crow"

While taking a walk down the cyber halls of the NPR website, I came across an article from NPR's Michelle Alexander entitled, The Nation: The New Jim Crow in which she posits that the breakdown of the Black family in conjunction with minority incarceration rates is analogous to the discrimnation/segregation standard of the pre-Civil Rights era. I believe the issue is far more complex and nuanced than her assertion. Here's an excerpt, courtesy of NPR.com:

Obama's mere presence in the Oval Office is offered as proof that "the land of the free" has finally made good on its promise of equality. There's an implicit yet undeniable message embedded in his appearance on the world stage: this is what freedom looks like; this is what democracy can do for you. If you are poor, marginalized, or relegated to an inferior caste, there is hope for you. Trust us. Trust our rules, laws, customs, and wars. You, too, can get to the promised land.

Perhaps greater lies have been told in the past century, but they can be counted on one hand. Racial caste is alive and well in America.

Most people don't like it when I say this. It makes them angry. In the "era of colorblindness" there's a nearly fanatical desire to cling to the myth that we as a nation have "moved beyond" race. Here are a few facts that run counter to that triumphant racial narrative:

• There are more African-Americans under correctional control toda—-- in prison or jail, on probation or parol—-- than were enslaved in 1850, a decade before the Civil War began.

• As of 2004, more African-American men were disenfranchised (due to felon disenfranchisement laws) than in 1870, the year the Fifteenth Amendment was ratified, prohibiting laws that explicitly deny the right to vote on the basis of race.

• A black child born today is less likely to be raised by both parents than a black child born during slavery. The recent disintegration of the African-American family is due in large part to the mass imprisonment of black fathers.

• If you take into account prisoners, a large majority of African-American men in some urban areas have been labeled felons for life. (In the Chicago area, the figure is nearly 80 percent.) These men are part of a growing underca—e -- not class, ca—e -- permanently relegated, by law, to a second-class status. They can be denied the right to vote, automatically excluded from juries, and legally discriminated against in employment, housing, access to education, and public benefits, much as their grandparents and great-grandparents were during the Jim Crow era.

To review the article in its entirety, click on the link below:

The Nation: The New Jim Crow

More of my opinion and synopsis after the jump............

Ok, I know it's been approximately two weeks since that "jump" but you know what they say....better late than...

Anywho....after reading Ms. Alexander's NPR piece, I became frustrated and disheartened with its non sequiturs. At times I honestly try to keep my contrarian sensibilities in check but in the last few years I can't help but view matters from a more centered perspective instead of a wholesale tribal viewpoint. A glaring example that irked me was this excerpt from Alexander:

"There are more African-Americans under correctional control today in prison or jail, on probation or parole than were enslaved in 1850, a decade before the Civil War began."

I'm not doubting the above statement is factual but its the implications that Alexander is attempting to convey about minority incarceration versus historical chattel slavery that are problematic. Sure, one can liken colonial servitude to new millennium imprisonment but the obvious demarcation point lies with the unique concept of free will. Slaves were captured human beings that committed no infractions except for being able bodied and Black. Committing a crime, especially a heinous one, relies on some degree of personal decision making. We can pontificate on the disparity of sentences between our minority and White citizenry but to ascribe ubiquitous victimization to those who victimize others (especially our brethren) appears to be tiresome and disingenuous at best. But let's hear from our readers...any thoughts? Are we really looking at rising incarceration rates in Black and brown communities as the new age Jim Crow?

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