Big Idea Wednesday: The New Jim Crow

Filed in Delaware by on August 1, 2012

I have wanted to do a regular post to motivate myself to come up with content that would stimulate discussion and make my brain move. I’m hoping that this will be that vehicle.

This week’s big idea comes from my friend Phillip Bannowsky.  Some day I’ll be drummed out of the corps for having him as a friend, but his wit, wisdom and creativity will make my eventual dispatch to the Gulags of Alabama all worth it.

He has a post up on his blog that uses a book review of the new book The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander to analyze the State of Delaware’s disproportionate number of black and brown citizens impacted by incarceration and it’s after-effects. It is timely, to me, because I am reading Slavery by Another Name about the Jim Cow era slavery that hinged on the systematic incarceration on petty (and often bogus) “crimes” and the indentured servitude of the deep south’s prison industrial complex.

In Delaware, this may still be an issue, since there has recently been a scandal in the Sussex prison involving a large number of inmates that have been sent out on work details for YEARS without any record of it having been done. One of the benefactors is even a legislator. If there is no records, who paid whom for the prisoners time and effort? How much did they pay? How much of it went to the inmates and their restitution that they may owe to victims or for their pocket upon release?

Phillip’s solution is to end the failing “War on Drugs” and abolition of the prison system. I am certainly on-board for te first part. The War on Drugs has been a massive failure that our politicians can’t seem to admit, for fear of looking weak on crime. The abolition of the prison system is perhaps clumsily worded, but on it’s face seems like a bridge too far to me.

What do you think?

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  1. Big Idea Wednesday at DL: The New Jim Crow Laws | August 2, 2012
  1. pandora says:

    I’m with you, and Phillip, on ending the War on Drugs, but I need to think about the prison thing – my first reaction is… um, no. What’s Phillip’s alternative to the prison system?

  2. WWB says:

    The war on drug users definitely has been a waste of money, and a joke in general. Regarding the prison system…we need to get rid of the for profit prison system without question. It is largely lobbyists for those prisons who are pushing legislators on all levels to keep the war on drug users firing on all cylinders, for reasons I certainly don’t need to elaborate on.

  3. Thanks for the shout out on this critical issue.
    The term Abolition is used for several reasons. First, quite literally to abolish prison as the dominant form of corrections. Second, to put the struggle in the context of prison as the latest incarnation of slavery, of its pedigree in slavery. Third to recognize that the prison and prison industrial complex demands an intensity of struggle commensurate with that pedigree. Fourth because we need to project an advance demand, one that looks forward to a world much different than the one we have inherited, the “tradition of all dead generations [that] weighs like a nightmare on the brain of the living.”

  4. cassandra_m says:

    Michelle Alexander’s book is in my never-ending pile of books to read. But I listened to Radio Times today where they talked about exactly this. The prison industry is the thing that needs to be gone. As was pointed out this AM, Corbett has undone much of the education reform/funding put in place by Ed Rendell, but is increasing the moneys spent on prisons.

    Those who serve their time and who want to come back to the world in some productive way have little opportunity to do that. Lack of jobs, lack of job skills, lack of support services that might bridge some of that largely means that these folks go back to doing what they know.

    But before all of that, we have to put a stop to a system that seems to exist to ensure that there is a steady stream of young men (mostly) to feed the prison system.

  5. puck says:

    I wonder if high imprisonment rates of young black men is the cause, or just another symptom.

    Before young back men encounter prison (if they do), they first pass through two other institutions: The family, and the schools. Both are in need of investment and transformation. Family/schools/prison is to some extent a vicious circle that reinforces failure.

    And if the concept of the prison as slavery is correct, then drugs are simply a pretext. If the drugs are removed as a legal issue then another reason will be found to imprison young black men.

    Jobs are the answer, but this is probably the worst possible moment to raise the issue. Social mobility seems to be at an all-time low in my memory for whites and blacks alike. Employers aren’t hiring people of any color.

    I think in part that is why Bill Clinton is beloved by African-Americans. Because during his administration, their employment and economic situation improved (welfare reform notwithstanding) and even the poorest were able to begin improving their circumstances and see some hope for their children and families. During the 1990s, the rising tide really did lift all the boats.

    Which is why we need to pay more attention to economic policy being debated in Congress. The laws Congress writes are what creates or destroys the jobs and their resulting social mobility. We need to better understand the dry arcana of fiscal policy, monetary policy, labor policy, and business regulation, and fight regressive policy with the same intensity we would bring to a fight against slavery. We can no longer let socially devastating economic policies pass without holding their supporters accountable, especially those supporters we have been voting for.

  6. Dave says:


    Refreshing to see someone make a distinction between cause and effect.

    There are often studies about the disportionate “representation” of blacks in prison, but it is not a systemic failure of the criminal justice system per se. Rather, the cause originates in the family and culture, which is perpuated across generations to create an endlesss cycle.

    This cycle is continually reinforced by a cultural tide that attempts to sink all boats. A prime example, is the cultural disdain for doing well in school. The need to belong, rewards the individual who maintains the cultural status quo and penalizes those who seek to better themselves.

