Category: politics

“Black Crime” revisited

“Black Crime” revisited

African Americans have disproportionately been victums of a punitive society and legal system. Did Blacks Really Endorse the 1994 Crime Bill. Here in California I was involved in The initiative called Proposition 47 which was passed to classify “non-serious, nonviolent crimes” as misdemeanors instead of felonies. I also creates a Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Fund to distribute monies to education, victim compensation. A great move, but what happened to cause these problems?

Today political candidates are talking about the 1994 crime bill and the concept that black citizens asked for it (True). They explain that the black as well as all communities wanted change. However the New York Times recently disputed that, ad explored the legislation’s shortcomings and concluded that “punitive crime policy is a result of a process of selectively hearing black voices on the question of crime”.

At the time, calls for tough sentencing and police protection were paired with calls for full employment, quality education and drug treatment, and criticism of police brutality. When “blacks ask for better policing, legislators tend to hear more instead”.

Selective hearing has a deep history. For example, W. E. B. Du Bois wondered in his 1903 classic The Souls of Black Folk. Du Bois’s captured the struggle of African Americans to forge and maintain a positive identity in a U.S. society that reduced their existence to that singularly alienating phrase “the Negro problem.” and during the 1960s, blacks argued for full socioeconomic inclusion and an end to discriminatory policing. Instead, they got militarized police forces.

With the 1994 Crime Billl of 993, black communities pushed back. The N.A.A.C.P. called it a “crime against the American people.” Also, the Congressional Black Caucus introduced an alternative bill that included prevention and alternatives to incarceration. The caucus also put forward the Racial Justice Act to use statistical evidence of racial bias to challenge death sentences. And so, Black support for anti-crime legislation was highlighted, while black criticism of the specific legislation was tuned out. This led to a compromise which eliminated $2.5 billion in social spending but only $800 million in prison expenditures. 26 of the 38 voting members supported the legislation.

This legislation wanted vulnerable urban communities to be managed through harsh punishment and heightened surveillance.

So, I urge the NA members and allies to be vigilant on making sure history is not rewritted and that they continue to support the struggle for racial parity and fight the mass incarceration of people of color.

Source:
New York Times

Circles

Circles

I have blogged on the lack of face to face communications previously, and in a recent New York Times article the concept of the three circles interested me. Remember the idea of the “six degrees of separation”? It is theory that everyone and everything is six or fewer steps away, by way of introduction, from any other person in the world, so that a chain of “a friend of a friend” statements can be made to connect any two people in a maximum of six steps. The NYT article talks about, say the first ring the third (called the middle) and the last of these. Thus, the inner, middle, and outer circle of contacts.

Today, we have a political dysfunction which llies deep in society. If there’s truly going to be improvement in this, there has to be improvement in the social context politics is embedded in.

So, when I grew up I lived close to members of a family, my neighborhood, my school, in a a different nation, continent and world. My life had a varied but coherent circle.

Fast forward to my twenties and I am an immigrant to the US. I noticed a community/membership mind-set despite the Vietnam war that was waging I never regretted my move. There was a welcoming attitude. Sidebar: I was still a white person, who was “embedded” in the Peace Movement at Berkely but not completely cognsant of the privilege my skin color granted. Later I dated an African American who slowly and surely educated me on this.

Recently our nation has an individualistic and autonomotous direction and how large companies and rich individuals have restricted individual rights while advancing their power and their own interests.

Which brings me to my earlier writings. I have said “that the NA has a proud history of emphasizing people skills especially at the margins of society, practice being a friend face to face”. and pointed out that this could be “an antidote to the 120 character communications a la Twitter, we often live in”. The problem is that the more people interact with a person or the real world through a screen rather than in real life, the less emotion is attached to the exchange.

Meanwhile, the individualist turn in society has compounded this divide such that the NYT quotes that “47 percent of Americans reported that they knew none or just a few of their neighbors by name”. Even sadder is there has been a sharp rise in the number of people who report that they have no close friends to confide in. And that’s where we as interracial connected men can act.

How can we do that? First learn, as stated above, that there are “Middle-ring relationships”, that can help people become skilled at deliberation. The guy sitting next to you at Starbucks may have political opinions you find abhorrent, but you still may have to get stuff done with him, week after week.

Given that the NA is a cauldron of diversity these middle-ring relationships can diversify your identity. You are also a citizen in a neighborhood in. Sometimes it seems that your neighborhood or, of course, the world is bigotted. However, as you go on our Facebook page with 12,000 members and rant, your middle-ring memberships may be deteriorating causing a lack of deliberation. People then may find it easier to ignore inconvenient viewpoints and facts. We’re good at bonding with people like ourselves but worse at bridging with people unlike ourselves. I am not saying that one should abandon your principles but nurture the local membership web to include diverse political opinions as well as nurture the local membership web that includes diverse opinions ad well as diverse skin colors and sexual identity, Go to your local groups including your local NA chapter, as well as Facebook.

Remeber we may even be happier and more fulfilled. We can reach all of our discrete individual desires if we cultivate those middle rings of our lives. Once again, I believe NA friends and allies tend to the garden of our lives by feeding all three of our rings and not relying on those “six degrees of separation”.

