Tuesday, September 21, 2021


‘Street cred’ no substitute for future – Washington D.C.

July 26, 2007 by  
Filed under News, Weekly Columns

(Akiit.com) A recent report by the Washington D.C.-based Sentencing Project underscores something we already know: Blacks are being locked up in droves.

And while the report says blacks, we know who it’s really talking about: black men.

The criminal justice system is skewed.

How often is “driving while white” an issue? Why are the participants in Roanoke’s drug court, a worthwhile program that gives drug offenders another chance, overwhelmingly white?

Jerome Miller, author of “Search and Destroy: African Americans in the Criminal Justice System,” contends that prisons are big business.

The money we spend to keep this system going,” Miller said from his Northern Virginia office. “Prisons and state training schools, some of them are there to sustain public myths. There’s so much into feeding that myth.”

If Miller is right, prisons are clearly bad business for black men. There’s only one thing to do, black men: Boycott the nation’s jails and prisons. Stay off the path that leads there.

According to the Sentencing Project report, blacks nationally are incarcerated at 5.6 times that of whites, and Hispanics at nearly double the rate. In Virginia, the rate for blacks is even higher: 5.8.

That disparity is rooted in a number of reasons, including, as experts note, a racial bias in the justice system. Black men selling drugs on a street corner are easy targets for arrest. Economic conditions also play a part. Most black men can’t afford a private attorney who might keep them out of a cell.

Black men getting locked up is a crisis for the black community.

It’s left black children without fathers; black women without husbands and potential husbands, which weakens the family structure; and the black community with fewer role models and leaders.

So black men on the prison trajectory need to eject.

That means stop regurgitating the same, tired excuse that selling drugs is more lucrative than working a respectable job. Maybe in the short term, that’s true. But longer term, a trade pays a lot more than the prison laundry.

Black men need to understand that the number of times they’ve been locked up is less proportionate with street cred and more proportionate with the number of hardships they create — for themselves and others.

Last month, the local chapter of the NAACP sponsored a valuable forum to inform young people of their rights when stopped by authorities. About two dozen people showed up, and not too many youthful faces were in the crowd.

Sometimes, I just don’t understand why the very people we’re trying to help don’t participate when we’re trying to do something for the masses of the city,” NAACP president Daniel Hale said.

If prison is big business, black men need to stop buying into it.

By Shanna Flowers


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