    It is the collective will that creates the abyss out of which few can escape. I’ve come to the conclusion that true integration is probably the only real solution. I don’t mean integration in terms of equal opportunity (which is already available in adundance). I mean integration in the sense that the existing culture is replaced. As an example,public housing creates a collective culture that cannot change because it is bound by a physicality that reinforces the existing culture. While one may think I am advocating eliminating public housing, what would be a simplistic conclusion. Look at any majority black area and see if the the issues of family and schools are not evident there.

  7. cassandra_m says:

    This is just stereotypical BS, and that’s giving you the benefit of the doubt:
    Rather, the cause originates in the family and culture, which is perpuated across generations to create an endlesss cycle.

    This cycle is continually reinforced by a cultural tide that attempts to sink all boats. A prime example, is the cultural disdain for doing well in school. The need to belong, rewards the individual who maintains the cultural status quo and penalizes those who seek to better themselves.

    For all of this BS pointed at black people, you can find this “cultural” deficit in places where poor white people are predominant too. And you’ll note that I pointed out that this was true among poor white people — not ALL whites — because I do know that not all white people can be painted with one broad brush.

    There is a ton of research out there that indicates that school success and potential social mobility is tied to poverty — not skin color or “black culture” whatever the heck that is. And it is certainly true that areas of high poverty are also areas where schools have fewer resources and where parental support services are also thin on the ground. And I’ve seen this first hand in poor white communities. The difference here is that no one needs to characterize all white people as having a dysfunctional culture to explain this — because it is a given that not all white people are the same, right? Too bad you don’t know that not all black people are the same too.

  8. puck says:

    I don’t think the cultural argument is complete BS, although Dave may have stated it inartfully. It is a component of the whole picture. Anti-intellectualism among schoolchildren is real. Of course it applies to blacks and whites as well.

    There is a web of causes and effects, but I think all of them are addressed with expanded employment. Economic policy is social policy.

  9. pandora says:

    This cycle is continually reinforced by a cultural tide that attempts to sink all boats. A prime example, is the cultural disdain for doing well in school. The need to belong, rewards the individual who maintains the cultural status quo and penalizes those who seek to better themselves.

    I hate this urban myth. As someone who has been screaming about the inequity in high poverty schools for over a decade the perpetuation of this Black “cultural disdain for doing well in school” nonsense infuriates me.

    It. Is. Not. True.

  10. cassandra_m says:

    . Anti-intellectualism among schoolchildren is real.

    Anti-intellectualism among adults is just as real and more damaging. You can see it in every wingnut blog, Fox News, the Louisiana vouchers program for dodgy charters, the Texas GOP platform.

    If anti-intellecualism was the overriding issue, then schoolkids isn’t exactly the place to start.

  11. Dave says:

    “I do know that not all white people can be painted with one broad brush.”

    Nor did I paint all black people with a broad brush. Why would you take my comment as meaning ALL BLACKS? One can make the same assessment, as you did, about some white communities and culture. But the topic at hand was blacks in prison, not poor whites in prison. AND there are countless studies which confirm that there is a direct correlation between peer pressure and grades in black communities. There may be the same for white communities, but that wasn’t the topic.

    I get the impression that you assign a root cause of being poor as the primary culprit. I, on the other hand, believe that being poor (poverty) is an effect. We keep trying to fix poverty, when we should be trying to fix the causes of poverty.

    If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always got. And if you constrain the conservation to eliminate anything that has a racial (not racist) tint to it, you eliminate the ability to address the issues that are specific to that group. There are a lot of people living in poverty, of all races. Would you propose to address it all in an identical manner without recognizing the cultural differences (i.e. language) that influence opportunity and outcome.

    Racial sensitivity does not have have racist content. Sometimes it can be just a factor. Sort of, it is what it is. Hispanics do not speak English very well, which affects their opportunities. Part of the reason is that they tend to culturally cluster in spanish speaking communities. It’s not being a racist to recognize the role of culture in their success or lack of it.

    Your response is exactly the reason why we as a nation fail to be able to have a conversation that recognizes multiple causes. No one can say anything that has to do with race or culture (including religion) without someone taking offense. So what do we do? We keep our mouths shut and do what what we have always done which of course means we get what we’ve always got.

  12. socialistic ben says:

    I think there can be some confusion. because of government and societal crimes…. I’ll say that again… it is the fault of this county’s history…NOT the people currently effected (since some people here need paragraphs of disclaimers) Most poor people in urban areas are not white. It is not their fault, it is not their fault, it is not their fault. (not their fault that they have been red-lined into slums….. being not white is not something negative to assign fault to.)
    What that does do, since it has been kept that way for so long…. because of racist people who set policy….. is create a culture that, unfortunately is shaped by poverty which usually leads to crime….. because when someone cant feed their family, who can blame them for stealing an apple? It is also true…. again with good reason, that a lot of people in these poor urban areas do not trust law enforcement…. again, not their fault…. but a sad and destructive outcome of that is crap like “stop snitchin” (its a strange version of powerful rich white people wanting to handle things “internally” rather than getting outsiders involved. i mean we can all agree that powerful rich are the only ones who can be bastards right?) I don’t think anyone here is saying an entire culture is dysfunctional…. I think some people try to deny that there ARE cultural differences because they jump to the conclusion that it always has to be a negative…. but there are aspects of various demographics that, while the result of abuses by the powerful, hurt their upward mobility.
    An example….. if Glen Beck and Rush Limbaugh can be pointed at for advancing hate and ignorant behavior among large groups un uneducated white people…. and many many many people here, myself included, ascribe to that belief….. why cant the same be said about the disgusting “music” that is …. yup im goin here… (many, but not all kind of) rap? Hate and ignorance is hate and ignorance. If you have a group of people who are already targeted for repression by the majority, any type of self-inflicted (even as a reasonable response to the repression) damage is compounded.
    Disclaimer disclaimer…. I actually believe all the annoying disclaimers I put into these posts… I want to make sure my thoughts are understood and not used by others to show what a big bad blogger they are.
    And this doesnt even apply to MOST. Since the media has a hard on for bad-black teens, they show example whenever they can…. sadly, it can effect the whole group, again, because of the society.

  13. If you want to find encomiums to personal responsibility for black people, you need look no further than the black community. The problem with folks like puck blaming a lack of responsibility among black folks is one rule of personal responsibility his is not likely to utter: “he that would be free must strike the first blow.”

  14. puck says:

    Excuse me Philip but I took great care not to say that. Please re-read.

  15. puck says:

    I wonder what legalization of drugs would look like. How legal would they be, and which ones?

    Would employers still be allowed to do pre-employment drug screening? Would it be unconsititutional for the military or a bank to deny you a job because you had months-old traces of LEGAL substances in your tissues? Or would there still be some illegality attached to drugs, but with decriminalization instead of legalization?

    Would some drugs still be illegal? What about the worst drugs that are simply poisons, like meth or bath salts?

    Would legal recreational drugs be taxed? If the tax was heavy enough, the black market would still exist for untaxed drugs, complete with violence.

  16. socialistic ben says:

    While the anti-intellectualism among school kids may be the result of their parents watching fox news…. (talk about a generalization) anyone who ever got bullied for being a “nerd” can tell you it exists.. Im telling all of you it existed 10-20 years ago and it is real, and the number of kids who valued getting good grades was nothing compared to the number of kids… of all demographics… who wanted to stomp us for it. The sick part is, the white kids who bullied the “nerds” had the unfair advantage of being white.
    But if i may disagree with cassandra without being called a racist teabagger….. i think the kids are who we as a society need to be focused on. If their parents have been brainwashed by Fox, or some other media outlet to be happily ignorant, those people are already lost. The future (children) can still be saved.

  17. cassandra_m says:

    Nor did I paint all black people with a broad brush. Why would you take my comment as meaning ALL BLACKS?

    Go back and read your post @10:35. You talk about blacks. You don’t qualify or define the qroup you are talking about any further than that. Which is the dog-whistle, right?

    Re-read that and substitute whites for blacks and see if you get the same message. There are alot of black people in this country and pretending they are all the same always and everywhere undermines your argument.

  18. Prup (aka Jim Benton) says:

    Cassandra: While I agree that Dave’s response is the southern leavings of a north-going cow, Puck’s original point may deserve more respect than you give it. the point is that these days the black family, and particularly the black extended family, has become far more important than the white equivalent. Other people’s experiences may be different, bu t when I hear of a hundred-member, multi-generational family reunion, the speaker is much more likely to be black than white.

    And at family gatherings, stories get told, that’s what they are for. And black families, all too often, have similar stories to tell, stories of relatives who worked to get a college education — and could only get a menial job because that’s all blacks were hired for, families who suffered losses because the police — or even the fire department — saw no need to rush to answer a call in a black neighborhood.

    Now maybe those stories come from the older members of the gathering, but the younger ones probably can come up with an example of being busted for ‘driving while black’ or know of two friends who committed a similar offense — say drug use — and the white guy got community service, the black one learned how ugly orange uniforms can look.

    And even the younger ones, the ones who just turned 18, can tell of voter discrimination, of ID laws that were aimed to keep them from voting — just last week.

    Now we all know the ‘proper’ response to this. “The system is changing. Not as fast as we want, but it is changing, and we should wpork within it to keep the momentum going.” And yes, blacks have traditionally shown less of a desire for hate or revenge than have persecuted whites — compare the treatment of plantation owners and Jim Crow supporters to the treatment of French collaborators with Naziism after WWII. There was none of the ‘do-it-yourself justice’ against even the worst racists that the Collabirators received.

    But if there are fewer destructively violent, destructively rejectionist blacks than there are among the white Tea Partiers, we are being unfair if we expect none. There will be those who mock the system-followers for ‘trying to act white’ there will be those who ignore a legal system they see as biased against them. etc.

    Schools should work to combat this — and how many states have whites begging for ‘vouchers’ simply to let them keep their children away from schools that have a lot of blacks. How many states maintain schools that are mostly black even up to the level budget cutbacks force on white schools — and which schools get the first cutbacks the next time the budget for education is reduced, or teachers are attacked.

