Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Black America: We Have a Problem!

By Tyra C. Cohen

The media will have you believe the biggest post Black history month news is Martha Stewart’s departure from “Camp Cupcake” (Alderson Federal Prison Camp) after serving five months for what is coined a “white collar crime”. Alderson Federal Prison Camp has no metal fences surrounding the camp because most of the inmates are supposedly convicted of non-violent crimes. Inmates Sarah Jane Moore on September 22, 1975 and Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme on August 22, 1975 tried to assassinate President Gerald Ford. Another notable inmate Jazz great Billie Holiday who in 1959 was arrested for Heroin addiction, an illness not a crime.

44% of all prisoners in the United States are black. The incarcerated populations have quadrupled since 1980 and guess what not because of violent crimes but because of the war on drugs or more particularly black drug users. African Americans are arrested, prosecuted and imprisoned for drug offenses at far higher rates than whites. Blacks constitute 63 percent of all offenders admitted to state prisons. The explosion in the prison populations has largely taken place under your beloved Clinton administration. While Clinton and the Republican Congress have gutted spending for welfare and social programs, they have poured billions into hiring more police, and building more prisons and boot camps. We live in a country that holds itself out as the “land of freedom” yet incarcerates a higher percentage of its people than any other country. The absolute level of black incarceration should be cause for national concern.

Health Crisis
African-American youth are disproportionately affected by HIV/AIDS. Race and ethnicity are not risk factors but are risk markers that correlate with fundamental determinants of health such as poverty and limited access to quality health care. HIV/AIDS is the number one killer among African Americans ages 25-44. Don’t relax yet, the prevalence of HIV infection in people over the age of 50 years is growing. The number of AIDS cases reported in adults 50 years and over quintupled between 1990 and 2001 from 16,288 to 90,513.Yet one of the first things President Bush did after inauguration 2001 was attempt to close the Office of National AIDS Policy. HIV/AIDS epidemic is a health crisis for African Americans, yet we are blinded by the smokescreen called down-low. What is the definition of Down-Low? Does anybody know? New Jersey Governor McGreevey publicly admitted to “an adult consensual affair with another man.” J.L. King down-low poster boy and author of Living on the Down-Low says he was married and having adult consensual sex with other men. These are stories of sex, lies and just plain old cheating. It’s about dealing with critical, uncomfortable conversations about sexuality. White men are on the “down low” obviously and we live in a country that has far more white men than black men, so it stands to reason that there are far more white men on the down low. Why aren’t more white women being infected with HIV? We have a problem when we become so unconsciously entrenched in the media hype that we blame an entire epidemic on black men along with the victimization of black women. The real down low is the correlation between the rise in the prison population of African American men and the increase risk of leaving the prison with HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C and or tuberculosis. Incarcerated persons have a disproportionate burden of infectious disease.

Education is the only respectable catalyst for economic and social improvement. Now 50 years after Brown versus Board of Education we are in an ample position to historically analyze just what integration has done for the education of black students. We have a problem when the number of Americans living in poverty grew from 34.5 million in 2002 to 35.8 million in 2003, while the most affluent fifth of the population received half of all household income and the poorest fifth received only 3.5 percent. Nearly 1 in 4 African Americans live in poverty.

Supreme Court Justices have the power to influence every factor of our lives with their decisions as the highest court in the United States -- from the right to privacy to the right to free speech. Supreme Court decisions affect every law in the nation, and Supreme Court Justices serve lifetime appointments. Now with that in mind understand there is an opportunity during President Bush’s tenure to appoint potentially two Supreme Court nominees. Rumor, also known as the media has it that 80 year old Chief Justice William Rehnquist and 74 year old Sandra Day O’Connor may step down off the lifetime appointment on the Supreme Court. This will give Bush the opportunity to change the overall orientation of the Supreme Court. Sandra Day O’Connor is the first woman appointed to Supreme Court, O’Connor has become one the most watched justices on the Court because she is known as the swing vote. One of the short list nominees is John Roberts. John Roberts clerked for the current Chief Justice Rehnquist, and was nominated in 1992 by Senior Bush but the nomination lapsed before it could be considered. Yet John Roberts was appointed in 2003 to U.S. appeals court in Washington, DC by President G.W. Bush. John Roberts has a record of hostility to the rights of women and minorities. He supported a hard-line anti-civil rights policy that opposed affirmative action, which would have made it impossible for minorities to prove a violation of the Voting Rights Act. He also took anti-choice positions in two Supreme Court cases.

African Americans must be revolutionary enough to know what time it is in history and do something about that. It is time in our history to turn inward as strategic planners. We cannot forget that former President Bill Clinton left a legacy in the prison system during his eight years in office that was more punitive than both of his Republican predecessors Reagan and Bush. In the last two decades the rate of Black incarceration more than tripled. The Reagan Administration gave us the Contras, drug for arms scandal and the surge of crack cocaine. While the Contra’s war is barely a memory today, black America is still dealing with its poisonous side effects. Urban neighborhoods are grappling with legions of homeless crack addicts. Thousands of young black men are serving long prison sentences for selling cocaine-a drug that was virtually unobtainable in black neighborhoods before members of the CIA's army started bringing it into South-Central in the 1980s at bargain-basement prices. Cocaine, typically referred to as a white, middle-class drug, users receive lighter sentences than crack users. Crack is seen as a poor, Black drug. It takes 100 times more powdered cocaine to land you in jail than crack. Suppressing the Black vote is also achieved by disenfranchising incarcerated Black men. The best way you can destroy a people is to take away their ability to reproduce themselves. We have a problem.

African Americans must vote! We must vote because we need political rights and economic security. Out of the entire population of black-America, half of them are registered voters and 90 percent of those voted for the Democratic Party. Some African Americans have accused the Democratic Party of practicing "plantation politics." They say that although blacks repeatedly are depended on to keep the party in elected office, African Americans often are overlooked for key leadership posts. President Bush courted the Hispanic vote in the last election to the tune of an election year proposal that would grant immigrants legal status and release the threat of deportation. According to the last census report Hispanics are the largest minority. Democrats and Republicans, aware of the surge, have placed increased emphasis on attracting Hispanic voters.
Many young black voters are disenchanted with black leadership as well as the Democratic Party. Most aren't out to join the GOP, but they are more independent in their thinking and in their politics. There was a significant increase in those calling themselves independents, especially between the ages of 26 and 35. We need progressive independent political organizing that involves having goals that extend into the next millennium. Politicians are well aware of the correlation between the likelihood of voting and economic and educational background. All politics is local, so it is time that we take the necessary steps to control and fix what is going on where we live, instead of neglecting neighborhoods in order to rush to the aid of our friends across town; or worse waiting for help to come to us. Democrats take the black vote for granted and Republicans don’t need African Americans to win. Let’s join the 35% of Americans who identify as Political Independents. It’s the only way to Political Freedom.

Tyra can be reached at:


Libertas said...

Amen Tyra! And why don't we hear more frank talk like this from leadership?

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Stephen Frazier said...

The problem the Black America has is that we spend too much time believing crap like " The CIA brought cocaine to the black community". OK, if such a thing actually happened, who was it that FORCED the brother to use the stuff?

The federal government also brought BOOKS and LIBRARIES into the hood but I don't know of any addiction to EDUCATION.

This reminds me of the black woman who wrote in the USA Today years ago that she has seven children at age 29 because RONALD REAGAN's program cuts wouldn't let her get her tubes tied.

Our "problem", in my opinion, is that we spend 23 hours of every day pointing fingers and blaming others for our problems, fifty minutes trying to find the REAL reason for our problems and ten minutes trying to solve them ourselves.

John Lewis Mealer said...

We need to work together on making America stronger. We can and will lead the world in wealth and health again. Take a look at McCain's 3R Economic Plan and let's get to it!
John Lewis Mealer

Abbreviated version

Progressive Candidate John McCain comes through for America with his 3R economic plan.
In the persona of Theodore Roosevelt, McCain’s plan just makes sense.

1. RETHINK: America must rethink the global views on what America is capable of in our current state of technology, engineering and the demands that face the world.

“RE-Think” the basic job goals involve the dwindling retirement, health care and social security plans that are failing Americans. With a strong base and a higher Gross Domestic Product (GDP) America has a new bargaining chip in the way we live and the ways we retire.

The framework is already in place through existing laws to make this happen. The Progressive attitude of John McCain to get things done by crossing party lines will resurrect America.

2. REFORM: America must rise to these demands and compete aggressively in a global economy. American people must demand higher quality products and less restricted trade routes for Made in USA components.

The USA will reform its dead manufacturing base to create the most innovative and green-engineered products possible. We will compete in a world market along with other high quality products. Once again, the world needs American success in these new ways of manufacturing.

3. REINVENT: America and Americans must reinvent themselves to reach and maintain these standards and by sheer American ingenuity, control the world’s marketplace in the competitive manner, as we have always been proud to be #1. Can you hear Theodore Roosevelt shouting this?

Americans are going back to a 3R-schooling program where they are paid to reinvent their skills and learn new skills to design and lead their personal LLC, Corporation or joint venture company. That’s easy enough to comprehend and just as easy to implement. The 3R plan is designed as a six-month rapid advancement system. Graduates may return for additional skill enhancements from time to time, or step up after new advanced training in executive management.

NUTS AND BOLTS of the plan are simple.

Green Engineering firms with actual answers to viable fossil fuel free transportation and climate control for homes and office have products that will save end users billions per year have finally realized why these ideas have always been avoided. Billions of savings equates to millions of lost tax revenue from energy companies.

Here is the John McCain 3R solution.

McCain’s 3R is about technical, closely monitored and rapid hands on training from pros to create new pros. Thousands of currently-job-displaced “once leaders in the manufacturing arena” will be asked to train and play instructor rolls in the 3R plan. Paid, of course, as these new leaders will help create a whole new style of prosperous America.

A new guard for Social Security.

While manufacturing is a very important part of this plan, thousands of new businesses must to be created to meet the new surge of 3R manufacturing industries to create a new era of prosperous Americans.

Initial estimates of 1 in 5 students will begin his or her own company and drive even more Americans into a viable lifestyle with real jobs, real benefits and a retirement to look forward to.

All of this can be done without costing taxpayers (or the government) additional funds. America has the means to follow through with John McCain’s 3R plan, ready and in place across the USA. The buildings we need sit vacant for the most part. By assuming leases on abandoned stores and factories across America with MC-3R schools and mini-manufacturing training centers, the USA made products can be sold and support the stores. Building owners write off the loss in taxes over a few years if they donate the space!

This is the new place for financial speculators to invest!

The speculators who first drove the economy with mortgage investments and most recently with crude oil investments have a better arena for their investments. America as nation of industrious individuals who want to work and want to succeed will make them huge profits. The supply of eager Americans with ideas and dreams to prosper is limitless.

Although the thousands of new businesses manufacturing USA Made products is exciting enough, the real excitement comes from the massive amount of additional jobs that will be created to provide the new housing, new buildings, new parks, shopping, grocery stores, schools, government outlets and so much more.

McCain’s Progressive nature embodies Theodore Roosevelt more than any US presidential candidate in history since the original Rough Rider blazed the greatest era of growth in America.

We need John McCain to lead our nation with the same type of change.