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Racial and Gender Justice

Incarceration vs. Education:

 Reproducing Racism and Poverty in America

INCARCERATION 

Americans are reinforced to believe that individuals are largely in control of their own destiny. Hard work, sacrifice, and personal effort, we are told, determine what happens to us. But increasingly, the fundamental institutions of American society function unfairly, restricting access and opportunity for millions of people. The greatest example of this is the present-day criminal justice system.

Let us start with the basic facts. As of 2008, one out of every 100 American adults is living behind bars. According to a December 2007 study by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), “Race and Ethnicity in America,” in the past 30 years there has been a 500 percent increase in the number of Americans behind bars, amounting to 2.2 million people, which represent 25 percent of the world’s prison population. This prison population is disproportionately black and brown. As of 2006, the United States. penal population was 46 percent white, 41 percent African American, and 19 percent Latino. In practical terms, by 2001, about one out of every six African-American males had experienced jail or imprisonment. Based on current trends, over one out of three black men will experience imprisonment during their lives.

Civil Rights: Now and Then

The continuing disparity between black and white life chances is not a result of black life choices. It stems from an epidemic of racism and an economic system dependent on class division. Abundant scholarship notwithstanding, there is no other possible explanation. The breakdown of the family, the absence of middle-class values, the lack of education and skills, the absence of role models—these are symptoms of racism.

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Pride and Prejudice

In the winter of 1981 or thereabouts, I was sitting on a box of bottled liquor in Lamar Dawkins’ package store in Orangeburg, South Carolina, talking with Mr. Dawkins about Strom Thurmond. Mr. Thurmond was much on our minds because of his recent announced opposition to renewal of the Voting Rights Act, and we were planning a series of protests across the state against the old unreconstructed segregationist and United States Senator.

I was trying to get a fix on Mr. Thurmond’s character for strategy purposes from Mr. Dawkins, who was a native South Carolinian and a longtime civil rights leader. Somewhere along the way he remarked that Mr. Thurmond, you know, had a black daughter.

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“We’re in This Together” An interview with Danny Glover

2008 marks the 40th anniversary of the struggle to institute Ethnic Studies at San Francisco State. What do you see as some of the similarities between your work then and your current efforts to get African American history represented in films?

Danny Glover: I was a student and an activist in the Black Student Union (BSU) at San Francisco State in the mid-60’s. We were doing a lot of outreach into the community—tutorial programs with students who were not doing well in public schools, and trying very hard to make what we were learning in college relevant to the issues and problems confronting our communities. We were also engaged in protests on campus and raising issues around race and racism and the need for greater inclusion on campus.

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