    So maybe Puck’s point is not racism, just an understanding of why some blacks aren’t willing to ‘buy into the system’ — and please don’t take this post as agreeing with them, merely attempting to understand them.

  19. socialistic ben says:

    see what i mean? no matter what kind of thoughts or philosophies you have demonstrated in previous comments, every single word must be combed over to make sure no one can invent offense… otherwise a good point is lost to people who think they work for a presidential speechwriter. Is this blog about ideas and discussion, or ability to write things that can balance on eggshells? You’re obcessing over an oversight in phrasing rather than giving your fellow human the benefit of the doubt that they are not racist and discussing what is a good point. bravo.

  20. Prup (aka Jim Benton) says:

    Btw, my post above was started when cassandra @9:51 was the most recent comment, and didn’t reflect comments made after that.

  21. puck says:

    LG, your experiment appears to have failed. Too many accusations of racism by arrogant asses who wannabe blacker-than-thou. So much for thoughtful conversation. And I have a pretty damn thick skin for this nonsense.

    And thanks, Prup, for at least allowing for the possibility that “maybe” I’m not a racist.

  22. pandora says:

    The problem is the ease at which we stereotype groups, and then build our arguments and conclusions on those stereotypes. When we buy into the “Black culture disdain for doing well in school” we are not only perpetuating a myth, but giving ourselves a pass when it comes to educating black children.

    But I will point out that these groupings don’t exist elsewhere. Take a look at the crazed shooters/bombers of the past. Most are white men, and yet… I never hear a call to look into “white culture” for answers as to why these guys snapped. Oh no, we can’t do that – those white guys were crazy individuals.

    Now take a look at the Virginia Tech shooter. He was Korean, and I remember a lot of discussion of how the Korean culture didn’t value mental health services. We can also look at the Ft. Hood shooter which made people gush about the Muslim Culture.

    Timothy McVeigh? Jared Loughner? James Holmes? No one would dare tie them to white culture or even suggest that there’s something about white culture that creates these men… and serial killers – who also happen to be mostly white men.

  23. cassandra_m says:

    The experiment is fine, actually. You just need to leave your received wisdom behind. And we already know how this works.

    And for the record, I encourage everyone to re-read this thread and see where the accusations of “racism” come from.

  24. socialistic ben says:

    actually pandora, there should be a discussion about what aspects of white culture produce so many mass murderers.
    This thread is about the prison system and how a very lopsided number of prisoners are not white compared to the entire population. While I, and other people who have been called racist, have said very planely that it is the fault of society, only someone in deep denial would suggest that type of repression has not effected some aspects of the culture…. i think it is less of a race thing and more of a class thing. Remembering the world doesnt exist in a vaccuum however reminds us that…. and I will say this again…. because of things that society has done…. the majority of less-wealthy people living in cities are black. that is a fact, it is a troubling fact that I WISH WAS NOT TRUE…. but it is a fact. All i have said, or all puck and dave have said is, how can that be changed? what can be done…. by everyone… to fix that? Is there anything in popular culture, or local customs that may cause kids growing up to make decisions that negatively effect them, and how can that be changed? What if society isnt going to help them anytime soon? Wanna talk about white culture? right now the loudest voice in white america is the chourus of “we dont want to help you”. That sucks. I wish it wasnt that way. What do we do? do we thorw our hands up and say “well its racist to even suggest blame for anyone but powerful rich white people (although i think they deserve MOST of the blame) and wait for them to catch up while imporisonment and unemployment continue to go up for everyone else? is that what this high minded group of people arrive at?

  25. socialistic ben says:

    “Too bad you don’t know that not all black people are the same too.”

    i found an accusation of racism, cassandra…. and gosh golly geee. it was from you!

  26. puck says:

    re-read this thread and see where the accusations of “racism” come from.

    OK, your’re on. Did you think I wouldn’t accept?

    cassandra_m @9:51
    “For all of this BS pointed at black people…”
    “Too bad you don’t know that not all black people are the same too…”

    Phillip Bannowsky @10:36
    “folks like puck blaming a lack of responsibility among black folks ”

    cassandra_m @10:56
    “Which is the dog-whistle, right?”

    I’m well aware there is a form of racist trollery that tries to state its racist theories in pseudo-rational arguments in order to take part in otherwise civilized discussion. I’ve seen it many times. NOBODY HERE IS DOING THAT.

    Cassandra and Phillip have avoided any engagement with the “Big Ideas” brought up here and have chosen instead to play a poutrage game of “Spot the Racist.” Thanks for nothing, bullshitters. This is why we can’t have anything nice. We may as well have an I-P or gun thread.

  27. AQC says:

    I’m just curious, are any DL contributors black?

  28. cassandra_m says:

    Thanks for doing that.

    As you can plainly see, I haven’t called anyone racist, but called on specific behavior that was not useful. And as anyone who read this blog knows pretty well, is that if I wanted to call you a racist, I would have pretty damn clearly. Because I know the difference between calling out specific behavior and ideas and actually yelling RACIST in a room full of white people who have no intention of dealing with the issues of injustice at hand.

