ChickenBones: A Journal
for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes
The longer the sentence, the more likely it is that non-white people will be the ones
getting it. A July 2009 report by the Sentencing Project found that two-thirds
of the people in the US with life sentences are non-white. In New York, it is 83%.
Fourteen Examples of Systemic Racism
in the U.S. Criminal Justice System
By Bill Quigley
The criminal justice system, from start to finish, is seriously racist.
While African Americans comprise 13% of the US population and 14% of monthly drug users they are 37% of the people arrested for drug offenses.
The fundamental right to a lawyer does not exist in practice for countless people across the US.
The stigma of criminality functions in much the same way as Jim Crow.
The biggest crime in the U.S. criminal justice system is that it is a race-based institution where African-Americans are directly targeted and punished in a much more aggressive way than white people.
Saying the US criminal system is racist may be politically controversial in some circles. But the facts are overwhelming. No real debate about that. Below I set out numerous examples of these facts.
The question isare these facts the mistakes of an otherwise good system, or are they evidence that the racist criminal justice system is working exactly as intended? Is the US criminal justice system operated to marginalize and control millions of African Americans?
Information on race is available for each step of the criminal justice systemfrom the use of drugs, police stops, arrests, getting out on bail, legal representation, jury selection, trial, sentencing, prison, parole and freedom. Look what these facts show.
One. The US has seen a surge in arrests and putting people in jail over the last four decades. Most of the reason is the war on drugs. Yet whites and blacks engage in drug offenses, possession and sales, at roughly comparable ratesaccording to a report on race and drug enforcement published by Human Rights Watch in May 2008. While African Americans comprise 13% of the US population and 14% of monthly drug users they are 37% of the people arrested for drug offensesaccording to 2009 Congressional testimony by Marc Mauer of The Sentencing Project.
Two. The police stop blacks and Latinos at rates that are much higher than whites. In New York City, where people of color make up about half of the population, 80% of the NYPD stops were of blacks and Latinos. When whites were stopped, only 8% were frisked. When blacks and Latinos are stopped 85% were frisked according to information provided by the NYPD. The same is true most other places as well. In a California study, the ACLU found blacks are three times more likely to be stopped than whites.
Three. Since 1970, drug arrests have skyrocketed rising from 320,000 to close to 1.6 million according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics of the U.S. Department of Justice.
African Americans are arrested for drug offenses at rates 2 to 11 times higher than the rate for whitesaccording to a May 2009 report on disparity in drug arrests by Human Rights Watch.
Four. Once arrested, blacks are more likely to remain in prison awaiting trial than whites. For example, the New York state division of criminal justice did a 1995 review of disparities in processing felony arrests and found that in some parts of New York blacks are 33% more likely to be detained awaiting felony trials than whites facing felony trials.
Five. Once arrested, 80% of the people in the criminal justice system get a public defender for their lawyer. Race plays a big role here as well. Stop in any urban courtroom and look at the color of the people who are waiting for public defenders. Despite often heroic efforts by public defenders the system gives them much more work and much less money than the prosecution. The American Bar Association, not a radical bunch, reviewed the US public defender system in 2004 and concluded All too often, defendants plead guilty, even if they are innocent, without really understanding their legal rights or what is occurring The fundamental right to a lawyer that America assumes applies to everyone accused of criminal conduct effectively does not exist in practice for countless people across the US.
Six. African Americans are frequently illegally excluded from criminal jury service according to a June 2010 study released by the Equal Justice Initiative. For example in Houston County, Alabama, 8 out of 10 African Americans qualified for jury service have been struck by prosecutors from serving on death penalty cases.
Seven. Trials are rare. Only 3 to 5 percent of criminal cases go to trial the rest are plea bargained. Most African Americans defendants never get a trial. Most plea bargains consist of promise of a longer sentence if a person exercises their constitutional right to trial. As a result, people caught up in the system, as the American Bar Association points out, plead guilty even when innocent. Why? As one young man told me recently, Who wouldnt rather do three years for a crime they didnt commit than risk twenty-five years for a crime they didnt do?
Eight. The U.S. Sentencing Commission reported in March 2010 that in the federal system black offenders receive sentences that are 10% longer than white offenders for the same crimes. Marc Mauer of the Sentencing Project reports African Americans are 21% more likely to receive mandatory minimum sentences than white defendants and 20% more like to be sentenced to prison than white drug defendants.
Nine. The longer the sentence, the more likely it is that non-white people will be the ones getting it. A July 2009 report by the Sentencing Project found that two-thirds of the people in the US with life sentences are non-white. In New York, it is 83%.
