Shout out today to Michelle Alexander who will now be the only woman of color Op-Ed writer. Michelle Alexander’s book, The New Jim Crow is a MUST READ for anyone who cares about recognizing, fighting racism. . .or just anyone who cares about the mistreatment of our fellow human beings (that should include all of us).
Alexander brings formidable scholarship and excellent writing to point out how slavery has been perpetuated since the end of the American Civil War through convict leasing, voting disenfranchisement, lynchings, Jim Crow, and most recently through the mass incarceration of people of color. Below are links you can cut and paste to learn more about her and to buy her book—which you absolutely should do.
In recognition of her work, I am including some striking statistics which alone should wake us up to the injustices taking place in the US under the guise of “The War on Drugs” and how the prison industrial complex and the emerging detention industrial complex benefit from it—the financial gains accruing to white own corporations and providing jobs in rural towns that are predominantly white.
It’s also worth pointing out how in black/urban communities the drug problem has been historically viewed as a “criminal” problem while in white/rural communities is has been mainly identified as a public health issue. To this point, I also want to recognize the recent work my own home city and county, the City of Seattle and King county for taking a more enlightened approach and viewing juvenile justice issues through a lens of public health, connecting at risk and incarcerated youth with mental health, recovery, and job training services. Well Done.
This is not the case in most of the country. So here are the sad statistics—retrieved from https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/race/news/2015/05/28/113436/8-facts-you-should-know-about-the-criminal-justice-system-and-people-of-color/
- People of color are significantly overrepresented in the U.S. prison population, making up more than 60 percent of the people behind bars. Though African Americans and Hispanics make up approximately 32 percent of the US population, they comprised 56 percent of all incarcerated people in 2015.
- 1 in 3 black men will go to prison at some point during their lifetimes; 1 in 6 Latino males will have the same fate. Only 1 out 17 white males are expected to go to prison.
- 1 in 111 white women, 1 in 18 black women, and 1 in 45 Latina women will go to prison at some point.
- If African Americans and Hispanics were incarcerated at the same rates as whites, prison and jail populations would decline by almost 40 percent.
- African Americans are 2.5 times more likely to be arrested than whites and incarcerated at 5 times the rates of whites.
- The so-called War on Drugs has disproportionately affected people of color. Despite using and selling drugs at rates similar to those of their white counterparts, African Americans and Latinos comprise 62 percent of those in state prisons for drug offenses and 72 percent of those sentenced for federal drug trafficking offenses, which generally carry extreme mandatory minimum sentences.
- Voting restrictions on the formerly incarcerated have disenfranchised millions of voters, particularly African Americans. Today, approximately 5.9 million people are not able to vote due to felony convictions. While laws vary from state to state—with some allowing for restoration of voting rights—1 in 13 blacks nationwide are disenfranchised due to felony convictions. In Florida, Kentucky, and Virginia, more than one in five black adults are denied the right to vote.