You better duck because the book is comin’.
So just pass the car keys to your woman.
I remember the names and faces well. How could I not? They are my relatives, friends, classmates, and many were mere acquaintances whose lives were relatively inconsequential to the path that I was traveling. However, it was an unwritten rule that when we were together that it was mandatory that we greeted each other in a heartfelt and soulful manner. I soon learned that this greeting was tantamount to a cultural adaptation that conveyed an understanding that this could possibly be our final time together. I guess that such logic is only understandable to those of us who hail from poor and working-class communities. No one knew better than us that black men routinely disappeared from our midst without a moment’s notice.
And for the unknowing, when I say disappear, I am not talking about being absent for a day or two; I am talking about their smiles, laughs, and ingenuity being inaccessible to their community for a decade or more. Were they killed, kidnapped, or stolen? No, not exactly. The alluded to individuals had somehow found themselves in the clutches of an unforgiving criminal justice system that has always punished black men, women, and children in an unduly harsh manner.
For those of us reared in predominantly African-American communities, the disappearance of black men was a fact that we needed no academic study to verify; we had repeatedly seen it take place. There is not a single person in Black America who if forced, to tell the truth, would not tell you that African-American men receive harsher penalties than their white counterparts for the exact same criminal offense.
Hopefully, the protestations of white opponents who dismissed our personal stories regarding this matter as anecdotal evidence will finally be silenced by the release of a U.S. Sentencing Commission Report that provides definitive data-driven proof that there is most definitely disparate sentencing occurring between black and white males being sentenced for the same crime.
According to the alluded to report that covers a period between 2012 to 2016, African-American men serve 19 percent longer sentences for the same offense as their white counterparts. Researchers found that the cause of the lengthier sentences handed down to black men is solely attributable to the decision-making of judges.
The source of the judicial discretion mentioned above is the 2005 U.S. Supreme Court decision, United States vs. Booker. It was this decision that provided judges unconscionable power to extend sentences if they deemed it appropriate; prior to this decision, judges were forced to work within guidelines provided by the sentencing commission.
As a black man in America who has lived enough to realize that life has many unanticipated twists and turns, it is frightening to consider that judges are no longer handcuffed by sentencing guidelines and therefore able to behave as an omnipotent being capable of altering life in an unforeseen manner. Although it is unfashionable to make statements such as the following, however, one must remember that Judges are people like anyone else in this nation who carry past observations and life lessons with them onto the bench that they mete out justice. I repeatedly tell others that it is impossible to be raised in America and not develop stereotypes that feed the manifestations of discriminatory behavior for individuals who have some access to power. When considered in this light, it should frighten Americans that sentences for crimes are being decided in such an arbitrary manner. Unfortunately, we as a national populace rarely consider such matters until it is our turn to deal with the issue.
And far too often when African-American males are standing before a judge awaiting his/her decision on you and your family’s future the best advice that they can receive comes from famed rapper Ice Cube who once advised those in this situation in the following manner.
“You better duck, because the book is comin’. So just pass your car keys to your woman.”
I am confident that you agree that we need a concerted and organized effort to address this issue, otherwise we will continue to see black men, women, and children disappear for no apparent reason.
Dr. James Thomas Jones III
© Manhood, Race, and Culture, 2017.
Please support Independent Black Scholarship by purchasing a book. I am confident that you agree that such support is the only way that we are going to free our minds. Books published by Dr. James Thomas Jones are as follows:
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
O’Bruni: An African-American Odyssey Home?