WASHINGTON, DC - When Debra (name has been changed) left to do a mandatory four-year minimum sentence for drug possession, she left her 5-year-old daughter with her mother. It was her only option for care. Debra’s mom would be responsible for everything. Debra could only pray for a good outcome.
“I was heartsick at having to leave her but I had to go,” Debra told The Final Call “I just hoped for the best and did all I could to stay in contact with both of them. I knew my mom barely had a high school education so homework was going to be an issue, but it was just elementary school so I wasn’t that concerned.”
“But then my mom got sick and there were days when my daughter missed school, homework wasn’t getting done and now she was in the third grade. She missed so much school that she had to repeat the third grade and that just caused more problems. Her friends teased her, she was bullied and then didn’t want to go to school. I cried a river of tears because there was no one to help me with my daughter.”
For the first time mass incarceration and racial achievement gaps have been connected in a new study by the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) released March 15, at a press event.
EPI research associates Leila Morsy and Richard Rothstein found overwhelming evidence that having an incarcerated parent leads to an array of cognitive and non-cognitive outcomes known to affect children’s performance in school.
Independent of other social and economic characteristics, children of incarcerated parents are more likely to misbehave in school, drop out of school, develop learning disabilities, experience homelessness, or suffer from conditions such as migraines, asthma, high cholesterol, depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder.
“Simply put, criminal justice policy is education policy,” said Morsy. “It is impossible to disentangle the racial achievement gap from the extraordinary rise in incarceration in the United States. Education policymakers, educators, and advocates should pay greater attention to the mass incarceration of young African Americans.”
Black children are six times as likely as white children to have a parent who is or has been incarcerated. One in four Black students have a parent who is or has been incarcerated, and as many as one in 10 have a parent who is currently incarcerated. Because Black children are disproportionately likely to have had an incarcerated parent, the authors argue, the United States’ history of mass incarceration has contributed significantly to gaps in achievement between African American and white students.
“Despite increased national interest in criminal justice reform, President-elect Trump has promised to move in the opposite direction by advocating for a nationwide “stop-and-frisk” program,” said Rothstein. “While the chance of reform on a federal level may have stalled, advocates should look for opportunities for reform at the state and local levels, because many more parents are incarcerated in state than in federal prisons.”
The report found that:
An African-American child is six times as likely as a white child to have or have had an incarcerated parent. A growing share of African Americans have been arrested for drug crimes, yet African Americans are no more likely than whites to sell or use drugs.
Independent of other social and economic characteristics, children of incarcerated parents are more likely to:
- Drop out of school
- Develop learning disabilities, including attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
- Misbehave in school
- Suffer from migraines, asthma, high cholesterol, depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, and homelessness
Each of these conditions presents a challenge to student performance.
At the inner city school in Washington, DC where Nasser Muhammad teaches third through fifth grade special education, he suspects that many of his students may have had an incarcerated parent at one point.
“If it’s the father that’s incarcerated, the sons don’t have someone to look up to as they are growing up. They don’t have the balance they need to grow up successfully. Boys imitate strength and power. If dad is gone they imitate the strength and power of mom. We see the after effects in the classroom,” he told The Final Call.
“Girls need their fathers also to teach them how they are supposed to be respected as young ladies. When dad is incarcerated, many think it doesn’t affect girls but it does and we see it in the classroom, too.”
Morsy explained that the problem of an incarcerated parent is more severe and complicated than people have understood.
“When someone is incarcerated it means a loss of income in that family, even when released they can be formally or informally barred from employment. This loss leads a family to a range of problems. Increase in housing instability. More moving around, increase in exposure to violence. Higher likelihood of instability in parents’ relationships.”
The authors advocate for a number of policies to address these problems by reducing incarceration, including eliminating disparities between minimum sentences for possession of crack versus powder cocaine, repealing mandatory minimum sentences for minor drug offenses and other nonviolent crimes, and increasing funding for social, educational, and employment programs for released offenders.
Glenn Loury, Merton P. Stoltz Professor of the Social Sciences at Brown University, sent a written statement to the press event because his flight was cancelled due to bad weather. He’s not convinced by the report and doesn’t see the connection. Loury questioned whether or not the same behavior that got the parent arrested would be sufficient to help their children be academically successful in school.
But the authors disagreed. They contend in the report that, “This growth in the share of African American children suffering from parental incarceration has in all probability offset many efforts to raise the average achievement levels of these children during the last 35 years.”
“Although the share of white children with a father in prison has grown comparably (from 0.5 percent to 2 percent), the concentration in low-income neighborhoods of African American children with imprisoned fathers presents challenges to teachers and schools unlike those presented by the relatively rare white child with an imprisoned father,” the report stated.
The report concludes that, “The problem of mass incarceration for drug crimes, however, is not typically thought of as an educational crisis, and it is an issue that educational policymakers have little experience in confronting. How educators can add their voices to demands for an end to this war is a challenge that we should all begin to confront, if our other educational reform efforts are not to be frustrated by unjustifiable criminal justice policy and practice.”
Donald J. Trump was sworn in as the 45th president of the United States on Jan. 20. Succeeding the eight-year reign of the nation’s first African-American president, Barack Hussein Obama (2008-2016), Trump, a white male from Queens, New York, was listed by Forbes magazine in 2016 as the 324th wealthiest person in the world, and the 113th richest in the United States, possessing an estimated net worth of $4.5 billion. At age 70, Trump is the oldest and wealthiest president ever elected to office, defeating Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY), without having any prior military or governmental service, and the fifth elected with less than a plurality of the national popular vote.