Sources:

New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/04/12/opinion/how-to-fix-politics.html?ref=todayspaper&_r=0
Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Six_degrees_of_separation

My President ’tis of Thee

My President ’tis of Thee

So we are into the primary season and I have been able tor resist backing one candidate while blogging on NABWMT. However I will talk about one ex candidate – President Obama.

I am an ex-pat Brit and though I have lived here longer than in England, I am still amazed how uncivil the political campaigns have been, particularly by the Republicans. I know that the NA mission statement is opposite to the platform of that party.

So I have been reminiscing of the times of the Obama “hope and change” era. Yes, he has not been perfect, but his demeanor has always been to my taste. Maybe thats because I am a Brit (famous politeness as the stereotype goes). This blog is not about his achievement, there have been many (healthcare, marriage equality, disarmament and more). This blog is not about his failures (get out of the wars, immigration). This is about his integrity and style.

So, he is rarely the “angry black man” or the war hawk but shows smoothness and thoughtfulness (“no drama Obama”). I can “dig” that, again because of my background and my analytical nature based on my scientific training. And of course he has been accused of not “bonding” with the Congress in his first term and can be aloof at times. But let’s not forget he has bee vilified more than any President in the current era. Hostility and outright racism have been rampant against him.

Of important is that his administration has been free of scandal compared to other presidents. He has appointed and cultivated people who are required to abide by a decent code of conduct.

Michelle and Barak Obama have nurtured a great family and shown grace and poise along the way. Say what you will about his policies, his believe in the dignity and decorum of his office is a true indicator of his character.

Here at the NA we hope to maintain such integrity, our mission statement demands it, our history records it. Yes, we get angry, but in my opinion, the majority of our members and board over the years have shown the rectitude needed to maintain our path ahead.

So, my President ’tis of thee, and my NA it is of you too!

Elections are on us

t looks like the election primary season is upon us and at the NA, based on our tax status, we cannot talk about the candidates but can talk about the issues. And the issues that have kept us together are, amongst others, racism and homophobia.

All People or Eligible People?

All People or Eligible People?

Today I want to update you on a matter of importance in terms of equal justice, and crucial for representation of us all and people at the margin.

The US Supreme Court (SCOTUS) hears arguments in Evenwel v. Abbott regarding according to SCOTUS blog “Whether the three-judge district court correctly held that the “one-person, one-vote” principle under the Equal Protection Clause allows States to use total population, and does not require States to use voter population, when apportioning state legislative districts”.

So what has this to do with NABWMT? Directly nothing, but indirectly a whole lot to our mission to fight racism.

First, some background. The US Constitution requires “counting the whole number of persons in each state” for apportioning seats in the House of Representatives among the states. In the US, according to the Atlantic blog*** “”The (population) difference is no longer about where people live, it’s about how people live: in spread-out, open, low-density privacy — or amid rough-and-tumble, in-your-face population density and diverse communities that enforce a lower-common denominator of tolerance among inhabitants”. Cities tend to vote Democrat which, arguable leads to more tolerant voters.

The US Census is the main vehicle to determine the Congress make up, and any other method may be hard to assemble and likely to discriminate against people of color. Hence it would be antithetical to the work the NA has done over the last 30 years or more.

These areas of tolerance have produced sex sex marriage initiatives, better opposition to discrimination of minorities in the justice system and much more. The Census showed a higher percentage of blacks than whites voted in a presidential election for the first time in history during the matchup between President Obama and Mitt Romney. If the black vote is diminished by legislation of SCOTUS it would not bode well for equal participation of people at the margins.

The opposite view is given by the Wall Street Journal**** citing concern on the effect of “illegal immigrants” on the votes. As a note you may want to read my blogs on the racism against undocumented workers (http://www.nabwmt.org/anti-immigrants-rhetoric/). But I digress, the Wall Street Journal suggests that this block of voters “dilutes” other peoples right to vote. They state “If Ms. Evenwel prevails, legislative districts will have to be reworked in Texas, and presumably in much of the U.S. too. The next legal challenge would be to Congressional districts, which could mean a re-allocation of seats in the House of Representatives. States like Florida, California, New York, Arizona and Texas, with large illegal populations, could lose House seats. We cannot agree more, this loss of seats would be detrimental to civil rights.

Remember when Black people were counted as one-fifth vote, under this plan Blacks and Native Americans under 18 would perhaps be on-third votes, Asian Americans would be 45% and Hispanics 55%.

Let’s not let this fly under the radar. Talk to your chapters, communities and legislators and campaign against this latest round of attacks on minorities and voters.
____________________________________________________
Sources:
* http://www.scotusblog.com/case-files/cases/evenwel-v-abbott/
** http://www.nytimes.com/2015/12/09/us/politics/supreme-court-to-hear-arguments-on-one-person-one-vote.html?ref=todayspaper&_r=0
*** http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2012/11/red-state-blue-city-how-the-urban-rural-divide-is-splitting-america/265686/
**** http://www.wsj.com/articles/one-person-but-only-2-3of-a-vote-1449534404

Podcast Election Fever

Podcast Election Fever

podcast

Ken  collects comments and ideas on the GOP debate season with the caveat that the NABWMT cannot endorse candidates for office but can and must discuss issues on human rights and how the 2016 election could impact people at ther margins
GOP presidential candidates had six prime-time hours on the national stage on Wednesday to tell the American people why they should lead the country and its scary.

There was a strong vein of xenophobia, fear mongering and lies.

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