AFRICAN-AMERICANS IN JEOPARDY
AFRICAN AMERICANS IN JEOPARDY
The State of African Americans Today By Uriah J. Fields
While fear is a constant for most African Americans sometimes without basis, the apparent danger they face daily is undeniable, unavoidable and not just a threat but a present reality. What happened to African Americans, beginning in the 1980s, that included the unprecenented incarceration of black men on the prison plantation and the browning of America resulting from a recent influx of twelve to fifteen million immigrants, both legal and illegal, in America accout for Latino surpassing African Americans in population to become the largest minority in the United States, have factored greatly to catapult African Americans in jeopardy.
In the first decade of the twenty-first century African Americans for the first time since they were brought to Jamestown in 1619, (12 years after the Europeans landed there) to become the first slaves in North America, (enslaved 244 years) subjected for nearly a 100 years to segregation, discrimination, jimcrowism, and disfranchisement, now face jeopardy to a greater degree than at any time since they have been in America. What appears to be on the horizon for African Americans during the next few decades is frightening.
Following the first generation after the Civil Rights Movement, roughly beginning with the presidency of Ronald Reagan in the 1980s, regtrogression in black life began and from a race-wide perspective progress was abated. This is reminiscent of what happened to end the Black Reconstruction: disranchisement and the lost of other rightrs Blacks had enjoyed following slavery. Again, in many ways blacks are going backward rather than forward. And that process continues with no end in sight. At least, no remedy has been offered. Three indicators of the present state of African Americans and whta they portend for them in the future. They are: (1) incarceration of black males, (2) education (and miseduction) of black people and (3) economics of black people.
Society leaders, governmental and non-govemenal, including most African American leaders, have refused to call attention to, let alone, address the incarceration of black men, which may very well be the most serious problem black people face. It is more important than education and economics because of the tremendous ramifications and the impact it has on education, economics and other aspects of black life, including politics and religion.
African Americans are disproportionally represented in the criminal justice system on all levels, including as adjudicators. Incarceration is not an equal opportunity punishment. In considering a preponderance of data on the criminal justice system and the incarceration of African Americans,
One reason for the high number of people being incarceated is because it is a big money-making deal for a lot of people. That's why we hear that it takes as much money to keep a person in prison as it does to send a person to Harvard University or the University of Virginia. But even before a person is sentenced just think of how many people have profited from him being processed in the criminal justice system. Included, but not limited to, are judges, prosecuting attorneys, lawyers, security people, and a host of others. Those operating private prisons are making big money. Enough said. Take the money, i.e., proftit out of the incarceration operation and the ratio of people incarcerated would decrease by 50 percent. Add to these things, the fact that prisoners are providing labor that amonts to tens of millions of dollars annually for people who are profiting from the free and slave-like labor prisoners are forced to render. This is another reason why, in many cases, prisoners are serving unreasonably long sentences, especially in private prisons.
The disproportionally hight rate of incarceration of Blacks is a serious matter. It deprives wives of being with their husbands, children of being with their fathers, contributes to the high rate of divorces, increases the single parent popoulation, and makes it more difficult, and for some impossible, to find meaningful employment because they have a prison record that causes many employers to not hire them and contributes to a high rate of recidivism and black on black crime that includes community homicides. In many states, even after prisoners have served time, they are barred from voting. Yer, they are required to pay taxes. Ex-prisonres should be among the first in line to vote. That is one way for them to demonstrate that they are responsible citizens.
Male adults under thirty are the prime force and perpetuators of society. That's why they are called upon to fight wars, something that society holds to be one of the most honorable things that a person can do. It is during these years between twenty and thirty that most men get married, have children become gainfully employed and play a role in building community. In the black community, during the last generation, these things have happened far less than is desirable for a community to advance and be viable. Should this default continue at its present level for another generation, certainly for two more generations, the Black race will become effete, approach and likely dangle on the brink of genocide. Black women cannot carry on the black race and black boys born out of wedlock without the presence of fathers in their homes will be "mamas's boys" with stifled masculinity who will continue the cycle of being disfunctional persons filling the ranks of those incarcerated. Let me, categorically state that black women who have the responsibility of rearing children under adverse circumstances, especially, single parents are to be honored and commended for being responsible parents. I salute them. It is not parents nearly as much as it is society, that is, the political policies of society, that are codified and enforced by the Government that is beholden to corporations and other controllers, rather than the people, certainly not to African Americans that account for the failing of black people. Espousing family values without valuing the family, as some politicians do, is a mockery.