Endorsed by former Imperial Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, David Duke, President Trump has brought into his executive staff a number of individuals whose backgrounds raise suspicions of racially-biased behavior. Foremost amongst these questionable associates is Steve Bannon, former executive chairman of Breitbart, a right-wing news website which caters to white supremacists, white nationalists, and anti-Semites. Bannon is now President Trump’s chief strategist, having headed up his presidential campaign, and is seen by many as Trump’s chief theoretician.
Also initially joining Trump’s cabinet, in the position of National Security Advisor, was Retired General Michael Flynn, who once tweeted that “fear of Muslims is rational,” and that there is a “diseased component inside the Islamic world” that is like a “cancer.” Flynn supports President Trump’s proposals to ban Muslims from immigrating to the United States. However, on Feb. 13, General Flynn resigned as President Trump’s national security advisor after admitting that he “inadvertently briefed the vice president-elect and others with incomplete information” regarding allegations that he spoke with Russian government officials prior to the 2016 U.S. presidential election regarding U.S. sanctions placed on Russia by President Obama.
Next of Trump’s cabinet picks is recently confirmed attorney general, former Alabama Senator Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III, who was previously denied a federal judgeship by the U.S. Senate in 1986, amid accusations of racial comments he had made. Lamenting that he was being unfairly accused of being racist because of his Alabama heritage and his name, Sessions nonetheless was confirmed as U.S. Attorney General on Feb. 8. As Huffington Post reporter Jennifer Bendery notes, however, there are substantive reasons which explain why Sessions is getting heat on civil rights. She writes:
He supported gutting the Voting Rights Act in 2013. He has a record of blocking Black judicial nominees. He unsuccessfully prosecuted Black civil rights activists for voter fraud in 1985 ― including a former aide to Martin Luther King, Jr. A year later, he was rejected for a federal judgeship over allegations he called a Black attorney “boy,” suggested a white lawyer working for Black clients was a race traitor and referred to civil rights groups as “un-American” and trying to “force civil rights down the throats of people who were trying to put problems behind them” (Bendery, Jan. 11, 2017).
Adding to his cabinet picks is Steven Mnuchin, confirmed as Secretary of the Treasury on Feb. 13,, who came under fire from housing rights groups for racist practices like lending to very few people of color and maintaining foreclosed-upon properties less in white neighborhoods than in neighborhoods that were predominantly Black and brown.
And rounding out his racially-insensitive cabinet choices is Trump’s selection for Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, who on Feb. 27, released a statement which suggested that Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) were exemplars of “school choice policies,” and thus failing to mention that for decades, HBCUs were the only institutions of higher education that accepted African American students. DeVos stated:
HBCUs are real pioneers when it comes to school choice… They are living proof that when more options are provided to students, they are afforded greater access and greater quality. Their success has shown that more options help students flourish” (Wermund, February 28, 2017).
Ironically, DeVos’s statement was released the same day President Trump was meeting with HBCU administrators in the White House to herald an initiative moving the responsibility of dealing with HBCUs from the Department of Education to the White House, thus suggesting that the higher education needs of African Americans will garner top priority in the Trump administration.
Many see the election of Donald Trump as a victory for white racists in America and foresee a shift in race relations within the country during his term in office. Others, however, say that Trump is an untried entity, having never held elected office, and may surprise many of his critics. Indeed, outgoing President Obama stated: “I think the president-elect may say one thing and do another once he’s here because the truth of the matter is that it’s a big complicated world” (Obama, December 2016). Thus, the question remains: Will Trump’s policies and rhetoric bring African Americans back into the fold of the Republican Party or will they have the effect of further polarizing race relations in the country by driving a wedge between Whites and African Americans, White and Latinos, Whites and Asian Americans, Christian Americans and Muslim Americans, etc.?
On Feb. 1, seated between retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, Trump’s nominee for Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, and Omarosa Manigault, a former "Apprentice" contestant who is now an assistant to the president, President Trump sat down with a small group of African American leaders for a breakfast to kick off “Black History Month.” Trump stated: “Frederick Douglass is an example of somebody who's done an amazing job and is being recognized more and more, I noticed,” Trump said, thus raising the question in some minds of whether Trump has any idea of who exactly Frederick Douglass is. But, he continued: “Harriett Tubman, Rosa Parks and millions more Black Americans that made America what it is today. Big impact. I’m proud to honor this heritage and will be honoring it more and more” (Landers, February 2, 2017.). Citing as a sign of progress, Trump noted the recent opening of the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, as well as the figures of history featured inside the structure. And, his African American supporters in the meeting, praised the president for his moves on combating inner-city violence.
Part of Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign pledges was a promise to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, popularly known as ObamaCare, in the United States. However, on March 24,, the Republican-dominated Congress pulled from consideration legislation that would repeal the ACA because House Republicans were divided on whether to repeal it and how to replace it, mostly fearing the inevitable backlash that would certainly follow a repeal of this historic healthcare act. As Bernstein writes:
A real motivation for the repeal was cutting about $1 trillion in taxes, including two ACA taxes paid mostly by the wealthiest Americans. It is axiomatic that when you cut such highly progressive taxes, the benefits go to those at the top of the scale, and it quickly became clear that, for example, almost 50 percent of the cuts went to millionaire households. The 400 richest taxpayers, with average income above $300 million, would get a tax break averaging $7 million. Couple that with the sharp cuts in Medicaid and the predicted premium increases for low-income elderly people in their AHCA plan, and even in D.C., the extent of this Robin-Hood-in-reverse play was too much for moderate Republicans, many of whom have ACA beneficiaries in their districts from whom they were hearing (Bernstein, March 24, 2017).