Ten. As a result, African Americans, who are 13% of the population and 14% of drug users, are not only 37% of the people arrested for drugs but 56% of the people in state prisons for drug offenses. Marc Mauer May 2009 Congressional Testimony for The Sentencing Project.
Eleven. The US Bureau of Justice Statistics concludes that the chance of a black male born in 2001 of going to jail is 32% or 1 in three. Latino males have a 17% chance and white males have a 6% chance. Thus black boys are five times and Latino boys nearly three times as likely as white boys to go to jail.
Twelve. So, while African American juvenile youth is but 16% of the population, they are 28% of juvenile arrests, 37% of the youth in juvenile jails and 58% of the youth sent to adult prisons. 2009 Criminal Justice Primer, The Sentencing Project.
Thirteen. Remember that the US leads the world in putting our own people into jail and prison. The New York Times reported in 2008 that the US has five percent of the worlds population but a quarter of the worlds prisoners, over 2.3 million people behind bars, dwarfing other nations. The US rate of incarceration is five to eight times higher than other highly developed countries and black males are the largest percentage of inmates according to ABC News.
Most African Americans defendants never get a trial.
Fourteen. Even when released from prison, race continues to dominate. A study by Professor Devah Pager of the University of Wisconsin found that 17% of white job applicants with criminal records received call backs from employers while only 5% of black job applicants with criminal records received call backs. Race is so prominent in that study that whites with criminal records actually received better treatment than blacks without criminal records!
So, what conclusions do these facts lead to? The criminal justice system, from start to finish, is seriously racist.
Professor Michelle Alexander concludes that it is no coincidence that the criminal justice system ramped up its processing of African Americans just as the Jim Crow laws enforced since the age of slavery ended. Her book, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness sees these facts as evidence of the new way the US has decided to control African Americansa racialized system of social control. The stigma of criminality functions in much the same way as Jim Crowcreating legal boundaries between them and us, allowing legal discrimination against them, removing the right to vote from millions, and essentially warehousing a disposable population of unwanted people. She calls it a new caste system.
Poor whites and people of other ethnicity are also subjected to this system of social control. Because if poor whites or others get out of line, they will be given the worst possible treatment, they will be treated just like poor blacks.
Other critics like Professor Dylan Rodriguez see the criminal justice system as a key part of what he calls the domestic war on the marginalized. Because of globalization, he argues in his book Forced Passages, there is an excess of people in the US and elsewhere. These people, whether they are in Guantanamo or Abu Ghraib or US jails and prisons, are not productive, are not needed, are not wanted and are not really entitled to the same human rights as the productive ones. They must be controlled and dominated for the safety of the productive. They must be intimidated into accepting their inferiority or they must be removed from the society of the productive.
This domestic war relies on the same technology that the US uses internationally. More and more we see the militarization of this countrys police. Likewise, the goals of the US justice system are the same as the US war on terrordomination and control by capture, immobilization, punishment and liquidation.
What to do?
Martin Luther King Jr., said we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values.
A radical approach to the US criminal justice system means we must go to the root of the problem. Not reform. Not better beds in better prisons. We are not called to only trim the leaves or prune the branches, but rip up this unjust system by its roots.
We are all entitled to safety. That is a human right everyone has a right to expect. But do we really think that continuing with a deeply racist system leading the world in incarcerating our children is making us safer?
It is time for every person interested in justice and safety to join in and dismantle this racist system. Should the US decriminalize drugs like marijuana? Should prisons be abolished? Should we expand the use of restorative justice? Can we create fair educational, medical, and employment systems? All these questions and many more have to be seriously explored.
Join a group like INCITE, Critical Resistance, the Center for Community Alternatives, Thousand Kites, or the California Prison Moratorium and work on it. As Professor Alexander says Nothing short of a major social movement can dismantle this new caste system.
Bill Quigley is Legal Director of the Center for Constitutional Rights and a law professor at Loyola University New Orleans. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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The Recurring Racial Nightmare, The Cyclical Rebirth of Caste
by Michelle Alexander
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Basil Davidson’s “Africa Series”
By Marcus Rediker
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By Basil Davidson
This book is excellent as an introduction to West African history. It begins with a brief overview of region’s history from earliest times but the focus of the book is on the thousand years between the 9th and the 19th centuries A.D. Comprehensive overviews of the political histories of both well and little known West African states and cities are recounted. These include the histories of the empires of Ghana, Mali, Songhay, Kanem-Bornu, Oyo, Benin, Dahomey and Asante. Accounts of several other smaller states are also detailed such as the Hausa city states, the Wollof kingdom, the Bambara states, the Niger Delta trading states, the Fulani states of Futa Jallon and Futa Toro, the important cities of Timbuktu, Jenne and Gao and several others.
