What The Sentencing Project Data Regarding Black Male Incarceration Really Means to Black America

I guess that the history of humanity definitively proves that it is possible to get used to anything. I am quite confident that I am not alone in being able to state that if you are not careful about what and who you allow into your life, you will find yourself rationalizing your adoption of their value system and often doing things that you could have never imagined. Put simply, if we do not carefully monitor outside influences, we will invariably find ourselves becoming the monsters that we should be working against. I am confident that you understand that in this nation, the number one priority of these “monster men” is the destruction of Black America.

At the beginning of each semester, I introduce myself to a new class of students by informing them that I am from Mansfield, Ohio, a quaint little town whose income relied on a General Motors factory, Detroit-Empire Steel, and the Mansfield Reformatory.

Of course, my relatively simple description fails to tell my young charges anything about my origins. Hence, I always follow this basic information with the following question, “Have ever seen The Shawshank Redemption?” Most share that they have indeed seen the Hollywood classic, I then inform them that the prison used in that film is the Mansfield Reformatory. “I am from a prison community.” Most are shocked to learn that I have been inside that facility hundreds of times. It was a family tradition that we would go and visit uncles who have for one reason or another found themselves on the wrong side of the law. Although many of you will find this strange, however, these Saturday visits were a routine aspect of what we did as a family every weekend.

One of the more interesting aspects of being African-American and working-class in America is the realization that whatever negativity or misfortune that may befall you and/or your family, you are not alone as others around you are most certainly going through something similar. This early childhood lesson removed all of the shame of going to visit incarcerated loved ones. We were not alone in this Saturday ritual that allowed my grandmother to have contact, although limited and fleeting, with her sons, my beloved uncles who I still admired and aspired to be like despite their present status.

A recently released report by The Sentencing Project verifies what my family always knew; we were far from being alone in having beloved family members locked away in some penitentiary. In fact, things have grown much worse since I first began visiting my uncles at the Mansfield Reformatory. Although I am neither shocked nor surprised by recent figures shared by The Sentencing Project, it is still a bit sobering to learn that there are 2,200,000 (2.2 million) people locked away in American prisons as of 2015. This shocking number translates into an incredible 500% increase in Americans incarcerated today versus forty-years ago.

As with most things in America, when it comes to negativity, African-American men invariably receive more than their fair share of misery and discord. The Sentencing Project indicates that African-American men are six times as likely as their white counterparts to be incarcerated. In fact, for African-American males in their 30s, 10% of them are incarcerated at some level every single day.

One does not need to look far into the data provided by The Sentencing Project to understand that the mass incarceration of black men flows from what could be appropriately termed “the perfect storm.” Consider for a moment that far too many African-American males are entrapped in impoverished community whose hallmark are inferior schools, unfortunately an increase in education is the only path to not only economic stability/success, but also the access to money via means that society has deemed legitimate and therefore do not open one up to incarceration are one of the crucial elements to black males being able to provide for those that Black America consider their responsibility (wife, children, extended family). Make no mistake about it, the vast majority of black men who are incarcerated are not doing sentences derived from a violent crime, we are disproportionately incarcerated due to a property crime. In other words, our marginalized economic posture has forced many of our kind to resort to pursuing financial resources “by any means necessary.”

There is little room to argue against the harsh reality that the negative viewpoint that society holds for black men greatly affects how they are treated in the criminal justice system. One needs to look no further than the recent outcry of significant segments of the nation regarding the Opioid crisis and how it has been generally agreed that treatment, not mandatory incarceration, is the far better way for us to deal with this proliferation of white and non-poor drug users. When compared to this societal decision to handle Opioid abusers with ‘kid gloves’ and send them to treatment instead of a jail cell, the mass incarceration of African-American men is even more revealing regarding the disregard that this nation holds for black males. It is obvious that the powerbrokers and decision-makers who have decided how this nation will deal with crime have a stern unchanging message for black males, if you are caught committing any crime, you are going to jail for a very long time. Although this message is daunting, disappointing, and destructive to black families, it nevertheless is true and stands as one of America’s most telling positions regarding black men in “the land of the thief and home of the slave.”

Dr. James Thomas Jones III

© Manhood, Race, and Culture, 2017

IF ONLY BLACK MEN COULD BECOME WHITE WOMEN, THEIR ALLEGATIONS REGARDING POLICE MISCONDUCT WOULD SURELY BE BELIEVED

One of the more amazing issues revolving around the numerous women who have publicly charged a series of powerful men with diabolical acts of sexual violence is the willingness of a sympathetic public to lean toward believing the shocking, almost incredulous allegations. Although you can most certainly count me in that number that believes the alluded to allegations that reveal the horrors these women have experienced at the hand of powerful men, it is somewhat frightening that such allegations are akin to unflappable evidence that is not to be questioned.