Eleven days prior to the Republican reversal, the Congressional Budget Office released a report projecting that repeal of the Affordable Care Act would lead to 24 million fewer people having health insurance by 2026 (Haines, March 13, 2017).
National Black Women’s Reproductive Justice Agenda Founder and Executive Director Marcela Howell in a released statement spoke of the racial impact of a repeal of the ACA as follows:
The GOP-led Senate is acting recklessly and with disregard for the more than 20 million people that would potentially lose their insurance if the ACA is repealed—increasing the uninsured rate for Black women by anywhere from 11% to 20%. We know there is not a replacement plan, and there will not be one anytime soon. And their personal vendetta against Planned Parenthood plain and simple is playing partisan politics with our healthcare.
Noting that women of color, low-income individuals, young people, LGBTQ-individuals, and persons with disabilities were just a few of the vast majority of individuals that rely on the ACA for insurance coverage, Director Howell continued:
Our legislators have a responsibility to act in the best interest of the people. Repealing the ACA without a replacement is not in anyone’s best interest. Defunding Planned Parenthood is in no one’s best interest.
Her press statement noted that: “55 million women would lose access to no co-pay preventive services, including birth control, STI screenings, and life-saving preventive services such as breast cancer screenings and pap tests (Black Enterprise, January 16, 2017). Though Trump has suffered a temporary defeat in his attempt to repeal and replace the ACA, he and the Republican leadership have noted that it is only a matter of time before ObamaCare goes bankrupt; thus, their attack on the healthcare of minorities and the poor has only temporarily been delayed.
On February 9, confident he had secured Washington’s private agreement, United Nations Secretary General António Guterres announced his selection of former Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad as the new UN peace envoy to war-ravaged Libya. But, one day later, on jaws dropped as Trump’s UN ambassador, Nikki Haley, issued her unexpected, and bizarre, public response. Foreign Policy magazine reports that "the White House stepped in at the last minute to kill off the appointment." And the reason became clear as the White House denounced the selection as "unfairly biased" against Israel because Fayyad is Palestinian. In other words, it is understandable for America to discriminate on the basis of race, national origin, religion, etc. As Hussein Ibish stated in regards to Fayyad’s dismissal: “The statement barring Fayyad speaks in this distinctive, immediately identifiable and sadistically racist voice. It does not acknowledge him as a person to be judged on his own merit, instead casting him as a kind of flag with legs” (Ibish, February 12, 2017).
Then there were Trump’s two executive orders attempting to restrict travel to the United States from majority-Muslim countries: Syria, Iran, Libya, Yemen, Somalia, Sudan, and Iraq. The first executive order was signed by President Trump on January 27, and the second on March 6. A nationwide restraining order against the first ban was issued on Feb. 3, by U.S. District Judge James Robart in Washington state who wrote that the executive order “adversely affects the state’s residents in areas of employment, education, business, family relations and freedom to travel.” He added that the ban harmed the state’s public universities and tax base noting that the harms were “significant and ongoing” (Brunner, Lee, and Gutman, February 3, 2017).
The second executive order was shot down by two federal judges on March 15, one in Hawaii, and the other in Maryland. The second executive order had removed Iraq from the travel ban. Trump’s first immigration ban was extremely broad, and even prevented green card holders who had long been in the country legally from reentering the country if they travelled abroad. Administration lawyers did vet the second travel ban; however, even though it gave no preferences for certain religious minorities, as the first ban did, the two federal judges still felt that it was unconstitutional and unfairly targeted Muslims (Mehrotra and Larson, March 15, 2017). At a subsequent rally of Trump supporters in Nashville, Tenn., President Trump vowed to fight on stating: “Let me tell you something: I think we should go back to the first one and go all the way…. This ruling makes us look weak” (Van Voris and Larson, March 15, 2017).
One can go on with numerous other examples of racist rhetoric and racist behaviors during the 2016 presidential campaign—from singling out a judge for his Mexican heritage as proof that he would not rule judiciously to his accusation that Mexicans are drug pushers, criminals, and rapists—and numerous racial actions committed by Donald Trump when he was simply a private citizen, and they all will suggest the same conclusion: Yes, Donald J. Trump is a white racist. But we should not be surprised or shocked by this, as the United States is a country with a very long history of racism that was forged on the backs of enslaved Africans, forced to till the fields for over 250 years, and endure over 300 years of racial discrimination from bonded laborers to chattel slaves, to Jim Crow violence and intimidation, harassment, lynching, denial of civil rights, etc. The United States is a capitalist nation, and the preferred manner in which U.S. capitalists have decided to justify the necessary gap in wealth, ownership, and opportunities—which capitalism demands—has always been race.
But for those of you who are opposed to such racist inclinations and believe the only alternative is to embrace the Democratic Party for solace and comfort during this time of disruption and uncertainty, let me disabuse you of such a mistaken notion. As the editor of the Black Agenda Report wrote on Feb. 7:
Any “resistance” to Trump that allies itself with Democrats, is futile. The Democrats are “unprincipled scoundrels” who “have no desire to move away from their corporate sugar daddies.” If the same people that now declare themselves foes of Trumpism “spend time wondering if they should back Cory ‘the hooker’ Booker or Elizabeth Warren in 2020, or ponder who should run the Democratic National Committee, they aren’t resisting anything (Kimberley, February 7, 2017).
