War on Black People

The "War on Black People" which was disguised as a "War on Drugs" has resulted in unintended mass casualties of white people. A report from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in January revealed that drug-overdose deaths reached a new high in 2014, totaling 47,055 people. Opioids were involved in 60% of those deaths, 90% of heroin users are white.

John Ehrlichman, President Richard Nixon's domestic policy advisor, admitted to a conspiracy when he made the following comments during a 1994 Harper's Magazine inteview concerning the "War on Drugs".

"You want to know what this was really all about? The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies, the anti-war left and black people. You understand what I’m saying? We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did."

Until the late 19th century drugs were used legally in the United States with much public indifference and very little government interference. Taxes on psychoactive substances provided a significant part of government revenue for most modern nations prior to the advent of income taxation.

Prior to 1800, opium was widely available in the United States, and throughout the world, as an ingredient in numerous products and “multidrug prescriptions. Morphine, a derivative of opium, was first discovered in 1804. Heroin, an opiate derived from morphine, was “discovered” in 1874 and marketed in 1898 by Bayer Pharmaceuticals as “The Sedative for Coughs.”

States were the first to enact drug prohibition laws. In 1875 San Francisco passed an antiopium law that is widely considered the first of its kind, targeting only the smoking of opium, which was common among Chinese immigrants, and not affecting the myriad other forms of opium use favored by most Americans. The states of California and Nevada passed similar laws and the federal government soon followed. In 1883 Congress raised the import tariff on smoking opium, leaving opium imported for other purposes unaffected

There’s Never Been a Drug Law That Wasn’t Tied to Race

Concern about drug use in America began with associating opium with the Chinese, cocaine with “Negroes,” alcohol with urban Catholic immigrants, heroin with urban immigrants, and marijuana with Mexicans. 

Associating Chinese opium use with corruption of American values and female chastity was an easily alluring explanation for social problems. Smoking opium, like the "Chinamen" who introduced the habit, became a despicable practice.

Changing perceptions of cocaine at the turn of the 20th century were also linked to race. Plantation owners and other employers soon found great value in cocaine as a means of improving productivity and controlling workers, and some even began supplying it to their black crews. 

In the late 1800s poor black laborers in the South developed the habit of snorting cocaine to help them endure strenuous conditions. Sniffing was the quickest and cheapest way to ingest cocaine. Although, cocaine sniffing was more popular with whites and was especially associated with the criminal cultures of prostitutes, pimps, gamblers and other white “urban hoodlums,” poor blacks and cocaine became firmly linked in the public mind. People from the upper and professional class preferred injecting cocaine with a needle. 

Racial tensions in the South soon transformed the image of black cocaine use into a source of white fear. Propaganda about “cocainized” blacks leaving plantations and construction sites on sexual rampages having their way with white women stirred panic. Medical publications supported this myth with stories of how cocaine could transform law-abiding Negroes into menacing predators with increased and perverted sexual desire. Newspapers reported that there was "little doubt that every Jew peddler in the South carries the stuff." 

Other popular legends attributed cocaine giving blacks superhuman strength and that southern police departments switched from .32 caliber to .38 caliber revolvers because cocaine made crazed blacks impervious to the smaller rounds.

In the 1920s the Du Pont Company had developed and patented numerous petroleum-based products, including fuel additives, chemical processes for the manufacture of paper from wood pulp and numerous synthetic products such as nylon, cellophane and other plastics.  

By 1935 raw cellulose from hemp (cannabis) had become a viable option for fuel, fabric and plastics and paper – a cheaper, cleaner and renewable raw material compared to petroleum. Faced with this competition, Lammont DuPont lobbied the U.S. Treasury Department to seek the prohibition of hemp

Business interests of William Randolph Hearst, the newspaper magnate, were also threatened by hemp, as his timber holdings and his joint enterprises with DuPont for wood-based pulp papermaking would have been rendered uncompetitive. Hearst used his chain of newspapers to aggravate racial tensions, portraying Mexicans in particular as lazy, degenerate and violent and as job stealers and smokers of “marihuana” – a word brought into the common parlance due in part to frequent mentions in Hearst’s publications. The aggressive efforts to demonize cannabis were effective, as the sheer number of newspapers, tabloids, magazines and film reels under Hearst’s control enabled him to inundate American media with propaganda. Americans readily accepted the stories of crazed crimes incited by marijuana use, and official accounts of the “evils” of marijuana continue to color popular opinion of the drug today. 