Oh, how I wish that African-American men had it so easy.

Although the above assertion flows from a host of events, at this present moment the recent conviction and sentencing of Michael Slager, a disgraced North Charleston, South Carolina, police officer who a federal judge sentenced to 20 years in prison for a crime committed on April 4, 2015 is most prominently on my mind.

In the alluded to case, Judge David Norton ultimately considered Slager’s shooting of an unarmed fleeing Walter Scott a case of second-degree murder, not a lesser crime of voluntary manslaughter. Evidence presented at the trial proved that Slager fired his weapon 8 times at the fleeing and defenseless Scott, 5 of those salvos entered the victim’s body. During the sentencing, Judge Norton related that his sentencing was partially driven by the fact that Slager obstructed justice by issuing inaccurate statements to fellow law enforcement officers regarding the murder.

One is hard-pressed to find any reasonable defense for Slager whose interactions with the now deceased Scott began with him pulling the victim’s vehicle over for a broken rear brake light. If the threshold for proving one’s case were the same for African-American men as it is for the series of women who have come forth and issued shocking sexual allegations, the killing of Walter Scott would have been an open and shut case. However, as any member of Black America will tell you, things are never that easy when it comes to America and black men. Hence, I was not surprised when those who prosecuted the case related that if there had been no video evidence of the murder, charges would have never been filed against the now disgraced officer.

Unlike the series of women who have emerged and had their allegations of sexual impropriety against powerful men believed prior to verification, the threshold African-Americans in general, black males in particular, must meet when issuing any charges against “law enforcement officers” is unconscionably high. In fact, there have been many occasions where the presence of video footage of officers shooting down an unarmed and defenseless black man failed to meet that threshold.

Although it could be argued that the conviction of Michael Slager for 2nd Degree Murder is a step in the right direction, in actuality this conviction brings neither justice nor solace for Walter Scott’s loved ones. Justice would only begin at the moment that Walter Scott emerges from the grave and Slager takes his place, anything short of that is a far-cry from justice.

Unfortunately for black men, they remain the prey of rogue law enforcement officers and undervalued by an American populace who discount even video evidence regarding the misconduct of law enforcement officers. One would be hard-pressed to find a single African-American man who believes that such maligning and mistrust of the American public regarding black men is a fixture of this nation that has no expiration date. That’s just the way that it is in “the land of the free and the home of the brave.”

Dr. James Thomas Jones III

© Manhood, Race, and Culture, 2017

Why a Relevant Education is the Most Critical Element Missing in the Liberation of Black America

One of my favorite Malcolm X quotes is “only a fool would let his enemy teach his children.” The power of this quote is two-fold, one the one hand it is simple, yet on the other hand, it communicates a multi-layered analysis of the very foundations of Black America’s primary problem. Anyone who has ever listened to Brother Malcolm knows very well that his oratorical style forced our people to take a serious look at themselves. Malcolm knew very well that if our people performed an honest introspection of their everyday behavior and decisions, even they would see that their foolish actions and decision-making process play a significant role in matters of nation building and racial uplift.

Considering the indispensability of education in both the analysis of our historic racial problems and the development of much-needed plans to address those issues, it has always puzzled me that education is not considered the foundational cornerstone to nation-building. Unfortunately for Black America, our people frequently ignore the supreme utility of education. Although many of my Black Nationalist peers will question the following assertion, neither political matters nor economic strategies supersede the supreme importance of education to black liberation. It is via education that we are able to illuminate all other issues such as the politico-economic misery that our people have endeared for centuries. I long ago realized that everything and I do mean everything, I do or say pivots directly off of my exposure to ideas, thoughts, and concepts learned via some educational endeavor.

There is little room for a reasonable debate against the fact that we each entered this world knowing nothing. Everything that we know, or better yet think that we know, was learned through observation or instruction. Make no mistake about it, a relevant education is the difference-maker between an individual wandering through life seeking purpose and a person who wisely decided to by-pass meaningless employment opportunities granted from a hostile white community and decided to embrace entrepreneurship with the intention of servicing and employing their own people. The Black Panther Party for Self-Defense’s Ten Point Platform and Program beautifully articulates the utility of a relevant education for Black America.