The primary reason the Democrats lost the 2016 presidential election, in this author’s opinion, is because the party is bankrupt, devoid of legitimacy, lacking viable policies that support working-class folks, and have lost whatever connection they may have previously enjoyed with those struggling to survive in 21st century America. While Hillary Clinton posed as an advocate for the rights of women throughout the campaign, she filled her campaign coffers with millions of dollars from the Persian Gulf monarchies, from Bahrain to Saudi Arabia, in other words, she took campaign donations from the most misogynistic, women-hating, unelected, dictatorial regimes in the world. And why do you think that Hillary never publicly released the transcripts of her speeches to Goldman Sachs - speeches which garnered her hundreds of thousands of dollars? And if you don’t believe she operated a “Pay to Play” scheme in her political methods, then you are likely to conclude that Hillary’s decision to overthrow President Gaddafi in Libya simply coincided with the same policy urged on by Saudi Arabia. Or perhaps it was just coincidence that Hillary spent much of her time in the State Department planning for the overthrow of the elected government of Bashar Al-Assad in Syria, just as the House of Saud called for. And what of candidate Trump’s allegation on Aug. 10, 2016, when he called President Barack Obama the “founder of ISIS” and implicated Hillary Clinton as a co-founder. When conservative talk show host Hugh Hewitt said that he understood Trump to mean that Obama had “created the vacuum that lost the peace” in Iraq, Trump objected and stated flatly: “No, I meant he’s the founder of ISIS,” Trump continued: “I do. He was the most valuable player. I give him the most valuable player award. I give her, too, by the way, Hillary Clinton” [implying she gets a most valuable player award as well for this action] (Kopan, August 12, 2016). Likewise, Hillary went along with the House of Saud in supporting the Iraq War, as Saudi Arabia sounded the alarm that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, weapons which were never found.
And, no, there are no other viable Democratic politicians who can lead working people out of this mess they find themselves in. As the Wikileaks emails revealed, Bernie Sanders, an avowed socialist, has no chance of pushing the Democratic Party to the left. He was compromised, blocked, and prevented from getting the 2016 Democratic nomination, and the corporate directors of the Democratic Party have no intention of turning the party over to him and his supporters. Relevant to West Virginia is the Wikileak of DNC Committee Chief Financial Officer Brad Marshall, who suggested portraying Sanders, who is a Jew from Brooklyn, New York, as an atheist. “It might [make] no difference, but for KY and WVA can we get someone to ask his belief,” Marshall wrote, apparently referring to Sanders and the upcoming Kentucky and West Virginia primaries. “My Southern Baptist peeps would draw a big difference between a Jew and an atheist,” he wrote. So what is so wrong with the DNC preferring HRC over Bernie, one may ask. In the primaries, the national party organizations are supposed to be neutral amongst their own candidates. But the Wikileaks emails confirm that the DNC “party establishment was in the tank for Clinton long before the primaries were decided” (Halper and Tacopino, July 22, 2016).
Again, I return to the words of Black Agenda Report editor and senior columnist Margaret Kimberley, and the clear words she wrote in her recent article titled “Freedom Rider: ‘Resist Trump, Resist the Democrats’.” Kimberley writes:
Resistance is the new watch word for millions of people who oppose Donald Trump and his administration. This is a positive development against a president who made such open appeals to white American supremacy and the 21st century iterations of manifest destiny.
His announcement of a travel ban directed at citizens of seven mostly Muslim nations rekindled outrage and denunciation from millions of people around the country. Those protests were righteous and needed to take place. What they did not need was the presence of Democratic politicians who are still committed to imperialism and neoliberalism and to their failed policies which brought Trump to the presidency. It is the Democrats who must be resisted first. If not this nascent movement will be just the latest in a long line of failure for the left. The left must create the political crisis necessary to end not just Trumpism but all of the isms that are ruining the lives of millions of people.
Democratic Senate leader Charles Schumer shed tears for stranded refugees but fully supported the invasion and occupation of Iraq, one of the nations targeted by the travel ban. Schumer is also one of the key spokespersons for Israel’s occupation of Palestine and endless massacres in Gaza. Cory Booker is an opportunist and a corporate hooker who also quickly stepped into that spotlight. Elizabeth Warren may ask tough questions at confirmation hearings, but invariably votes to approve Trump’s nominees. They and their colleagues can always be counted on to approve of American imperialism (Kimberley, February 7, 2017).
An inevitable divide has been occurring between Black working-class folks and the nascent Black capitalist class. A case in point is the recent criticism of Steve Harvey, American comedian, television host, producer, radio personality, actor, and author, who met with President Trump on Jan. 6. After the meeting, on Jan. 13, Harvey tweeted:
Our president (Obama) asked that all of us sit down and talk to one another in order to move our country forward….. the transition teams on both sides asked me to meet and I’m glad I did. I found him in our meeting both congenial and sincere. Trump wants to help with the situations in the inner cities so he immediately got Dr. Ben Carson on the phone to put us together to begin dialog in looking at programs and housing to help our inner cities and he’s very open to my mentoring efforts across the country. I walked away feeling like I had just talked with a man who genuinely wants to make a difference in this area. I feel that something really great could come out of this… I would sit with him anytime (Harvey, January 13, 2017).