Blacks could respond differently to their oppressive situation but such response could be counter-productive. The condition of black Americans may not be reversible. It certainly has not been reversible for the American Indians who, except for a remanent, have disappeared from the radar face of the American Society. This could happen to Black Americans unless they, with all deliberate speed, take drastic and powerful action to addresss their deteriorating condition, that, in part, is attributed to the influx of undocumented immigrants who are replacing them, especially, in the labor market. Many African Americans who should be in the labor market are incarcerated. Some of them are incarcerated because they were not able to get a job. Black males, and black people as a group, are in a precarious state. In a word, they are in jeopardy. The "Webster's Dictionary" defines jeopardy as "exposure to or imminence to death, loss or danger." Included in this definition is genocide.
A second indicator is education or, more correctly, the lack of eductaion. The aforementioned factor impinges significantly upon this second factor. Today, there are 580,000 black males serving sentences in state or federal prisons, while fewer than 40,000 earn bachelor's degrees each year. One in three black men between 20-29 years old is under correctional supervision or control (just over 1 million). Black youth are 48 times more likely to be incarcerated than white youths for similar drug offences. In 2000, 65 percent of Black male high school dropouts in their 20's were jobless, that is, unable to find work, not seeking it or incarcerated. By 2004, the share had grown to 72 percent, compared with 34 percent of White and 19 percent of Hispanics dropouts. Even when high school graduates were included, half of black men in their 20's were jobless in 2004, up 46 percent from 2000. To add to that is the fact that for a large number of blacks who receive a high school diploma, even when it is not a GED that they may have received because they had been driven out of the public schools, have graduated with an underrated high school diploma that will not qualify them to enter college.
Even wen Blacks attend the same school as Whites, many of them are not taught the same curricula as Whites. It is as if there are two schools in the same school. Black students are put in diffrerent sections where they do not learn as they ought, where administrators and teachers do not expect them to learn as do white children who are in other sections. Consequently, they graduate with an inferioir high school education. Carter G. Woodson, a renown educator, in his book, "The Miseducation of the Negro," addresses this subject forthrightrly and truthfully. His message on the "miseduation" of black people is more relevant today than it was during his lifetime. Today, Blacks are exposed to defacto rather than dejure school segregation and discrimination. To this add black students attending class with some students who do not speak English and teachers who speak only English but must teach the non-English speaking students in her or his class. Imagine being in that situation. Just how much learning will take place during a class period? It takes time to teach. It takes time to learn. The schools are failing black people. "No child left behind" is a govermental approved gimmick. We need and can have schools without failure.
The third indicator is employment. Add to this underemployment and unemployment. All three of these classifications describe the black experience in and out of the labor market. It is obvious that if Blacks are employed a large percentage of them will be employed in menial or low paying jobs because many of them do not have sufficient training or eduction to handle work requiring skills. During the latter quarter of the twentieth century and the early years of the twenty-first century white employers have exercised their preference for employing immigrants, both legal and illegal. They have brought them to America, no less than they did the slaves. Their refusal to employ Blacks is not all about the quality of work done by their employees and the amount they are paid. White employers would rather employ anyone other than an African American black if possible. The roots of racial prejudice are deeply embedded in the psyche of white Americans and guilt still lingers in their souls. To repeat, in recent years more immigrants were brought to America by corporations and other controllers, including Bill Gates, who wants more of them to come to America, according to his recent testimony presented during a Congressional committee hearing. We are told that immigrants will do work that American citizens won't do. To this add outsourcing American jobs that should be done by American workers, including African Americans, today, as in the past, if they were available for them. These profiteer representatives spout out the big liar that "Americans don't want to do this kind of work." Even Senator John McCain, who aspires to be president of the United States, espoused this big lie.
The American people are told that we, as a nation, cannot keep the illegal immigrants from coming to America. Yet, we are told that we can keep the terrorists out of America and have demonstrated that since 9/11. We are also told that we cannot keep drugs from coming into America. It is easy to figure this one out without being a mathematician. Illegal immigrants and drugs represent big money for profiteers who are making millions from these enterprises. So, we can't keep them out. What's new? Those making the bulk of money from these enterprises are not sent to prison or returned to their homelands. It is the small users and dealers of drugs who go to prison. Many of these are African Americans.
In 1995, 16 percent of Black men in their 20's who did not attend college was in jail or prison. By 2004, 21 percent was incarcerated. By their mid-30's, 6 in 10 Black men who had dropped out of school, or in more instances than we are willing to admit, were expelled or forced out of school, had spent time in prison. Many of them should not be called dropouts. They are pushed-or forced-outs. In the inner cities, more than half of all Black men do not finish high school. According to the U. S. Census data, there are about five million Black men age 20 to 39 in America.
