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.
New York Times