Apart from these political histories, Davidson also provides an insight into the social fabric of West Africa, especially at the dawn of the 17th century. He describes economic features (like trade items, routes, currencies etc), religion, arts and learning in the region, social stratification and dominant trends. These provide the reader with a real “feel” of the society at that time. Like all of Davidson’s writings on this subject matter, this book dispels the myth that Africa had no history or civilization before contact with Europe. It is clear, concise and very easy to read. D. E. Chukwumerije
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By Basil Davidson
The best general acount of the Atlantic slave trade. It is the story of one of the most enormous crimes in all human history. Basil Davidson states that by examining three important areas of Africa in the history of slavery ‘against a general background of their time and circumstance’ he was taking ‘a fresh look at the oversea slave trade, the steady year-by-year export of African laborr to the West Indies and the Americas that marked the greatest and most fateful migrationforced migrationin the history of man. This book is about the course and consequences of this long African-European connection that endured from the fifteenth century to the nineteenth. It makes an answer to three vital questions: What kind of contact was this with Europe and America? How did the experience affect Africa? Why did it end in colonial invasion and conquest?
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you just dreamed of white girls in the cotton patch
wanted masta’s daughter but knew he would lynch yo ass
so you waited til you got up south
got smart read two books on whiteness and crossed over jordan (Marvin X)
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Dear Mr. Lewis, I’m writing for a friend who is currently in possession of a very old postcard picturing 3 very well dressed black men who, unfortunately, have been hung. Doing research on Ida B. Well-Barnett I’ve found a story on three such men in Memphis on the date March 9, 1892. Handwritten in ink on the card is a date that seems to be 9/9/1892 but because of the age of the card the first 9 is a little intelligible. Is it possible that this incident could have been made a post card? I’ve never encountered anything quite like this before. Frank (4 May 2007)
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August 7, 2010
Eighty years ago, two young African-American men, Thomas Shipp and Abram Smith, were lynched in the town center of Marion, Indiana. . . . Local photographer Lawrence Beitler took what would become the most iconic photograph of lynching in America. The photograph shows two bodies hanging from a tree surrounded by a crowd of ordinary citizens, including women and children. Thousands of copies were made and sold. The photograph helped inspire the poem and song Strange Fruit written by Abel Meeropoland performed around the world by Billie Holiday.
But there was a third person, 16-year-old James Cameron, who narrowly survived the lynching.
“After 15 or 20 minutes of having their pictures taken and everything, they came back to get me. . . And I looked over to the faces of the people as they were beating me along the way to the tree. I was pleading for some kind of mercy, looking for a kind face. But I could find none. . . . And that’s when I prayed to God. I said, ‘Lord have mercy, forgive me my sins.’ I was ready to die.” NPR NPR Transcript
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This video chronicles the life and times of the noted African-American historian, scholar and Pan-African activist John Henrik Clarke (1915-1998). Both a biography of Clarke himself and an overview of 5,000 years of African history, the film offers a provocative look at the past through the eyes of a leading proponent of an Afrocentric view of history. From ancient Egypt and Africas other great empires, Clarke moves through Mediterranean borrowings, the Atlantic slave trade, European colonization, the development of the Pan-African movement, and present-day African-American history.
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#1 – Justify My Thug by Wahida Clark #2 – Flyy Girl by Omar Tyree #3 – Head Bangers: An APF Sexcapade by Zane #4 – Life Is Short But Wide by J. California Cooper #5 – Stackin’ Paper 2 Genesis’ Payback by Joy King #6 – Thug Lovin’ (Thug 4) by Wahida Clark #7 – When I Get Where I’m Going by Cheryl Robinson #8 – Casting the First Stone by Kimberla Lawson Roby #9 – The Sex Chronicles: Shattering the Myth by Zane
#10 – Covenant: A Thriller by Brandon Massey
#11 – Diary Of A Street Diva by Ashley and JaQuavis
#12 – Don’t Ever Tell by Brandon Massey
#13 – For colored girls who have considered suicide by Ntozake Shange
#14 – For the Love of Money : A Novel by Omar Tyree
#15 – Homemade Loves by J. California Cooper
#16 – The Future Has a Past: Stories by J. California Cooper
#17 – Player Haters by Carl Weber
#18 – Purple Panties: An Eroticanoir.com Anthology by Sidney Molare
#19 – Stackin’ Paper by Joy King
#20 – Children of the Street: An Inspector Darko Dawson Mystery by Kwei Quartey
#21 – The Upper Room by Mary Monroe
#22 Thug Matrimony by Wahida Clark