Yes, Oprah Winfrey is the richest African American of the 20th Century (2005), having 1.5 billioin (USD) in sharp contrast to the richest white Amerian Bill Gates whose net worth hit 100 billion (USD) in 1999. In 2006 it was estimated that African Americans have $852.8 billion USD in purchasing power. That is a small percentage of the $13,049 trillion GDP that year. We are told that this amount would make African Americans, if they were a nation, I suppose instead of a sub-nation as seems to be the case, the 18th richest nation in the world. Even at that, Blacks should be skeptical of the arithmetic just in case that is fuzsy mathematics. For propaganda purposes I have known black thousandaires to be called millionaries, in some instances, to convey the idea that black Americans, like other Americans, are living the American Dream. One might ask, comparatively speaking, How many?
We are told that in many nations a person can have a descent living, educate his/her children, and own a home with far less income than is required to do the same things in America. The American system is geared to consumerism and profit. Oftentimes black Americans spend beyond their limits. The economic life for Blacks is not rosy. Langston Hughes would say, "Life for me ain't been no crystal stair." The future for African Americans looks bleak. Poverty, homelessness, unemployment, underemployment, and a growing underclasss are the realities Blacks face, notwithsanding, that financially some Blacks are doing all right. However, far too many Blacks, and that number is increasing, are victims. For them the American Dream is an American nightmare. In thinking of wealth, the 1999 net worth (all assets minus all liabilities) of typical White famileies was $81.000, compared to $8,000 for Black families. The financial disparity gap between Blacks and Whites is becoming greater each year.
What does all this mean? To repeat, it is obvious that Black Americans are in a most precarious condition, one to be dreaded more than at any time since they were brought to America nearly 400 years ago. Their present condition and what appears to be on the horizon for them demand that they embrace a new consciousness and develop an action program to assure their survival as a people and enable them to be viable and productive. Blacks could begin with addressing the problems caused by Katrina and help to fast-track the rebuilding of New Orleans.
As indicated earlier, like the so-called American Indians, Black survival is not guaranteed. The Indians were not transplants as Blacks and yet, except for a remanent, they did not survive. They certainly did not survive as a people able to own their ancestors' land and charter their own destiny. For the first time, African Americans are considered by the controllers of America to be expendable. During slavery Blacks were needed by their slave-masters and following slavery, until two geneations ago, they were needed to do the menial labor that can and is now being done by machines and immigrants. Today, Blacks are not needed by corporations and other employerment controllers. Observe and listen to the workers and you will see that the people who are being employed today are not African Americans. Emloyers also import educated foreigners to fill positions that Blacks would be holding today had they not been denied the opportunity to matriculate in all-white American universities. Think about how many black scientists, mathematicians and other specialists died without having had the opportunity to develop their potentials. This holds true today for many in prison who should be in college.
For Blacks to reverse this downward spirial and begin the accendancy that was evident during Black Reconstruction and for a period of about twenty years after the Civil Rights Movement they will have to engage in direct action that will be no less confrontative than that taken during the Civil Rights Movement. They will have to demand justice, and that includes amnesty for young incarcerated black men and some who are not so young because they have spent most of their could-have-been productive years in prison before consideration is given to amnesty for ilegal immigants.
Blacks must demand reparations, i.e., compensation for the labor their forepaents rendered as slaves that is long overdue. It is not important that the payment be called reparations. It is important that it be paid. Call it a Marshal Plan for Blacks, if you choose. The wealth owed Blacks for the injusice the American system inflicted upon them must be paid. Every black person must be provided with an opportunity to get an education, to attend school where he will receive free education and have qualified teachers. Without these things taking place sooner, rather than later, Blacks will cease saying "A mind is a terrible thing to lose," but will be compelled to say, "African Americans are a terrible race of people to lose."
If what has been said sounds alarming and frightening, it is meant to arouse those emotions that will cause African Americans and other Americans who embrace justice and equality to leap beyond nihilism and assist in the salvation of African Americans. In doing this other Americans will be rescued from their slower but slowly sinking ship.
As stated at the outset, fear is one thing but danger is something else. Fear may be unfounded but danger is real. African Americans are in jeopardy. This is a SOS!
Oh Brothers and Sisters Wake Up Now
Oh brothers and sisters Wake up now, And help save our dying race, We are losing too many every day Who have a right to live. Often they are young, too young to die. //
(Refrain) Help save our dear brothers' precious lives. Help save our dear sisters' precious lives. //
The guns, drugs and prisons are killers of our people young and old. We are victims everywhere that we go. And it's because we're black. We are the last hired and the first fired. //
Oh brothers and sisters unite now and become race warriors, We must fight if we would win; this is our fight. And that's always been true. Oh yes, this may be the final call. //
Copyright 2007 by Uriah J. Fields