    The poutrage here is yours, as usual. Because you can’t figure out a way to back off of your psuedo-intellectual theory of the inherent inferiority of black people. The rule is, if you can’t talk about a group of people except in its worst and most stupid stereotypes you should STFU. Don’t want to be confronted about your own stereotypes? Then don’t put them on display.

  29. cassandra_m says:

    I’m just curious, are any DL contributors black?

    Yes, AQC — I am.

  30. sum guy says:

    pandora says the idea of a “black culture disdain for doing well in school” is a myth. no person willing to look at reality in all its messiness could say that’s a myth, although certainly it does not apply to ALL blacks and folks do tend to change their feeling about that as they get older. how you gonna solve these problems if you won’t look at them head on?

  31. socialistic ben says:

    oooo so you dont like it when people take things you have said and maliciously twist them to make you look wrong? yeah, it’s not fun.

    ok.. deep breath… I’m serious here… i do not think black people are in any way inferior to white people. I dont think specifically black culture in anyway places any less importance on education…. i will remind everyone here how much the regular liberals here come down on Fox news and THEIR anti intellectualism… so there is precedent established by people here that a culture… ANY CULTURE… can advance the idea of ignorance as a virtue… So i ask you… in light of you pointing out how horribly misinformed i am…. please show me… with a quote of mine something to back up your charge that i am a racist. I will explain… because in my heart, i do not feel the way you are telling me and everyone else i feel, and it honestly hurts to be accused.

  32. heragain says:

    I’m going with the solution from Johnny English. England. Walls.

  33. AQC says:

    Sum guy, when I look at the black kids I deal with it is clear they were pushed through school without adequate identification of learning needs, then labeled as troubled by middle school and sent to totally non effective alternative schools by high school. These kids have no disdain for learning, but they do have a disbelief in our educational system teaching them. The system has clearly had a disdain for educating these kids, and they are as smart and curious as any of the white kids I deal with!

  34. Dave says:

    “There are alot of black people in this country and pretending they are all the same always and everywhere undermines your argument.”

    Once again, through your lens, I was talking about ALL BLACKS. Through my lens I was not. You might ask yourself whether you perceive all comments thusly and fail to consider the author’s actual intent.

    Of course, this conversation has devolved, as all such conservations about race do, with veiled references to racism because of perceived veiled comments about racism. It is always thus.

    I’ll close my comments on this thread with an anecdote.

    There was a shooting at a wedding in Maryland some time ago (24 months?). I made a comment to a colleague of mine, who happens to be black, that I did not understand why anyone would bring a firearm to a wedding. He replied that I did not understand the culture. He said (I’m paraphrasing), “Dave when you leave the house, you and I grab our wallet, keys, etc). When someone in such communities as exists in areas like Prince Georges County, leaves the house, they grab their gun.” He went on to explain that because they believe there is danger in their environment, leaving the house with a gun is no different than putting a wallet in your pocket. This came from someone who lives in Prince George’s County. I assume he knows what he is talking about and he has no reason to feed me BS.

    Now, he and I both consider this cultural. But I suppose someone can call it something else. Regardless, race conversations are oxymorons. They always devolve into name calling and accusations. It’s silly of me to think it will ever change.

  35. socialistic ben says:

    Honest question. Is it possible to believe that there ARE in fact cultural differences between democraphigs… not just black and whites… but Italian/Anglo-Saxon, Mexican/Cuban…. and not be considered a racist?
    Just because one believes there to be differences in cultures, doesn’t mean that one person thinks those differences are negatives… or all positives. It’s a neutral understanding that differences exist. They key is embracing those differences, rather than denying them, or admonishing those who point them out.

    Mitt Romney see’s cultural differences and thinks they are bad…. im not mitt romney, most people arent mitt romney, and lumping everyone together makes you as bad as him.

  36. j marie says:

    There are cultural differences and it isn’t racist. Every family has their own traditions and they should be cherished.
    However, the problem with this country is that instead of being curious about other cultures and seeking what is common or positively unique and interesting, we look to differences and too easily identify each other as “the other” and seek no further. And for the record when there are large scale socioeconomic issues, you can not just put it all on the -blank- community to fix themselves.

    Back to the war on drugs which is completely rooted in racism. In the past year our government finally is removing the disproportionate sentencing for crack vs. powder cocaine. How else do you justify giving two completely different penalties for the exact same drug. How do you justify that a far larger percentage of “white” people use drugs, while not holding the same percentage in drug arrests/prison population for drug related crimes.

  37. puck says:

    Culture is a tangent to this discussion and while not completely irrelevant, is not the biggest Big Idea here. Any negative aspects that may exist in the culture are driven by economics. And because they are driven by economics, people of any color or culture are susceptible.

  38. socialistic ben says:

    “you can not just put it all on the -blank- community to fix themselves. ”

    of course you cant… and i certainly didnt mean to imply that. (hope cass frees up soon so she can show me, using my own words all the horrible things i said) But just like you cant put it to ______ to fix all their problems, you also cant pin all those problems on someone else. in the case of non-white people in this country, you can totally and justifiably blame A LOT of it on the majority… but not all .. and THAT sentiment is what seems to be unacceptable.

  39. cassandra_m says:

    Once again, through your lens, I was talking about ALL BLACKS. Through my lens I was not. You might ask yourself whether you perceive all comments thusly and fail to consider the author’s actual intent.

    I perceive what I read. And if you — the author — did not qualify your words, you leave me — the reader– with whatever the plain reading of your post produces. I’m not a mindreader and you shouldn’t expect that anyone should be. But let’s think about this for a minute — I’d bet that you would not write that “it is the Italian culture that causes them to be involved with organized crime”. You’d be right not to write that — for alot of reasons, not the least of which is that organized crime didn’t start or end with Italians and certainly not all Italians are involved with that.

    If you didn’t want to paint with a broad brush then you would have apologized and clarified. Instead, you want to blame me for noticing the fact that you provided an answer that specifically dealt in stereotypes. And *that* is the problem with discussions about race in the US. People want to work on running away from the labels rather than work at thinking about the injustice.

  40. socialistic ben says:

    so now that we have established that his point was not what you thought it was (and just for the sake of consensus, let’s put all the blame on Puck for that… im sure he can take it), can we have a civil discussion about it rather than starting a new gutter-fight about syntax and writing style? It’s a very serious and rich topic and ought to be discussed.

    FTR, this is why i include so many disclaimers in my posts. it’s as annoying to write as im sure it is annoying to read…. but when everyone assumes you are a bad person, you have to be careful…. oh and i say “everyone assumes you are a bad person” because that’s how i read the comments here. man… i wish we could all just grow up.

  41. Dave says:

    I did not paint it with a broad brush. You read it that way, as you are probably wont to do, as if that were the case.

    But again, as you have appropriately demonstrated (“you would have apologized and clarified”), any discussion that borders on race, either must begin or end with apologies. And that is why the conversations are not held.

    Regardless, here it is. I apologize for writing a comment that involved race, either centrally or obliquely. I will strive to never mention or infer race in any comment ever again.

  42. cassandra_m says:

    The apology and clarification should have been for writing your post that included all black people, then a restatement of what you really wanted to say.

    Which is why you can’t have conversations about race. The people who get reminded that they aren’t quite as free of the baggage as they would like have to make up reasons for why they were wrong. Rather than do what you would do in a normal conversation — adjust for what you meant to say and move on. But I guess I’m not supposed to know how conversations work, either.

    But I certainly won’t mind if you just walk away. Cowardice is as cowardice does.

  43. pandora says:

    You know… when a person of a different race, religion or sex tells you that what you said, or how you said something, offends/bothers/hurts them you should listen.

    And Dave…

    “Regardless, here it is. I apologize for writing a comment that involved race, either centrally or obliquely. I will strive to never mention or infer race in any comment ever again.”

    …this statement is beneath you. Looks like when it comes to a discussion on race it’s your way or the highway.

  44. socialistic ben says:

    nowhere did dave or puck say “all black people” until they had to say “i never said ‘all black people'” Even after they tried to explain what they mean, the conversation still turned into HOW things are said instead of what was being talked about.
    The problem is still that black people are thrown into jail at a much higher rate than white people. While we, for the most part, agree this is because our system is still racist and the deck is stacked against non whites in this country…. not approving of it, just stating a sad fact….. does anyone think it is worth talking about all factors?
    Here’s a question… what can be done to make the decision to join a gang less appealing? I fully understand that there are all types and ethnicities of gang members, and lots of gangs are based on white power…. one trend however is impoverished youth without many opportunities for higher education are the primary targets for gangs for recruitment. they offer acceptance, money, belonging… something poor kids are denied every day by a society that doesn’t want to help them….
    I have tried very hard to not make any racial generalizations in this comment… i have pointed out that gangs are all colors, i have said that it isnt the children’s fault for joining a gang, but society…. which i attributed to misdeeds by people in charge… who have been, for most of this country’s history, white. I have offered reasons why kid’s might need to feel like they belong to something, and i have asked… since i don’t pretend to have an answer… what people think should be done.

  45. socialistic ben says:

    I also didnt mean to put the words “black people” and “gang” so close together… i realize that may be seen as a suggestion that only black people join gangs… even though later in my post i stated as clearly as i could that it was not my intent….. nor do i think that anyone should feel bad for reading my post the wrong way, i see now that it could have been taken offensively and i apologize.

  46. pandora says:

    Street gang involvement and education levels are tied to poverty. High poverty schools, on the whole, do not receive the same educational opportunities/programs, technology, experienced teachers, etc.

    (Mitt Romney led a gang that held down a kid and cut his hair. Many called that teenage hijinks.)

    Poverty is the problem – and the problems named on this thread can be linked to poverty. Institutionalized racism is what explains the prison situation.

  47. socialistic ben says:

    the group of preppy a-holes that Mitt walked around with are not the same thing as the Cryps, Latin Kings, Pagans….
    What effect does living in an area where a lot of your neighbors, relatives, etc go to jail have on a kid…. is it possible they can grow up thinking going to jail is normal and that in turn effects how they approach things like school?

    >>>i am not asking that question rhetorically. I grew up in a city but a “nice part” and only recently have come to know people who were in jail. I am not asking it to prove a point that poor kids want to go to jail (like Newt Gingrich might try to do…) rather am curious of the effects living in a society created my institutional racism might have on a developing generation of people.