#23 – Thugs And The Women Who Love Them by Wahida Clark
#24 – Married Men by Carl Weber
#25 – I Dreamt I Was in Heaven – The Rampage of the Rufus Buck Gang by Leonce Gaiter
#1 – Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention by Manning Marable #2 – Confessions of a Video Vixen by Karrine Steffans #3 – Dear G-Spot: Straight Talk About Sex and Love by Zane #4 – Letters to a Young Brother: MANifest Your Destiny by Hill Harper #5 – Peace from Broken Pieces: How to Get Through What You’re Going Through by Iyanla Vanzant #6 – Selected Writings and Speeches of Marcus Garvey by Marcus Garvey #7 – The Ebony Cookbook: A Date with a Dish by Freda DeKnight #8 – The Isis Papers: The Keys to the Colors by Frances Cress Welsing #9 – The Mis-Education of the Negro by Carter Godwin Woodson
#10 – John Henrik Clarke and the Power of Africana History by Ahati N. N. Toure
#11 – Fail Up: 20 Lessons on Building Success from Failure by Tavis Smiley
#12 –The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander
#13 – The Black Male Handbook: A Blueprint for Life by Kevin Powell
#14 – The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates by Wes Moore
#15 – Why Men Fear Marriage: The Surprising Truth Behind Why So Many Men Can’t Commit by RM Johnson
#16 – Black Titan: A.G. Gaston and the Making of a Black American Millionaire by Carol Jenkins
#17 – Brainwashed: Challenging the Myth of Black Inferiority by Tom Burrell
#18 – A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose by Eckhart Tolle
#19 – John Oliver Killens: A Life of Black Literary Activism by Keith Gilyard
#20 – Alain L. Locke: The Biography of a Philosopher by Leonard Harris
#21 – Age Ain’t Nothing but a Number: Black Women Explore Midlife by Carleen Brice
#22 – 2012 Guide to Literary Agents by Chuck Sambuchino #23 – Chicken Soup for the Prisoner’s Soul by Tom Lagana #24 – 101 Things Every Boy/Young Man of Color Should Know by LaMarr Darnell Shields
#25 – Beyond the Black Lady: Sexuality and the New African American Middle Class by Lisa B. Thompson
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By Ian Gibson
In his detailed and excellent book on Dali, Ian Gibson has documented Dalis identification with fascism in Spain from the very beginning. During the civil war, Dali never came out in support of the Republic. He did not collaborate, for example, in the Paris Fair in 1937, where Picasso presented his Guernica, aimed at raising funds for the Republican cause. And he soon made explicit his sympathies for the fascist coup of 1936 and for the dictatorship that it established in a letter to Buñuel, a well-known filmmaker in Spain. He made explicit and known his admiration for the figure and writing of the founder of the Spanish fascist party (La Falange), José Antonio Primo de Rivera, and used in his speeches and writings the fascist narrative and expressions (such as the fascist call Arriba España), referring to the special role Spain had in promoting the imperial dreams over other nations. He sympathized with the anti-Semitic views of Hitler and celebrated Francos alliance with Hitler and Mussolini against France, Great Britain and the United States.
He also welcomed the solution to the national problem in vogue in Nazi and fascist circles at that time.Dali became the major defender of the Franco dictatorship in the artistic world. He was also, as Spanish fascism was, very close to the Church and to the Vatican of Pope Pius XII, indicating that modern art needed to be based on Christianity. His loyalty to the fascist dictatorship continued to the very end, defending the state terrorist policies that included political assassinations, even in the last moments of that dictatorship.counterpunch
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By John Dramani Mahama
Though the colonies of sub-Saharan Africa began to claim independence in the late 1950s and 60s, autocratic and capricious leadership soon caused initial hope to fade, and Africa descended into its lost decades, a period of stagnation and despondency from which much of the continent has yet to recover. Mahama, vice president of the Republic of Ghana, grew up alongside his nascent country and experienced this roller-coaster of fortunes. In this memoir, Mahama, the son of a member of parliament, recounts how affairs of state became real in his young mind on the day in 1966 when no one came to collect him from boarding schoolthe government had been overthrown, his father arrested, and his house confiscated. In fluid, unpretentious style, Mahama unspools Ghanas recent history via entertaining and enlightening personal anecdotes: spying on his uncle impersonating a deity in order to cajole offerings of soup from the villagers hints at the power of religion; discussions with his schoolmates about confronting a bully form the nucleus of his political awakening.
As he writes: The key to Africas survival has always been . . . in the story of its people, the paradoxical simplicity and complexity of our lives. The book draws to a close as the authors professional life begins. Publishers Weekly
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From The World and Africa, 1965
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posted 10 August 2010