The following YouTube commentary by an unnamed Black radio disc jockey on TICKETTv sums up many of the Black working-class comments hurled at Steve Harvey in the wake of his visit with President Trump:
Listen man, listen, listen, listen. So I just got finished listening to my brother Town Biz video. Big up to my brother Town Biznizz J.S. Ya’ll go check out his channel. That’s my partner in crime on here on uncut, Raw and Uncut, where we do our show. We got one coming for ya’ll probably later on this week. Anyways, I heard this video with Steve Harvey man. And, um, Steve Harvey apparently did a, uh, uh, segment on his radio show, I think it was on his radio show, where he was talking about how he was very disappointed that Black people were calling him a coon and a sell-out for going and sitting down with Donald Trump, and that, uh, he didn’t see the problem apparently with going and sitting down with the man, and that if his presence was requested by Donald Trump, that he’ll go see him again. You know what, I totally agree with what Town Biz said. Man, fuck Steve Harvey, man. We already knew you was a buck dancing coon, man. And the thing is is this: You can feel as bad as you wanna feel, but at the end of the day, you need to go listen to brothers like T.I. [born Clifford Joseph Harris Jr.], you need to be listening to brothers like D.L. Hughley who broke down the game that’s being ran on you. All these Black celebrities are getting game ran on them, man. Just like T.I. said, man: They breaking down the demographics. They see Steve Harvey that can talk to women, so they get him, they get him, so they can get all the Black women paying attention. You understand? They getting Kanye West because they think that the Hip Hop world—they can get him through the Hip Hop world—so they can get the Hip Hop culture. Oh, okay, we talked to Kanye West, we got that demographic. Oh, okay, we go, we go get M.L.K. Jr. or M.L.K. III on M.L.K. Day; okay, yeah, we straight with that. Boom, we got that segment of people. Come on man, ya’ll got to see through this shit, man. And Steve Harvey, I don’t give a damn how many times Steven A. Snitch [Smith] go on his ESPN First Fake [Take] and defend you. He’s a clown too. He’s a coon too. He’s the same one, like I said before, that sat up there and said that he didn’t have a problem with 87-year-old Bobby Bowden [retired white male Florida Seminoles football coach] calling him—who’s a grown damn man—like, like he like to say, a boy. Yep, Steven A. Snitch said that. This is the same dude who when Michele Beadle [white female sports reporter on ESPN] got all up in his grill violated company policy. What did he do? He tucked his tail and ran like a coward. But he can sit up there at any given moment, at any given moment, and stick out his chest like he Teflon Don peed up when it come to any Black person. I’m telling ya’ll that’s why I have no type of respect, no respect, for, uh, Steve Harvey or Steven A. Smith, but especially Steven A. Smith. But with Steve Harvey doubling down on this, I lost all respect for Steve Harvey, man. Oh, and that video 1LVZ put out—straight flame. TICKETTv man; ya’ll go check out the 1LVZ as well—LDBC, stand up (“Steve Harvey…”, January 16, 2017).
Contrarily, however, Georgetown sociology professor, Dr. Michael Eric Dyson, put the onus on Trump, and not on Harvey, when he said in regards to Steve Harvey meeting with Trump:
Look, Steve Harvey, as was said, is a remarkable man, and a successful man. There’s no problem with that. The problem is Donald Trump, not Steve Harvey. Look, if you want a conversation with white America, do you go to Miley Cyrus or Mitch McConnell? The point is that, why do an end-run around Mitch McConnell or John Boehner or Paul Ryan and speak to say, I don’t know, George Clooney? The point is that there are political representatives of African American culture…I’m saying that if you are talking about serious issues of weight, value, and gravitas in Black America, no, I don’t think a comedian is the top of the list to speak about (Dyson, January 17, 2017).
If this pattern is reflective of what is going on in Black America, then it does suggest a possible division along class lines opening up amongst Blacks. And this further supports this author’s prior argument that the Democratic Party has lost its moorings, as its traditional monolithic Black base is apparently bifurcating.
Again, I return to the words of Black Agenda Report editor Margaret Kimberley:
The debacle that brought Trump to the presidency has been moving in slow motion for years. It was just a matter of time before the Democrats would lose this office as they had done with the House, the Senate, and most state legislatures. They have no desire to move away from their corporate sugar daddies, instead preferring to devolve into pretense, which was obvious to the voters who wouldn’t stand with Hillary Clinton.
The unprincipled scoundrels of that party have done everything except take responsibility for years of treachery. They did nothing to fight against the gerrymandering which gave the Republicans safe seats all over the country. They didn’t care about Republican triumphs in Wisconsin which made the country safe for union busting. They don’t care about the anti-abortion laws that have been passed in state after state. The only way to fight what they claim they don’t want would be to engage and energize their voters, but they have no interest in doing that. Their modus operandi is inherently hostile to the interests of the masses. The Democrats were content to hold the presidency and make deals with Republicans and fool people into thinking they had done their best.
They continue to make excuses for Hillary Clinton’s defeat while simultaneously pushing anti-Russian propaganda. They ratchet up the call for war while also diverting attention from their own failures. Trump is no better as he engages in threats against China and Iran. Trump can’t peel Russia away from its alliance with those countries. They are allied precisely because of American aggression and they won’t be fooled by the newest criminal in the White House. The Democrats and Republicans may continue to wreak havoc around the world, but none of their mad dreams will come to fruition (Kimberley, February 7, 2017).
In conclusion, in the age of Trump—President Trump that is—race is very much alive in the United States and is still playing the role assigned to it by many of the founding fathers of the country to act as a wedge to divide the white and Black working class, and obfuscating the role of the puppeteers who are pulling the strings of the economy and culture for the ruling class.
Barack Obama in “Trevor Noah: Trump Is Racist.” December 13, 2016. YouTube [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2kMswKahYug].
Bendery, Jennifer. January 11, 2017. “Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III Says His Name Is Why People Think He’s Racist.” Huffington Post. New York, NY: Huffington Post Media Group. [http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/jeff-sessions-attorney-general-racism_us_58751865e4b099cdb0ffb10a].
Bernstein, Jared. March 24, 2017. “Why Republicans failed to repeal Obamacare.” The Washington Post. New York, NY: Nash Holding LLC. [https://www.washingtonpost.com/posteverything/wp/2017/03/24/what-just-happened-explaining-the-republicans-big-health-care-fail/?utm_term=.1251cd2c96c5].