    >>>> i didn’t put that disclaimer in there to try and run away from a previous statement, more to explain my question since it is hard to convey tone over the internet.

    >>> that last disclaimer was mean to explain my previous one and not to suggest that i am questioning in my own thoughts.

    >>>>> that disclaimer was me being a dick.

  48. Dave says:


    “Looks like when it comes to a discussion on race it’s your way or the highway.”

    It’s not intended to look that way. It is intended to say (as clearly as I can make it) – I will not engage in any more conservations where race is a factor because, in my experience, it is an exercise in futility as someone always take umbrage and apologies are always required and the entire point of the comment/thread is subsequently lost. I don’t play Don Quixote. There are other important topics to discuss which serve the community without having to weigh in on these kinds of topics.

  49. puck says:

    Where are the prison statistics? Are they all laid out in the book, or is there a link?

    I wonder to what extent drug crimes resulting in imprisonment are concentrated in inner cities.

    Hypothetically, if poor whites dominated the inner cities and blacks in the suburbs, would whites be the ones more frequently imprisoned for drugs? Or would police instead fan out across the suburban landscape looking for blacks to imprison?

    I’m not making any claims, just wondering out loud. I’ll have to look at the statistics. How much of the prison ratios is an accident of geography?

  50. puck says:

    LOL Cassandra – you don’t get to call people racists and then demand apologies from them. Or hide behind sophistry explaining how you didn’t call anyone racist. Well actually you do, but it stinks up the room.

    False accusations of racism are unacceptable, one notch below threats of violence which were just dealt with. What do they put in the water over at Delaware Liberal Plaza?

    If you can’t back up your shit with quotes from this thread, then you need to retract it.

    Use some common sense FFS. This is a post about BLACK PEOPLE. Commenting about BLACK PEOPLE is on topic, in the context of the War On Drugs and the prison system.

    We spend every day here commenting on the bad behavior of rich white men; now it’s the poor black men’s turn for a day, so don’t be so butt-hurt about it.

    Note that I did not participate in generalizations myself and even commented that Dave’s first comment was “inartful” for just that reason. The “blame the victim” trend in the comments would have been easily sidelined had anyone taken up discussion of the actual Big Ideas on the table, rather than playing Spot The Racist. I tried.

  51. cassandra_m says:

    You couldn’t find the places where I called anyone a racist before and you can’t now.

    You also can’t find me addressing you except asking you to find the places where I called anyone a racist. A thing you could not do then and you can’t do now.

    There won’t be any retractions from me — Full Stop. Especially since not one single one of you can address the points about stereotyping that I made and Pandora made.

    And this:
    This is a post about BLACK PEOPLE. Commenting about BLACK PEOPLE is on topic, in the context of the War On Drugs and the prison system.
    is exactly what I’m talking about. It is BLACK PEOPLE once, and then poor black people (adequately qualified) later. These are not interchangeable. Too bad you can’t grasp that. Because claiming that this thread is about BLACK PEOPLE means that you are claiming experience for a whole group of folks you don’t know. None of this is my experience, or the experience of my family which takes your BLACK PEOPLE claims right out of the window.

    bad behavior of rich white men

    Certain types of rich, white men — bankers, republicans — but this also includes the occasional black man and a whole lot of white people on SS and Medicare too. But we comment on these people because of their association with groups of people looking to impose injustices on the rest of them. It is pretty rare that we write that all rich white men are trying to hurt us, because that isn’t exactly true.

    And this is what I mean by the difficulty in having this conversation:
    Spot The Racist.

    Stereotypes are stereotypes and if you put them on display you should not be mad at me for pointing this out. I’m not the one pretending that there is some wisdom in those stereotypes. You find your liberal cred threatened here and will do pretty much anything to make sure you keep it — including asking the wrong person for an apology.

    So there won’t be an apology, in the same way that there won’t be an honest look at the stereotypes you and Dave wanted to insert to this conversation. The only thing you tried to do was to not face up to your own issues.

  52. JPconnorjr says:

    Having 22 months 10 days and 11 hours of prison experience I feel qualified to make a few comments. The DOC is racist to varying degrees in all 4 facilities I visited in order from worst to least. SVOP deserves it’s reputation as the most racist institution in the state it is blatant and pervasive, fortunately I was only there 2 weeks waiting a bed in the north. SCI is number 2 I spent 13 months there and there was a divide between decent employees and racist CO’s. The internal prison culture made the behavior of the racist guards less effective. I met and still maintain contact with many guys while inside. Almost without exception stories included broken families , under education, under employment drug and alcohol use with criminal involvement. This was true across the board white, black, Hispanic. My observation is that most folks that end up in prison are victims of a difficult economic environment. The minority are outlier cases and the truly bad people of the world. Interestingly the Key and Crest programs are generally better than any drug and alcohol treatment available to disadvantaged individuals. My last 9 months was spent in the Crest program in Smyrna CVOP and Wilmington Plummer. These programs are run by contractors and the contractor at the time in 08 when I was there had a high level of minority employees. My anecdotal experience was that on balance among minority inmates institutional racism in school, the community and their employment were often contributing factors to incarceration. The other area that racism appears is in the area of getting stuck in the system. There is a revolving door of petty violation of probation caes that land folks who are making an effort back in jail. Examples include homelessness if you can’t provide an address and be there by 10 pm you can and many are violated. The system is rife with this sort of catch 22. The number of minority individuals incarcarated as a percentage of poulation is in my view evidence of racism. White guys that I was in with shared a lot of the same demographic characteristics and as a percentage of population there are more white folks in poverty. There were not more in Delaware’s jails,

    [edited typos by permission -Ed.]