We Want Education For Our People That Exposes The True Nature Of This Decadent American Society. We Want Education That Teaches Us Our True History And Our Role In The Present-Day Society.

We believe in an educational system that will give to our people a knowledge of self. If a man does not have knowledge of himself and his position in society and the world, then he has little chance to relate to anything else.

A relevant education is a lynchpin between an individual who spends life aimlessly searching for where they fit in and a politicized individual who understands his indispensability to develop the politico-economic base that his people’s interests rest upon.

If we were to reverse Malcolm X’s assertion that “only a fool would allow his enemy to educate his children”, it would read, a wise man teaches his own children the past, present, and future direction of his people.

History indicates that the primary utility of a relevant education for Black America is found in its ability to generate solidarity and like-mindedness. One must remember that such matters are supremely important to African-Americans as many of us do not even agree on the ultimate goal of black liberation, let alone an appropriate path to reach that destination.

The historical record of any people that have successfully escaped the shackle of tyranny displays that group uplift follows solidarity of thought. Despite what many may wish for, the alluded to solidarity of thought does not miraculously appear, it is manufactured via educational institutions and social, economic, political, and cultural mandates. Consider for a moment that it is not accidental that the vast majority of students who emerge from the University of Notre Dame are pro-life as the school’s curriculum shapes their thinking in that regard. Nor is it accidental that the foremost issue on the agenda of Jews is the protection and sovereignty of Israel; every portion of that community’s socialization process is aimed at impressing upon succeeding generations that until Israel is free, they will never be free.

A similar teaching was advanced by the great historian John Henrik Clarke who admonished persons of African descent strewn throughout the West that “until Africa is free, you will never be free.” Unfortunately for persons of African descent, such teachings have failed to take hold as we have yet to develop an educational mechanism that convinces our people that such a worldview is the only reasonable one.

Any “leader” interested in the liberation of his/her people realize that their ability to manufacture consent is crucial to all of their endeavors. Although many may disagree with “the manufacturing of consent” via educational institutions, the truth is that there are no more efficient means of generating collectivism than controlling what is taught in school houses. If the above statement is valid, the opposite must also be considered valid as well; meaning that there is no more efficient means of guaranteeing that a socially fractured, politically disorganized, and non-collectivist economic people such as African-Americans continue along that path of inefficiency than by indoctrinating them with an irrelevant curriculum that busies their mental processes with items that have nothing to do with the development of an escape plan from their exploited status.

The painful truth is that the aforementioned process of “dumbing down” African-Americans via an irrelevant educational curriculum has been both the favored and most reliable tactic of white power brokers. As an educator, I will not be unduly harsh on teachers as they are little more than frontline soldiers who take their orders from higher-ups. My criticism is aimed at a non-responsive educational system that has succeeded at its real task of continuing the marginalization of generations of Black America. Put simply, white school curriculums do not now, nor have they ever, intended to aid Black America in mobilizing politico-economic resources in preparation for a surge to secure what Khalid Abdul Muhammad routinely termed “the liberation and salvation of the black nation.”

This is a critical moment for Black America as it is imperative that our educators turn inward and continue creating independent “freedom schools” that provide a relevant curriculum for African-American children. Black America must become extremely serious about taking ownership of its present plight, a crucial aspect of that process is finally accepting that no one is coming to help you in this endeavor, let alone to save you from an all too familiar misery. We must busy ourselves developing independent educational institutions that not only inform our people of their last place status in every social, health, economic, and political indicator but also work to scientifically address these issues.

The great Panther Party leader Fred Hampton once remarked that “War is nothing but politics with bloodshed and politics is nothing but war without bloodshed.” It is time that African-Americans realized that they are actually at war for both their continued existence on the planet Earth and the future place of our children in that world. I hope that we embrace this call to educate our own and stop being the fools that Malcolm told us we would be if we continued to allow our enemy to infiltrate our children’s minds. There is no doubt whatsoever that our children are our most valued and precious resource; a resource that must be protected ‘by any means necessary.’

James Thomas Jones III, Ph.D., M.A., M.A., M.A.

#ManhoodRaceCulture

Books published by Dr. James Thomas Jones III

Please support Independent Black Scholarship; it’s the only way that we are going to free our minds.

Creating Revolution as They Advance: A Historical Narrative of the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense

‘Foolish’ Floyd: The Life & Times of an African-American Contrarian

Is Nursing a Suitable Profession for a Black Man?