Black Enterprise. January 16, 2017. “Repealing Obamacare Will Hurt Black Women and Their Faimilies.” Black Enterprise. New York, NY: Earl G. Graves, Sr. [http://www.blackenterprise.com/news/politics/repealing-obamacare-will-likely-hurt-black-women-families/].
Brunner, Jim, Jessica Lee, and David Gutman. February 3, 2017. “Judge in Seattle halts Trump’s immigration order nationwide; White House vows fight.” The Seattle Times. Seattle, WA: The Seattle Times Company. [http://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/politics/federal-judge-in-seattle-halts-trumps-immigration-order/].
Dyson, Michael Eric. January 17, 2017. New backlash after Steve Harvey meets with Trump. Fox News Interview on YouTube. [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dmdIe5hYM6A].
Haines, Tim. March 13, 2017. “CNN: Congressional Budget Office Predicts 24 Million More Uninsured By 2026 Under Trump Plan.” Chicago, IL: Realclear Investors. [http://www.realclearpolitics.com/video/2017/03/13/cnn_congressional_budget_office_predicts_24_million_more_uninsured_by_2026_under_trump_plan.html].
Halper, Daniel and joe Tacopino. July 22, 2016. “Leaked emails show how Democrats screwed Sanders.” New York Post. New York, NY: News Corp. [http://nypost.com/2016/07/22/leaked-emails-show-how-democrats-screwed-sanders/].
Harvey, Steve. January 13, 2017. “My meeting with @realDonaldTrump …” Twitter. [https://twitter.com/IAmSteveHarvey/status/820007199917375489/photo/1?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw].
Ibish, Hussein. February 12, 2017. “Who is Salam Fayyad and why does the US fear him?” The National. UAE: Abu Dhabi Media. [http://www.thenational.ae/opinion/comment/who-is-salam-fayyad-and-why-does-the-us-fear-him].
Kimberley, Margaret. February 7, 2017. “Freedom Rider: ‘Resist Trump, Resist the Democrats’.” Black Agenda Report. [http://blackagendareport.com/resist_trump_resist_democrats].
Kopan, Tal. August 12, 2016. “Donald Trump: I meant that Obama founded ISIS, literally.” CNN Politics. Atlanta, GA: CNN. [http://www.cnn.com/2016/08/11/politics/donald-trump-hugh-hewitt-obama-founder-isis/].
Landers, Elizabeth. February 2, 2017. “Trump holds 'little breakfast' to kick off Black History Month.” CNN Politics. Atlanta, GA: CNN. [http://www.cnn.com/2017/02/01/politics/african-american-meeting-donald-trump-frederick-douglass/].
Mehrotra, Kartikay and Erik Larson. March 15, 2017. “Trump’s Second Bid at Travel Ban Knocked Down by Two U.S. Judges.” Bloomberg Politics. New York, NY: Bloomberg News. [https://www.bloomberg.com/politics/articles/2017-03-15/trump-s-second-travel-ban-is-blocked-by-u-s-judge-j0bk602s].
Office for Civil Rights. March 1991. “Historically Black Colleges and Universities and Higher Education Desegregation.” Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education. [https://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/docs/hq9511.html].
“Steve Harvey says he’s very hurt that Black people called him a coon for meeting Trump!” January 16, 2017. TICKETTV Production. [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rR1aN7RSbic].
Van Voris, Bob and Erik Larson. March 15, 2017. “Trump on Travel Ban Ruling: ‘Go Back to the First One’.” Bloomberg Politics. New York, NY: Bloomberg News. [https://www.bloomberg.com/politics/articles/2017-03-16/trump-on-travel-ban-ruling-go-back-to-the-first-one].
Wermund, Benjamin. February 28, 2017. “DeVos sparks controversy with comments on black colleges.” POLITICO. Arlington County, VA: Capitol News Company. [http://www.politico.com/story/2017/02/betsy-devos-hbcu-historically-black-colleges-235498].
 Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) are institutions of higher education in the United States established prior to 1964 with the intention of primarily serving the African-American community. Prior to the US Civil War when chattel slavery of African Americans was legal, blacks were banned from any sort of education in the United States. After the Civil War, Reconstruction was followed by decades of lynchings, intimidation, and further denial of education for Blacks. When Black institutions of higher education were finally established, beginning in the late nineteenth century, the institutions were unequally funded compared to their white counterparts and were given second-rate resources. “Title III of the Higher Education Act of 1965, as amended, authorizes funds for enhancing HBCUs. The statute authorizes the ‘Strengthening Historically Black Colleges and Universities Program’ and the ‘Strengthening Historically Black Graduate Institutions Program.’ Title III is administered by the Department's Office of Postsecondary Education - Division of Institutional Development” (Office of Civil Rights, March 1991).
In the wake of the United States Civil War (1861-1865) fought for the emancipation of enslaved Africans and the elimination of chattel slavery, the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments to the US Constitution were passed, with the latter—the 15th Amendment, passed in 1870—guaranteeing African American men the right to vote by declaring that the “right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.”
Despite this Amendment, enacted on the graves of over a half million soldiers, this guarantee of voting rights for African Americans had to be reemphasized, once again, with the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson on August 6, 1965, which sought to overcome legal barriers at the state and local levels that prevented African Americans from exercising their right to vote under the 15th Amendment to the US Constitution.
The United States Department of Justice is a federal executive department, responsible for the enforcement of the law and the administration of justice. As such, its legal basis lies in Article II of the United States Constitution. To aid in these duties to enforce the law and administer justice, the United States Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP), a subsidiary of the U.S. Department of Justice, was established in 1930 — as the agencies web page states — to “provide more progressive and humane care for federal inmates, to professionalize the prison service, and to ensure consistent and centralized administration of federal prisons” (“About Us”, 2016).