President Nixon embarked on a new era of drug control. Shortly after assuming office in 1969, Nixon announced a global campaign to stamp out drugs and drug traffickers. He launched “Operation Intercept” and ordered the closure of 2,500 miles of the Mexican border and searches of hundreds of thousands of people and vehicles. In 1970 Nixon created the National Commission on Marijuana and Drug Abuse and in 1971 he declared drugs to be “public enemy number one.” These actions marked the initiation of the national and international “War on Drugs.” Thanks to Erlickman, we now know the real motivation behind the "War on Drugs" was to target blacks and other political enemies. However, African-Americans have now become the primary targets. See related post, "40 Reasons Our Jails and Prisons Are Full of Black and Poor People".

There was no wave of compassion when addicts were hooked on crack

The ultimate tragedy is not the oppression and cruelty by the bad people but the silence over that by the good people. Overdose deaths in white communities have reached epidemic proportions because society in general was so indifferent to drug addiction when it was a consider a black problem. As was stated in "First They Came", It’s just a matter of time before the injustices people remain silent about, visits them.

It's time to stop denying racism exist and is a major problem.

"The problem is that white people see racism as conscious hate, when racism is bigger than that. Racism is a complex system of social and political levers and pulleys set up generations ago to continue working on the behalf of whites at other people’s expense, whether whites know/like it or not. Racism is an insidious cultural disease. It is so insidious that it doesn’t care if you are a white person who likes black people; it’s still going to find a way to infect how you deal with people who don’t look like you. Yes, racism looks like hate, but hate is just one manifestation. Privilege is another. Access is another. Ignorance is another. Apathy is another. And so on. So while I agree with people who say no one is born racist, it remains a powerful system that we’re immediately born into. It’s like being born into air: you take it in as soon as you breathe. It’s not a cold that you can get over. There is no anti-racist certification class. It’s a set of socioeconomic traps and cultural values that are fired up every time we interact with the world. It is a thing you have to keep scooping out of the boat of your life to keep from drowning in it. I know it’s hard work, but it’s the price you pay for owning everything." –  Scott Woods

Bayer and Monsanto: A Marriage Made in Hell

Today, the St. Louis Post Dispatch reported that, "Bayer, Monsanto said to be moving closer to a merger deal". Considering the history of Black people being victimized by medical experimentation and the history of Bayer's participation in the Holocaust while part of IG Farben, the merger is not welcome news to me.

On December 25, 1925 six companies Bayer, BASF, Hoechst including Cassella and Chemische Fabrik Kalle, Agfa, Chemische Fabrik Griesheim-Elektron, and Chemische Fabrik vorm merged to form IG Farben. 

The IG Farben Trial concluded that IG Farben had committed war crimes including active participation in the Holocaust. IG Farben had constructed a plant next to the concentration camp  Auschwitz, with the clear intent to use inmates as slave workers. The indictment against IG Farben included:

  • Planning, preparation, initiation, and waging of wars of aggression and invasions of other countries.
  • War crimes and crimes against humanity through the plundering and spoliation of occupied territories, and the seizure of plants in Austria, Czechoslovakia, Poland, Norway, France, and Russia.
  • War crimes and crimes against humanity through participation in the enslavement and deportation to slave labor on a gigantic scale of concentration camp inmates and civilians in occupied countries, and of prisoners of war, and the mistreatment, terrorization, torture, and murder of enslaved persons.

The Soviet Union seized most of IG Farben's assets located in the Soviet occupation zone. However, because of the company's large investment of American companies, the idea of destroying IG Farben was quickly abandoned in the western occupation zone. In 1951, the company was split into its original companies and the four largest including Bayer quickly bought the smaller ones. IG Farben was officially put into liquidation in 1952, however, as of 2012, it still existed as a corporation in liquidation.

It's important to consider a company's past history and consider what it may be capable of in the future. The article below provides information concerning the history of both Bayer and Monsanto.


By Martha Rosenberg, Ronnie Cummins

The two multinationals that teamed up during the Vietnam War to poison millions of people with its Agent Orange herbicide—St. Louis, Mo.-based Monsanto and Germany’s Bayer AG—are looking to become one. 

Bayer has announced a bid  to buy Monsanto in a deal that would expand Bayer's GMO and pesticide holdings and add drugs to Monsanto’s global portfolio. Monsanto has rejected the latest bid, but the two are still in talks.

If Monsanto, perhaps the most hated GMO company in the world, joins hands with Bayer, one of the most hated Big Pharma corporations on Earth (whose evil deeds date back to World War I and the Nazi era), the newly formed seed-pesticide-drug behemoth would have combined annual sales of $67 billion.

That’s a staggering figure. But here’s another, even more alarming: Combined, the new mega-chemical/seed company would control 29 percent of the world’s seed market and 24 percent of the pesticide market. 

The Bayer-Monsanto merger is the third recent proposed consolidation in the agriculture markets in just months, following on the heels of proposed mergers between chemical and agritoxics titans Dow and DuPont, and ChemChina and Syngenta.  

"All of a sudden we have three major transactions at the same time," Matt Arnold, an Edward Jones analyst, told the News Journal. "One would think that would prompt regulators to really dial up the scrutiny and think long and hard about whether that much consolidation is in the best interest of farmers and consumers."

Indeed, reports the Journal, all three proposed mergers face antitrust reviews by agencies in the U.S., Europe and China, reports the Journal, including by the Federal Trade Commission, U.S. Department of Justice, the European Commission and stockholders of the publicly traded companies.

Already shareholders have spoken out, terming the move "arrogant empire-building," reported Reuters. Shareholders also worry that the takeover would dilute Bayer’s core drug business currently flush with sales of its blood-thinner Xarelto and Eylea, a drug to treat blindness.

As noted, this is not the first time Bayer and Monsanto will have teamed up, if the deal goes through. “During the Vietnam war, Bayer was involved in the development of Agent Orange production….carried out at the firm Mobay, founded jointly by Bayer and Monsanto,”says Coalition Against Bayer Dangers. The defoliant herbicide Agent Orange was sprayed over millions of acres in Vietnam for over a decade in “Operation Ranch Hand,” despite numerous scientific studies and thousands, later millions of medical cases linking the toxic chemical to birth defects and stillbirths in animals and humans.

Bayer, a history of unsafe drugs

Bayer and Monsanto both sell controversial toxic agricultural chemicals and GMO seeds. But if Bayer’s bid to take over Monsanto goes through, it would mark Monsanto’s first entry into Big Pharma. 

Last year, Bayer was named the ninth largest drug company in the world on the basis of its yearly revenue of $25.47 billion. The drug giant, though, has been beset with drug safety scandals, including deaths, for at least three decades. Here are just a few of the scandals that made the news,

•    Blood clotting drug spread AIDS

In the 1980s, Bayer sold Factor VIII concentrate, a blood-clotting medicine acquired from Cutter Laboratories in 1978. Though Factor VIII carried a high risk of transmitting AIDS and Bayer knew, Bayer continued to sell the drug in Asia and Latin America while selling a new, safer product in the West. 

In Hong Kong and Taiwan alone, more than 100 hemophiliacs got H.I.V. and "many have since died, "reported the New York Times. Cutter's "financial investment in the product was considered too high to destroy the inventory," said William Heisel of the Center for Health Reporting. "Cutter continued to sell the contaminated AHF to markets willing to accept it, including overseas markets in Asia and Latin America, without the recommended precaution of heat treating the product to eliminate the risk."

•    Statin Baycol recalled

In 2001, Bayer withdrew its lucrative new statin drug Baycol because more than 50 people had died and more than six million patients were at risk from the deadly side effects of rapidly dissolving of muscle tissue. Bayer removed the drug from pharmacy shelves in the U.S., Europe and Japan, and U.S. and German lawyers announced that they are planning an amended class-action lawsuit in the U.S. that would allow European victims to seek damages.

As deaths grew, Bayer stuck to its story "that there is currently no proof that the drug is the cause of the deaths" and assured shareholders that "Our sales this year will increase even though Baycol will now be absent." Recently, Bayer was sentenced to pay damages to Baycol victims in in Argentina and Italy. "Internal documents show that Bayer’s management was aware of the serious health risk for patients and even ignored warnings from within the company," . 

•    Yaz birth control pill causes deaths

Bayer's Yaz birth control pills promised to clear up acne and treat severe PMS in addition to preventing pregnancy. But soon after the Yaz launch in 2006, there were reports of associated blood clots, gall bladder disease, heart attacks and even strokes. The Bayer birth control pills contained drospirenone, a drug that was never before marketed in the U.S. and likely caused the heart problems through elevated potassium, and a change in acid balance of the blood.

TV ads for Yaz in 2008 were so misleading, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA), in a rare move, ordered Bayer to run correction ads. Thousands of injuries and approximately 100 deaths were linked to Yaz in law filings that followed. 

•    Xarelto, shady approval of a dangerous drug

In 2012, the New York Times reported on a class of new anti-clotting drugs which have no antidote and can cause alarming bleeding deaths. Xarelto is one of them. Even as 379 deaths have been linked to Xarelto, there are reports of hidden and falsified data and faulty technology that helped win the controversial drug FDA approval. Trials were conducted by Duke's Robert Califf, who later became the new FDA Commissioner. No conflict of interest there. 

•    Baytril, animal antibiotic blocked by FDA

2015 Bayer brochure, coinciding with public awareness of antibiotic abuse in livestock, says Bayer Animal Health "objects" to "routine prophylactic use in healthy animals" of fluoroquinolones, a type of antibiotic. 

Yet it was just such "prophylactic use" that got Bayer's fluoroquinolone Baytril blocked by the FDA a decade ago.  The FDA said  the routine use of Baytril in chickens "has made it difficult for doctors to treat human patients who have food poisoning." Union of Concerned Scientists called the decision a "big victory for public health." The FDA Commissioner at the time, Lester Crawford, remarked that Baytril "has not been shown to be safe for use in poultry." The FDA continues to struggle against the powerful lobbying of drug companies selling livestock antibiotics, often by the ton.

The devil’s chemist

Many people have heard rumors about Bayer’s roles in WWI and WWII. Sadly, they are true and sometimes worse than have been reported. “Carl Duisberg, the Bayer General Director for decades, was personally involved in the development of poison gas such as ‘Mustard Gas’ in World War I and pushed for its use on the front–contrary to international law,”reports Coalition against Bayer Dangers. Duisberg demanded the deportation of tens of thousands of Belgian forced laborers, according to the Coalition, and “strongly supported the merging of the German chemical industry to create the Ig Farben” implicated in Nazi atrocities.

“The Ig Farben cartel was crucial to the Nazi war effort by supplying synthetic fuel, rubber, and other chemicals,” reports Natural News. The cartel also manufactured Zyklon-B, the nerve gas used to kill millions at the concentration camps of Auschwitz, Birkenau and elsewhere. Later known as the Devil's Chemists, Ig Farben used unwilling inmates of the concentration camps as slave laborers and guinea pigs to test chemicals, pharmaceuticals, and vaccines. Tens of thousands died, and those who became too ill to be of any use were murdered in the gas chambers, according to a Natural News report. 

It is hard to believe a company linked to the Holocaust, including grisly human experiments conducted on concentration camp victims, would be thriving in the pharmaceutical, agrochemical and GMO sectors. But it’s true, as evidenced by this correspondence between an Auschwitz camp commander and Bayer Leverkusen, which cites the “sale” of 150 female prisoners for experiments:

With a view to the planned experiments with a new sleep-inducing drug we would appreciate it if you could place a number of prisoners at our disposal (…)" – "We confirm your response, but consider the price of 200 RM per woman to be too high. We propose to pay no more than 170 RM per woman. If this is acceptable to you, the women will be placed in our possession. We need some 150 women (…)" – "We confirm your approval of the agreement. Please prepare for us 150 women in the best health possible (…)" – "Received the order for 150 women. Despite their macerated condition they were considered satisfactory. We will keep you informed of the developments regarding the experiments (…)" – "The experiments were performed. All test persons died. We will contact you shortly about a new shipment (…)"

From chemical warfare to “crop science”

Bayer is in agrochemicals and GMOs as deeply as Monsanto, the company it seeks to buy. In 2008, the German Coalition against Bayer brought a charge against the Bayer Board of Management with the Public Prosecutor in Freiburg (south-western Germany) accusing Bayer of contributing to the mass death of bees all over the world through its aggressive pesticide marketing. Since then, the bee debacle has only grown worse, with thousands of hives collapsing after poisoning by the pesticide clothianidin, producing a worldwide crisis.

Since 1991, Bayer has been producing the insecticide Imidacloprid, one of the world’s best-selling insecticides. Imidacloprid is used to pre-treat genetically engineered corn, sunflower and rapeseed (canola) seeds, despite evidence seeds with insecticides is ineffective. Imidacloprid was one of Bayer´s top pesticides, exported to more than 120 countries. When its patent expired, Bayer brought a similarly functioning successor product, Clothianidin, onto the market in 2003. