Wednesday, August 25, 2010

When Reporting Goes Wrong

Okay. For the record, I wasn't at the City Grill shootings or the Roxy's Bar attacks. But I do agree that residents of Buffalo, NY protesting the characterization of the City Grill shootings as gang violence have a point. You wanna make the point that a certain lifestyle involves risks? Okay, I guess. But do you really have to list the criminal records of shooting victims to make that point? Mmm . . . . probably, not. Especially when it seems your conclusions may be wrong. Especially since no one, least of all me, is suggesting that being gay may be a bad idea because you could die violently. And no one is suggesting that being gay may cause people to become violent, not even the defendant who's saying she was the victim of assault.

Nevertheless, I agree that something needs to be done to address violence in inner-city densely populated enclaves of high concentrations of poverty, and the media can help. First off,  since crime is down and you're giving a false impression of reality and a false and negative impression black people,
 you can stop talking about violence so much. Admitting a problem isn't the first step to a solution; admitting the truth about that problem is. And the truth here is that gang violence is a symptom of a larger, national dysfunction, not the problem in and of itself. If you must talk about gangs, then tell the truth, and for the love of all that's good and holy, stop glamorizing and romanticizing gang-life. At present, mainstream media is not better than, say for example, gangsta rap. The media, all media, tells children who they are and who they aren't.

And since we're on the subject, I have a few more suggestions:

1. One reason young people join gangs is for the money. Granted, it's not a lot - otherwise, they could afford to leave their momma's house - but it's more than they'd make otherwise. And if they survive and rise in the ranks, they can really make some money.

So one thing we can do is get Van Jones back in the administration to lead the effort to bring green jobs into urban areas.

2. Start investing in educating children in inner-cities rather than imprisoning them! From early-childhood through college, and repeal the drug provision of the higher education act. Look:
  • "A 2004 report by the Harvard Civil Rights Project found that in the Midwest, 46% of black children attend schools in urban areas which are 90 to 100% black. Of these children, 88% are from poor families. The HCRP report found that nationwide, America's schools spend an average of $1500.00 less per black student than they do on white students. Poor black students attending under-funded schools face decrepit buildings, archaic classroom materials, under-qualified teachers, over-crowding, and simplistic curriculum which emphasizes rote memory over the development of critical thinking skills. The end result statistically? While 91.8% of white students graduate from high school, blacks graduate at a rate of 83.7%. Of those black males who do drop out of high school, over half do prison time."
  • "Evaluating the return on investment, the High/Scope Perry researchers conclude that, 40 years after the preschool experience, the public gained $12.90 for every dollar spent on the program. Much of the savings came from dollars not spent on incarceration; there were also savings to the public in lower special education costs; taxes paid to public coffers because of higher earnings, and savings in public assistance costs. As to the benefit to the participants: program participants earned 14 percent more per person than they would have otherwise—$156,490 more over their lifetimes. The cost of the two-year program itself was $15,166 per child.18"

  • 3 - Yes, this means ending the "war on drugs," or more appropriately, the war on people of color:

  • "Although White youth sell and use drugs at the same or higher rates as youth of color,(1) Black and Latino youth are arrested, prosecuted and imprisoned at dramatically higher rates for drug crimes. In 1980, 14.5% of all juvenile drug arrests were Black youth; by 1990, Black youth constituted 48.8% of juvenile drug arrests.(2) A Black youth with a drug case is more than twice as likely to be held in police custody for a drug offense than a White youth.(3) While half of all drug arrests involving White youth result in formal processing, 75% of drug arrests involving Black youth are prosecuted.(4) Among young people incarcerated in juvenile facilities for the first time on a drug charge, the rate of commitment among Black youth is 48 times that of Whites, while the rate for Latino youth is 13 times that of Whites.(5) Black youth are three times more likely than White youth to be admitted to an adult prison for a drug conviction.(6) While the rate of young Whites being sent to prison for drug offenses from 1986-1996 doubled, the comparable Black rate increased six-fold.(7)"
  • In 1971, the US prison population was 200,000. Today it is 2.1 million. Half of the US prison population is black. While having only 5% of the world's overall population, the United States now harbors 25% of the incarcerated population of the world. 13% of prisoners worldwide are black Americans. 30% of black American men experience incarceration during their lifetime.
  • This also includes legalizing marijuana. Let's face it. Who's benefiting the most from criminalizing marijuana if not criminals? Right, gun-rights advocates? This "war" isn't even working - unless you believe, as I'm starting to wonder, that it's whole intent was to stifle dissent coming from people of color. After all, [t]he Civil Rights Movement represented a serious threat to the dominance of the wealthy, white patriarchy dominating the federal government. Naturally, they responded by imprisoning those challenging their stranglehold on power. In doing so, they employed the typical guile of the US government. The war on drugs.

    Not only is it costing an obscene amount of money (as of 2002, $40 billion per year and climbing); not only are there racial disparities and injustices throughout the criminal justice system, including but not limited to the remaining disparity in mandatory sentencing for convictions for crack cocaine and the powder form of the illegal drug; but in addition, it has dismantled the black family by impressing black men "en masse" and disproportionately disenfranchised black would-be voters."

    Not to mention Ronald Reagan's plan
    to attract poor and working class white voters who were resentful of, and threatened by, desegregation, busing, and affirmative action. In the words of H.R. Haldeman, President Richard Nixon’s White House Chief of Staff: “[T]he whole problem is really the blacks. The key is to devise a system that recognizes this while not appearing to.”
     The Reagan's declaration of war at a time when drug crime was declining (as it is now), his administration's Iran-Contra affair, and the "sudden" appearance of cocaine in black neighborhoods.

    So yeah. There's a lot we can do as a nation and that the media can do. But listing our the criminal records of people who've been killed is not one.

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    This isn't too complicated. If you disagree with me, I'm more than happy to have an honest discussion. I'm quite open to learning new facts and ideas. I'm dying for a conservative to explain their ideas in a sensible way.

    But, I do have rules, and they also apply to those who agree with me. They just get the benefit of my already knowing the fact they'll be referring to.

    So, here're the comment thread rules:

    1 - Use facts.
    2 - Refer to policy.
    3 - Don't rely on theories and conjectures. Show me how, for example, a public health insurance option will lead to "rationing" of health care.
    4 - No unfounded attacks on any entity.

    If you break those rules, I will edit your comment to my own whimsical satisfaction.

    Lastly, perhaps most importantly, I'm not going to entertain too much pro-white/racism-denying discussion. I want this to be a space to discuss strategies to fight racism, not space where I have to fight racism. I want anti-racists to be able to come here for a mental respite. If what you're interested in doing is attempting to demonstrate the fallacy of anti-racism by repeating the same ole comments and questions and accusations we hear all the time, please do that somewhere else.

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