With 20 US Penitentiaries, 65 Federal Correctional Institutions, 13 Private Correctional Institutions, seven Federal Prison Camps, 19 Administrative Facilities, and 15 Federal Correctional Complexes, and multiple state and local prisons, jails, and detention facilities, the United States currently detains over two million prisoners each and every day, the world’s largest prison population on earth. China, with 1.3 billion total population compared to the US population of 321 million, is second with 1,548,498 prisoners (United States vs. China, 2016; World Prison Populations, 2016).
While “an estimated 65 million people in the United States have criminal records,” Blacks and Latinos comprise 71.4% of the total US federal prison population (Prison Statistics, 2016; Hernández, et al., 2015). As of September 2016, there are a total of 192, 628 federally-confined inmates, almost an eight-fold increase since 1980, with 156,778 inmates confined in BOP-operated facilities, 21,834 in privately-managed facilities, and 14,016 in “other types of facilities” (Prison Statistics, 2016). Since less than two hundred thousand inmates reside in federally-operated facilities, this means that of the two million plus total US prison population, over 1,800,000 inmates are housed in state and local detention facilities.
Four general theories have historically been advanced as justification for sanctioning the punishment of criminal behavior: deterrence, just deserts, incapacitation, and rehabilitation. The impetus behind deterrence is to make crime too costly for criminals to engage in it. Just deserts introduce the notion of proportionality such that one’s punishment should be commensurable with the moral gravity of the crime committed. Incapacitation, i.e. incarceration, removes law breakers from society, either permanently or temporarily. If incarceration is temporary, then offenders are deemed to have “done their time” and “paid their debt to society” for the offense committed and may now, once again, enjoy the rights and privileges of citizenship. As such, temporary incarceration suggests the possibility of rehabilitation (Muhlhausen, May 27, 2010). Societal chastisement, in the form of incarceration, is thus a penalty exacted from those who transgress the law, on the theory that humans are capable of learning from their errors.
While temporary incarceration and the theory of rehabilitation exist in the US criminal justice system, it is notable that ten US states permanently bar felons from ever voting once convicted, even after their sentences are completed. Twenty states restore inmate’s voting rights after they have served their time, parole, and probation; four states restore voting rights after inmates have served their time and parole; 14 states after incarceration is served; and in two states, viz. Maine and Vermont, felons may vote absentee while in prison (State Felon Voting Laws, 2016).
Recently, in the state of Virginia, Governor Terry McAuliffe (D-VA) restored voting rights to more than 200,000 former felons in April of 2016 only to see that state’s supreme court, only three months later, in July of 2016, agree with Republican legislators who had filed a petition accusing the governor of exceeding his authority. As Horwitz and Portnoy state: “The Democratic governor’s decision particularly affects black residents of Virginia: 1 in 4 African Americans in the state has been permanently banned from voting because of laws restricting the rights of those with convictions” (Horwitz and Portnoy, April 22, 2016). Thus, what is the basis for the non-restoration of voting rights once a criminal has served her or his time? Is there any merit to this denial or is it simply another method of racial discrimination?
In Virginia, as with so many states, the U.S. criminal justice system operates largely on a racialized basis, not only to maintain the class divisions within the larger society, but, as well, to divide prison populations amongst themselves. Because a disproportionate number of African Americans and Latinos are incarcerated in the United States and denied voting rights once their prison sentences are served, this effectively disenfranchises much of the working class in America, thus allowing the controllers of capital to rule with few checks to their aggrandizement of power and wealth. As such, the stigmatization of felons by permanently rescinding their voting rights in a number of states, constitutes a key indicator of how class rule is maintained in the United States.
 The five Federal Correctional Institutions in the State of West Virginia include prisons in Beckley, Gilmer, Hazelton, McDowell, and Morgantown. It is interesting to note that compared to West Virginia’s five federal correctional facilities, California has a total of six and New York has only two.
 These private FCIs are run by either Corrections Corporation of America, Management and Training Corporation, or the GEO Group, Inc.—the latter which maintains facilities in North America, Australian, South Africa, and the United Kingdom.
 West Virginia hosts one federal prison camp at Alderson, WV.
