Sunday, May 4, 2008

Reverend Jeremiah Wright Is Controversial; Says Who?

Many of Rev. Wright's so-called "controversial" statements are really not that controversial.

Does that mean that blacks who have pinned their hopes and dreams in the Obama campaign wish Rev. Wright had kept his mouth shut until after the election? Of course they do.

But, does that mean that black people think that what he said is wrong? Nope. There are many good reasons why Rev. Wright’s core message and hyperbolic style of delivering that message resonated for so many years with blacks in Chicago, including his former parishioner and protégée, Senator Obama.

Let’s take a look at one of his most controversial statements: “The government gives them drugs, builds bigger prisons, passes a three-strike law and then wants us to sing God Bless America? No, no, no. God damn America, for killing innocent people. God damn America for treating us citizens as less than human.

The government gives them drugs…

What in the world did Rev. Wright mean by this statement?

To answer that question, we need to go back to the three part series, “Dark Alliance: The Story Behind the Crack Explosion,” published in August of 1996 by Gary Webb in the San Jose Mercury News, which began with the following words:

"For the better part of a decade, a San Francisco Bay Area drug ring sold tons of cocaine to the Crips and Bloods street gangs of Los Angeles and funneled millions in drug profits to a Latin American guerrilla army run by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency."

Webb’s story fueled much speculation across the country, and continues to fuel speculation in the black community, that the U.S.-backed Contra rebels, fighting a leftist Nicaraguan regime, were largely responsible for introducing crack-cocaine into the U.S.

While it has not been proven without a doubt that U.S.-backed Contra rebels targeted black communities with crack cocaine, there is little doubt that people affiliated with, or on the payroll of the CIA, were trafficking in drugs, and that some of those drugs made it into black communities across America helping to fuel the crack cocaine epidemic of the 1980s. A 1989 U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee report stated, "There are some serious questions as to whether or not U.S. officials involved in Central America failed to address the drug issue for fear of jeopardizing the war effort against Nicaragua."

… builds bigger prisons

America locks up more of its citizens than any other country in the world. According to a 2008 report by the Pew Center on the States, one in every 99.1 adults is behind bars. That amounts to roughly 2.2 million people, which represents 25 percent of the world’s prison population.

The prison population is disproportionately black and brown. According to the Pew Center report, based on Justice Department figures, one in 36 adult Latino men is behind bars and one in 15 adult black men is, too. A whopping one in nine black men ages 20 to 34 are behind bars.

Moreover, while only one in 355 white women between the ages of 35 and 39 are behind bars, one in 100 black women are.

Finally, according to a December 2007 study by the American Civil Liberties Union, “Race and Ethnicity in America: Turning a Blind Eye to Injustice,” in 2006, the U.S. prison population was 46 percent white, 41 percent black, and 19 percent Latino.

For black men, the ACLU reports, the experience of imprisonment is practically surreal. One out of every 6 black males has been either to jail or prison. Based on current trends, one out of every 3 black men can expect to be imprisoned at some point in their lives.

“…passes a three-strike law

There is strong evidence that the overrepresentation of blacks and Latinos in prisons and jails is the result of discrimination and bad public policy at every phase of the criminal justice system. According to the press release for the Pew Center’s report:

“The report points out the necessity of locking up violent and repeat offenders, but notes that prison growth and higher incarceration rates do not reflect a parallel increase in crime, or a corresponding surge in the nation’s population at large. Instead, more people are behind bars principally because of a wave of policy choices that are sending more lawbreakers to prison and, through popular “three-strikes [my emphasis]” measures and other sentencing laws, imposing longer prison stays on inmates.”

The most obscene aspect of the criminal (in)justice system is the so-called “war on drugs.” In the early 1980s, in response to the problem of drug abuse and an upsurge in violent crimes associated with the sale and distribution of crack cocaine, many states, along with the federal government, declared a “war on drugs,” adopting mandatory sentencing policies that included increased sentences for individuals convicted of drug offenses. Black and Latino people have bared the brunt of this war.

From the perspective of the black community, the war on drugs looks more like a “war on black people.”

… and then wants us to sing God Bless America? No, no, no. God damn America.

Is it really a surprise why he said this? I’ll leave that to you to answer.

1 comment:

R.A. McGhee III said...

Unfortunately to address these issues someone has to talk honestly and frankly about them. In the Civil Rights movement in the U.S. this has traditionally been done by the black clergy. I see Rev. Wright doing what Malcolm X, M.L. King,Jr., Abernathy, etc....would be doing if they were alive today.

The most ironic point here is that there are facts to support each point he has made, but once again the posture has become one of the ostrich when addressing these facts. In any other instance the facts would be the final word.