  53. JPconnorjr says:

    Sorry for the typo’s the ipar does not permit editing

  54. Linda says:

    I am looking at the question above and this link pretty much sums up my opinion. (hope it works)

  55. “There are often studies about the disportionate “representation” of blacks in prison, but it is not a systemic failure of the criminal justice system per se. Rather, the cause originates in the family and culture, which is perpuated across generations to create an endlesss cycle.”
    So why are white folks involved in drug crime as much as blacks, according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Mental Health?

  56. Jpconnorjr says:

    The criminal justice system is but one part. It starts at Birth and becomes ingrained at the age of 4-5 when daycare and kindergarten kick in. My personal experience is anecdotal but I think largely accurate. We live in a racist society and it ain’t getting better. But hey…..

  57. Jpconnorjr says:

    Mr B that statistic makes my point. Just as involved but punished far less. Just lucky? I think not .

  58. puck says:

    So why are white folks involved in drug crime as much as blacks, according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Mental Health?

    Here’s the national statistic on black vs white drug use (link below). I didn’t see a report on “involved in drug crime” other than reported usage of the drugs themselves.

    It turns out blacks have a slightly higher reported rate of illicit drug use, but not by much. I’d go along with considering them roughly equal:

    Great report, by the way. There are lots of other charts that might shed more light. I just haven’t gotten to them yet.

    I assume the black/white drug incarceration gap is much wider than the usage gap, right?

    So now further comparisons are in order. Who’s got a link for the latest statistic on white vs. black incarceration rates for drug crimes? Or white vs. black arrest rates for drug crimes?

    Also, I don’t think “usage” is a reported crime, so what type of incarceration could usage rates be compared to with respect to white vs. black? Simple possession perhaps, excluding other drug crimes?

  59. puck says:

    After sampling some of the data online from various sources, I realize it would clearly take too long to draw any conclusions unless I devoted serious time to it. I will say that it is important to get recent data and to take note of trends. Big factors appear to be employment, and crack vs. meth. Crack crimes are declining, and meth crimes are increasing, which correlate to black/white (without speculating on the reasons why).

    There is clearly a gross disparity in black vs. white incarceration rates for drug crimes. The disparity is decreasing but still very large. I feel it is important to break the data down into finer details; perhaps the book does that.

    I think when when some of us have been saying culture we really mean demographics, which is a less loaded word and is more objective, and is closer to what we intend to say.

  60. Liberal Laughs says:

    Why do back people vote for Democrats? All talk and bad actions against the people they supposedly want to help. That is the huge black white gap, 96% will vote for the ultimate trickster Obama.

  61. socialistic ben says:

    “Too bad you can’t grasp that. Because claiming that this thread is about BLACK PEOPLE means that you are claiming experience for a whole group of folks you don’t know.”

    so since you so love telling people what they REALLY mean, or because you interpret something some way means they were REALLY implying something, THAT statement above is the same as calling someone a racist. Making a broad generalization about an entire group of people is racist… i.e “you cant grasp that not all black people are the same” is calling them a racist. We don’t get to tell you what should or shouldn’t offend you as an African American Woman, you don’t get to tell other people what they should or shouldn’t consider a false charge of racism. play fair.

  62. socialistic ben says:

    I would love to have tis conversation again with the pretense that everyone involved gets to be considered non-hateful. if someone says something that you want to light your hair on fire over, consider it may be lost in the world of internet translation, or may be because we all dont have degrees in creative writing. I feel like someone, esspecially like me who has had limited higer education but is pretty smrat (teehee) may be taken the wrong way, simply because of how I say something….. so a question or comment that was not meant to offend and void of any shred of hate gets pounced on because i didnt phrase it the “correct” way.
    We all need to pull ourselves out of attack mode every once in a while.

  63. puck says:

    Ben, the way to do it over is to have ready access to the data.

  64. socialistic ben says:

    data is one thing, one’s analysis of the data is another. It is well known that this country imprisons black people at a much higher rate than other people. Does that mean that black people commit crime more? (NO IT DOES NOT…. that question was pure rhetoric and i don’t believe that anymore than i believe in scientology…. actually LESS than i believe in scientology…OK???? Im sorry for even asking in the non-serious rhetorical way that I did. ) Does it mean that our justice system is effectively racist? most likely…. is it because more people are arrested in urban areas where tens on decades of red-lining segregated populations? maybe….. But we need to be able to honestly ask questions and discuss ideas without the pretense that everyone is a scumbag out to get someone.