This is an older piece of mine that appeared on Daily Kos on Thursday December 29, 2011.
It's an important one because it destroys the argument you hear from some Obama supporters hoping to deflect the inhumane treatment of whistle blower Bradley Manning. They say that since African Americans in our prison system suffer torture and injustice in our prison industrial complex, then that means what is happening to Bradley Manning is not really an issue. Of course what they don't mention is that yes, African Americans have been and are indeed suffering atrocities in our prison industrial complex, yet they don't want to talk about President Obama continuing this trend and even making it worse even hiring a for profit private prison lobbyists in his Justice Department where some of the worst offenses happen making him involved in the state issue and federal issue.
You can see the failed deflections in the comments of that diary and how the truth about this really hit a nerve with some people, whether they claim to be a fake Marxist in a past life making their support of the PIC and neoliberalism OK now under Obama or not. The facts show that they don't really care about these issues when hoping to shield Obama from them in the case of Bradley Manning.
Part of the reason the Occupy movement exists and are out in the streets is because of the massive failures of this Democratic administration and a Democratic Congress. This can't be denied. However, because it can't be denied there are certain implications going around in their defense by those who are in denial about this. They imply that what’s going on with Bradley Manning’s confinement and his sham of a trial doesn't truly matter.
They imply Occupy protesters getting beaten, sprayed, and handcuffed until they get nerve damage doesn't matter because of the fact that African Americans and Latinos have been feeling the brunt of police brutality and a corrupt racist justice system for years. It is very true that African Americans and Latinos have felt the brunt of a corrupt racist justice system for years.
However, these injustices still matter regardless, because as MLK said, "A threat to justice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere" and that still holds true today. The issues the Occupy movement are fighting for affect all races, especially on income inequality and economic justice. That is an acknowledged fact that can't be denied.
Recently at a city council meeting in my home of Jersey City, a 46-year-old formerly incarcerated man told the council, as reported in the Jersey City Independent: "I've served 16 years in prison. I came home three years ago and tried everything possible you can do. I got my high school diploma and a driver's license...The job system failed me."
When I went to Occupy Wall Street, my friend carried a sign that read: "Troy Davis would still be alive if he had been rich and white." We had attended a protest earlier that month, when Davis was still alive, where signs and demonstrators proclaimed, "We are Troy Davis."
We are Troy Davis. We are the 99 percent.
It’s within the context of all of these implications being laid out in defense of the President's inaction on these issues where there is an astounding level of hypocrisy. All of these implications are just irrational reactions that always, not sometimes, always have to do with the criticisms of President Obama on these issues. It is so transparent that we need not pretend otherwise.
These are the facts concerning a major pillar that is actually behind the corrupt racist United States Justice system that Obama is enabling that some would rightly call an Injustice system. This is what a Drug War looks like.
This is the investigation cited in the video that outlines the damage of these perverse incentives that also come into play when it comes to a racist Justice system:
All of this is being continued by President Obama's administration; an administration that fully supports the Drug War and everything that comes with it.
And the statistics have not changed for the better since 2010.
California imprisons African-Americans for marijuana at 10 times the rate of other races. As of June 30, 2011, 1,325 inmates in California prisons were serving sentences for marijuana offenses, including 1,224 imprisoned in 2010, both decreases from the previous year. Marijuana offenders—costing an average of $45,800 per year to imprison and serving an average of 13 months behind bars—cost the state $60 million in 2011. More important than cost is equal justice. In a previous report, the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice (2010) found that California imprisoned African-Americans for marijuana offenses at 13 times the rate of Non-black offenders. CJCJ concluded that California’s criminal justice system can be divided into two categories with respect to marijuana: one system for African-Americans, another for all other races.
Compared to Non-blacks, California’s African-American population are 4 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana, 12 times more likely to be imprisoned for a marijuana felony arrest, and 3 times more likely to be imprisoned per marijuana possession arrest. Overall, as Figure 3 illustrates, these disparities accumulate to 10 times’ greater odds of an African-American being imprisoned for marijuana than other racial/ethnic groups.
So what's significant about California? This is significant in all states, but California(where police brutality is widely known especially since what has happened to Scott Olsen and a bunch of other protesters the Mayor of LA wanted to make an example out of by brutalizing them) is where this administration's stunning flip flop on not raiding medicinal marijuana dispensaries has severe damage. As thereisnospoon pointed out in his diary on the subject, there are no excuses either.
The question is why?
First, the Administration's defenders will have a very tough time with this one. It has nothing to do with campaign promises. In fact, the President promised to leave California alone on this issue. He's breaking that promise.
Nor can this one be blamed on Congress. While Congress could theoretically overturn the federal law (and one day, a more enlightened Congress will do just that), it's not as if there's a big Congressional push to make the Administration crack down on California. This is a purely executive decision. Local legislators aren't in favor of the crackdown, either:
The President's defenders can't explain these moves by using campaign pledges or legislative intransigence. This one is all on the President.
That is 100% correct. However, there are times I disagree with thereisnospoon and this part is 100% incorrect.
But the Administration's most severe critics have a difficult time with this as well.
Personal corruption can't really explain it. There's no pot of gold from interested industries waiting for politicians who crack down on marijuana. During the days of Reefer Madness it might have been a corporate control issue, but it's not really any longer. This tends to be a cultural touchstone rather than a corporate one.
First off, here is the pot of gold for interested industries waiting for politicians who crack down on marijuana that goes along with the Radley Balko article I already posted. This is what a Private For Profit Prison Industrial Complex looks like.
This is where President Obama's personal corruption on this issue comes in. There was a change.org petition for Obama to reject Stacia Hylton as a nominee to oversee the U.S. Marshals. Why?
The Obama Administration has nominated Stacia Hylton, who has strong ties to the private prison industry, to oversee the U.S. Marshals, which is responsible for awarding contracts to build federal prisons and house people incarcerated in them. Sen. Patrick Leahy has scheduled a hearing on her confirmation for the Senate Judiciary Committee on November 17th. If her nomination is approved, it would be a major blow to criminal justice reform.
While U.S. Federal Detention Trustee, Hylton awarded several multi-million dollar contracts to the GEO Group, the country's second largest private jailer. She also awarded Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), the largest U.S. private prison company, an $80 million contract for a 1,000+ bed prison in Nevada. When she retired as Trustee earlier this year, the President of CCA attended her retirement party.
And yet today Stacia A. Hylton presides in President Obama's Justice Department. Change you can believe in? Don't you think if one truly cares about the abuses of the Prison Industrial Complex and the racist corrupt Justice System that one criticize those with the most power to do something about it?
Unless you are demanding those in power to concede to actual Justice on these issues it doesn't matter how much one might pretend to care about these issues. You really don't if you refuse to criticize president Obama and Eric Holder while sniping at the Occupy movement because of anyones' flawed anecdotals on GAs and the Spokes council where all issues get a chance to be be heard however imperfect the system is. That's just an uncomfortable fact.
Here are some more uncomfortable facts about the Drug War across the entire United States.
Higher arrest and incarceration rates for African Americans and Latinos are not reflective of increased prevalence of drug use or sales in these communities, but rather of a law enforcement focus on urban areas, on lower-income communities and on communities of color as well as inequitable treatment by the criminal justice system.
African Americans comprise 14% of regular drug users, but are 37% of those arrested for drug offenses. African Americans serve almost as much time in federal prison for a drug offense as whites do for a violent offense.
And when the President gives meaningless lip service to these issues by appointing Gil Kerlikowske as a Drug Czar it just pours salt in the racist wound to America that is the Drug War.
While the Drug Czar's rhetoric is all about the need for a public health approach -- he even says we "can't arrest our way out of the drug problem" -- the reality is the drug war under Obama is as vicious and as racist as ever before. More than 1.6 million people were arrested last year on nonviolent drug charges, and the vast majority of these arrests were for low-level possession, not selling or trafficking. Almost half of these arrests -- 750,000 of them -- were for marijuana possession alone. While the Drug Czar talks about a "balanced" approach, the reality is that U.S. still spends two-thirds of the $50 billion-a-year "drug control" budget on enforcement, guns, jails and interdiction -- about the same proportion as under Bush and previous administrations. And, despite the new rhetoric about a "public health approach," the vast majority of people who have a drug problem still can't get treatment.
The reality is that despite the 40-year-old, $1 trillion drug war, our society is swimming in drugs. Though we urge people to be "drug free", we use caffeine to boost our energy, alcohol to celebrate and recreate, and prescription and over-the-counter drugs to modify our moods, lift us out of depression, and help us work, study and sleep. Yet only certain people and certain drugs are stigmatized, while others are normalized.
As Michele Alexander describes in her renowned book, The New Jim Crow, the war on drugs has had a devastating impact on African American communities, on a scale entirely out of proportion with the actual levels of criminal activity taking place within these communities. People of color are classified as "criminals," permanently trapping them in a second-class status and allowing a whole range of legal discrimination (in employment, housing, education, public benefits, voting rights, jury duty and so forth).
Current TV had an excellent documentary on the Stop and Frisk campaign.
Occupy Wall Street protesters were getting arrested for protesting this travesty of justice from day 1. That's called actually showing that you care about these real issues though actual sacrifice. When Occupy protesters are condescended to by "loyal to a fault line in our crumbling society" Democrats, this is where we have to look for as a response to these issues from the President.
That's right, pure disgusting immoral propaganda. So don't pretend you can take the helm of activist for issues that affect African Americans or anyone else if you don't criticize the president or Congress on this. Congress is run by an all white undemocratic unrepresentative millionaire's club. They kept it that way by keeping the filibuster because despite what you are told, they like it that way so they don't have to answer to you.
They think it's hilarious how you are all excited about the 2012 election while their pocketbooks grow every year. Now you could say these are third rail issues(but you don't mind the payroll tax cut that threatens SS putting it into the deficit debate politically) and that the end justifies the disproportionate incarceration if you want, but don't pretend the high horse you proclaim to brand has any merit whatsoever.
Occupy Wall Street FOREVER!