"I won't believe the hype I understand the Media dictates the mind and rotates the way you think and syncopates slow pace... Brains can't maintain a certain insipid inane crass rain. Insane lame traditions all praise fame positions want to be a star. Drive a big car. Live bourgeois...And won't know who you are. Lost in the source and praising the dollar" - Kool Moe Dee (1989) It is undeniable that hip hop culture is one of the most powerful marketing tools America has seen in quite some time. Had hip hop been around during the earlier part of the 20th century the unscrupulous public relations pioneer, Edward Bernays, would have probably also used it to promote the smoking of Viceroy Cigarettes to women. Various aspects of the hip hop culture, mainly rap music, generate billions of dollars. However, who is generating this wealth, where is it going and at what cost? "Their unfettered corporate feeding frenzy was similar to that of the European conquest of lands inhabited by people of color." Hip hop culture (rapping, djing, graffiti art, and breaking, etc.) was unequivocally created by youth of color in the Bronx during the early 1970s. Even though the origins of hip hop are entrenched in black and Latino communities throughout New York City it is currently pimped/used by large white owned corporations (media, record labels, etc.) to create astronomical bottom lines, reinforce capitalistic ideals, and adversely mass program black and brown youth. Hip hop has been co-opted, from the black community, by the white corporate establishment in much the same manner as was rock-n-roll (originally called rhythm and blues). Everyone from Allan Freed to Pat Boone cashed in on the original works of black artists, many of whom died penniless. However, where the corporate establishment left off when it came to thievery of rock-n-roll they picked up with hip hop. Once white corporations recognized the multi-billion dollar earning potential of rap music, the mass commercialization of hip hop began. They bought out everything from record labels to urban radio stations. Their unfettered corporate feeding frenzy was similar to that of the European conquest of lands inhabited by people of color. RAP (rhythm and poetry) music has provided corporate radio stations and record labels, alike, with gigantic revenues almost beyond their wildest capitalistic wet dreams. The corporate takeover and commoditization of hip hop began to grow exponentially in the early to mid 1990s. The more money they made the less diversified rap music became on the radio and television airwaves. Balance on the mainstream airwaves rapidly became a thing of the past. Before corporate usurpation of rap music record labels, and subsequently airwaves, the fledging genre (RAP) was the embodiment of resistance for many. During the late 1980s and early 1990s rap music provided many black and Latino youth, including myself, with countless hours of culturally edifying and politically oriented music. If I was not learning how to "Fight the Power" I was proudly sporting my leather African medallion and rocking the map of Alkebulan (Africa) shaved in the back of my head. "The more money they made the less diversified rap music became." These behaviorisms, however, did not emerge out of thin air; I was actually mimicking my favorite rappers. Witnessing lyrically gifted brothers and sisters embrace their Africanness on album covers and in music videos, I could not avoid doing the same. Whether it was Queen Latifah standing proudly in front of the image of Africa on the cover of her album "All Hail the Queen" or watching Chuck D wear his African medallion in the "Fight the Power" video, I was profoundly influenced. With each lyric the stronger and more confident I grew as a young black man. My desire to learn more about my African ancestry as well as to become more involved in social issues affecting people of color deepened by the day. And beyond all that, I developed critical thinking skills that I carry with me to this day. I, however, was far from a novelty. This transformation was occurring within the psyches of black and brown youth throughout America. This was the power of "Golden Era" Hip Hop. Despite the vastly racist and white supremacist personality of America, black and Latino youth continued to psychologically resist. Even as a youth I knew very well the root causes of many social maladies within the black community. Those causes were inextricably linked to the racist culture of America and its plutocratic government. My favorite rappers "spoke truth to power." Guru, of the iconic rap group Gangstarr, was right on point in 1992 when he said, "You can't tell me life was meant to be like this a black man in a world dominated by whiteness Ever since the declaration of independence we've been easily brainwashed by just one sentence It goes: all men are created equal that's why corrupt governments kill innocent people With chemical warfare they created crack and AIDS got the public thinking these were things that black folks made And every time there's violence shown in the media usually it's a black thing so where are they leading ya... To a world full of ignorance, hatred, and prejudice TV and the news for years they have fed you this foolish notion that blacks are all criminals violent, lowlifes, and then even animals. I'm telling the truth so some suckers are fearing me but I must do my part to combat the conspiracy" - "Conspiracy," Gang Starr Disenfranchised youth could never expect to get that type of critical analysis from the US corporate media, then or today. Rap music was unequivocally our social, news, and educational medium. American classrooms, as they are today, were filled with racist, biased, and factually inaccurate white supremacist propaganda. Hip Hop music filled in the gaps, exposed the lies, and opened the doors to inquiry that American public education never did. All of the aforementioned aspects of "Golden Era" Hip Hop music are among the reasons why the white establishment had to co-opt Rap. White corporate America very well knew the power and potential of rap music to galvanize, mobilize, and organize youth of color from stolen coast to stolen coast. This is precisely why they had to take it over. "Hip Hop music filled in the gaps, exposed the lies, and opened the doors to inquiry." By methodically buying out rap record labels, the corporate majors were able to silence progressive voices, all the while promoting rappers who would embody an image of black people that corporations felt more comfortable with. As odd as it may sound, the white establishment feels much safer with the image of a black man toting a gun with his pants sagging as opposed to the image of a black man, or woman, intrepidly bucking the system via their lyrics. The resistant black youth represents a direct threat to white establishment power. This is why, by the mid to late 1990s, mainstream rap music had been overtaken by a dull sameness. Then, as now, cookie cutter themes prevailed in corporate rap music, themes of senseless violence, excessive materialism, and misogyny. Corporations pretend to avoid "controversial" topics and themes. Yet, when it comes to songs featuring black men degrading black women that is never too controversial. And when it comes to black men rapping about senseless violence directed towards other black men that is never too controversial or too political. However, if a black rapper, of either gender, addresses the plague of police brutality then the artist is summarily "white-listed" as too "controversial" and prevented from ever seeing the light of day on any mainstream outlet. The clear message they are sending is that if you are black and willing to rap about what they want you to rap about you will be dully rewarded, however the minute you dare try to step outside of the "box" and attack their power structure, you will be omitted."If a black rapper addresses the plague of police brutality then the artist is summarily 'white-listed.'" It is as if the days of the "Minstrel Show" have returned. Those rappers who are most willing to step into the corporate supported stereotypical costumes (lyrically and physically) are the ones who will receive the record deals and unfettered airtime. The utter lack of thematic diversity in mainstream rap music has given black and brown youth a false impression of what options actually exist in the genre. Viacom and Clear Channel want black youth to embrace self-destructive imagery, while the corporations reap the windfall of purloined, mangled culture. After all, that is how America built its empire, on the backs of stolen Africans and stolen lands. It is not beyond black people's ability to control their own media outlets at every level, from music to news to entertainment. It is well within our limitless ability to organize, mobilize and establish our own mediums. Such an initiative is needed now more than ever. Until then, as Chuck D, Ice Cube and Big Daddy Kane said, "Burn Hollywood Burn!”