The answer that one of my male students provided to a standard ice-breaker question that I pose to my freshmen students on the initial day of class caused laughter, chuckles, and strange looks that conveyed questions regarding his sexuality from his peers. This young man confidently responded to the query of “Where will you be in 10 years?” by asserting that “In ten years, I will be a Nurse Practitioner.”

I must tell you that I found his ability to not be disturbed by the series of giggles and looks of wonderment that were hurled in his direction by his “brothers” rather interesting. In time, Over the course of the semester, I would learn that this brilliant young man was the son of two parents who were both Nurse Practitioners and had made a conscious decision to follow in their rather voluminous footsteps.

This information made his occupational absolutely reasonable, however, it failed to settle that gnawing feeling that I possessed regarding a black man being a nurse; I, like most, felt that such a position should be reserved for women. With the benefit of hindsight, it is obvious that somewhere along life’s path, I had been socialized to believe that nursing was “women’s work.”

It was not until a lengthy hospital stay where I was bed-ridden for 3 consecutive months that I understood the indispensability of male nurses whose brute strength was often required to move me for a host of reasons. Although I would have never thought it possible, however, my male nurses were more attentive and kind than my female nurses. I am embarrassed to say that it was my hospitalization that drastically altered my view of black men pursuing nursing as a profession and not years of study labor issues facing black men in a rapidly transitioning new millennium economy.

While in graduate school at The Ohio State University, Labor History was a field of specialization. I wholly attribute my gravitation to this field of study to the examples set by my father and uncles who toiled as unionized steelworkers for Detroit-Empire Steel. It is this population of American workers who are the actual cornerstone of American industrial might in the post-World War I period.

There is no room to debate that this era of American industrialization provided ample opportunities for men, many who possessed no formal education beyond a high school diploma, to provide for their family in a phenomenal way. My how things have changed in this nation.

Unfortunately for the vast majority of black men devoid of advanced levels of education or training, those days are long gone and will never return. Not only have the majority of black men seen their employment opportunities curtailed by an American economy that shifted from a manufacturing economy to a service economy, but also increasing competition from immigrant groups in the areas of manufacturing and construction has further exacerbated the dire prospects of many African-American males securing gainful employment.

The above harsh economic realities mandate that African-American males abandon personal hang-ups and expand their horizons in regards to finding employment; there is quite possibly no greener pastures to be found than the Nursing profession as it not only pays well but also places them in an employment sector where qualified people are desperately needed.

Anyone who has seriously studied American Labor will tell you that there is a definite inverse relationship between an economic downturn and a rise in racial discrimination in the workplace and unions. Although it often means that they are “cutting off their nose to spite their face,” white workers have repeatedly proven that they are more than ready to abandon calls for worker solidarity and accentuate racial matters during an economic downturn. The historical record highlights that at tenuous moments, white workers will circle the wagons and shun non-whites from employment and crucial training opportunities.

When one considers previously discussed alterations to a shrinking and increasingly competitive American economy and the me-first policies that have always served as the North Star for white workers, it is imperative that black men seek out educational and occupational opportunities that encroach on areas that they have traditionally avoided. From where I sit at this present moment, there may not be a better option for black men who seek to provide for a family than Nursing.

Dr. James Thomas Jones III

© Manhood, Race, and Culture, 2017

Books published by Dr. James Thomas Jones III

Please support Independent Black Scholarship; it’s the only way that we are going to free our minds.

Creating Revolution as They Advance: A Historical Narrative of the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense

‘Foolish’ Floyd: The Life & Times of an African-American Contrarian

Too Respectable to Fight?: Why I Am Not Surprised that Derrick Johnson, Chokwe Lumumba, Myrlie Evers Did Not Take The Fight to Donald Trump at the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum

There is no other way for me to say this; I have tired of dignified black leaders. To be honest with you my list of dignified leaders that I have tired of reads like a who’s who of the modern Civil Rights Movement. This list of far too dignified black leaders includes the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Jesse Jackson, John Lewis, Barack Obama, and after allowing Donald Trump to bring his vaudeville show to their environs with minimal interference, I must include every purported black leader within the state of Mississippi.

Although many consider the respectability politics that serve as a thin-veil over what any courageous people would recognize as cowardice, there is no doubt that today’s black leaders routinely seek an escape route from political fights and cultural wars. When examined in its totality, black leaders avoid direct public conflict with whites “by any means necessary.” However, even a cursory examination of recent history proves that it is only black leaders who are devoted cowards.

I am confident that you remember the blatant disrespect that President Barack Obama routinely experienced at the hand of whites behaving as if they were raised by wolves. Let us not forget that such treatment aimed at black men possessing some semblance of power as the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., suffered similar treatment on a routine basis, not even MLK’s application of a forgiving and long-suffering Christian ethos protected him from white bigots.

Although I am certain that this determination to not address whites in the midst of their most inappropriate moments may have begun as an attempt for black leaders to “not show their color.” However, after watching this sordid saga occur to black leaders throughout this nation’s existence, such avoidance of conflict has transitioned from an act to remain above the public moments of disrespect into the realm of cowardice; one can rest assured that angry whites recognize this fact. One has to wonder if none of these black leaders are capable of channeling the spirit of Frederick Douglass who courageously advised our kind that “Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never has and it never will.”

The latest moment of white folk disrespecting not only contemporary Black America but also our ancestors who miraculously were able to “make a way out of no way” is the appearance of Donald Trump in Jackson, Mississippi, to deliver a speech at the new Civil Rights Museum. Now I fully understand that it was Mississippi’s Republican Governor Phil Bryant who extended the invitation and there was little that the black community could do about Trump’s appearance. However, one has to wonder why none of the leading Civil Rights leaders in that city, let us not forget that Jackson, Mississippi, the location of the Museum, has an African-American mayor, did not use their political clout to deliver a message inside of that venue in Trump’s presence?

Make no mistake about it, moments such as this one are wasted opportunities to strike a blow for black liberation that would make both our ancestors and future generations of Black America proud. It is time that black leaders abandon their respectability politics and begin channeling the spirit of Malcolm X who admonished Black America over a half-century ago that they “make it hard on themselves when they go around that white man with those sweet words. No! Tell that man exactly how you feel.”

Instead of taking the fight to a figure like Trump who has spent his entire life opposing Civil Rights and one could argue the right for black people to exist on planet Earth with even a modicum of dignity, black leaders adorn themselves with a cloak of cowardice also known as ‘respectability politics’ and rationalize that this is not a good time to address racial matters in the presence of whites. I am here to tell you that there is no better time to address those whites who routinely execute devious plans and public statements that rally a bigoted base to double-down on their attacks on Black America than the present. It angers me that white bigots and the conservative Sambos that dance to their tune never measure if the time is right to demean, disrespect, and exterminate our kind.

It is this failure to take the fight to these avowed enemies, meaning white conservatives and their black Sambo lackeys, at every turn that causes me to express my righteous indignation at the black demonstrators who stood outside of the venue protesting, a location that guaranteed that they could be easily ignored, and Derrick Johnson, the head of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Chokwe Lumumba, the Mayor of Jackson, Mississippi, and Myrie Evers, the wife of Civil Rights stalwart Medgar Evers.

I have no problem with saying that each of these figures displayed copious amounts of cowardice that they couched in typical respectability politics. Johnson and Lumumba were not even on location, choosing to have a “news conference” a safe distance away from where the action was occurring. While Myrlie Evers was inside of the room listening to Trump fumble and stumble through a prepared 10-minute speech that amounted to absolutely nothing.

It appears that black folk in general, and our so-called leaders in particular, are afraid of “white folk power.” One thing is certain, if the tables were turned, there is not a single racial/ethnic group in America — white, Jewish, Japanese, Mexican, or Chinese — who would have behaved like good little children while an African-American President who demeaned their kind at every turn appeared to address them about matters that his entire being and financial resources have been used to oppose.

It is befuddling that the most significant resistance that Black Mississippi could muster was a statement from Myrlie Evers who broke an earlier promise to directly address Trump in her comments by offering the following. Regardless of race, creed or color, we are all Americans. … If Mississippi can rise to the occasion, then the rest of the country should be able to do the same thing.

Anyone interested in the liberation of black folk has to be left scratching their heads at the antics of so-called black leaders. Where is their anger? Where is the impulse to attack this enemy at every turn? Judging by the actions of our leaders we have not had our fill of white oppression yet. Now what it will take to get us to that point; only the Lord knows. At least we didn’t “show our color” on national television.

Dr. James Thomas Jones III

© Manhood, Race, and Culture, 2017

Committed to investigating, examining, and representing the African-American male, men, and manhood by offering commentary regarding the status of Black Men and Black Manhood as it relates to African-American Manhood, Race, Class, Politics, and Culture from an educated and authentic African-American perspective aimed at improving the plight of African-American men and African-American Manhood in regards to Politics, Culture, Education, and Social Matters.

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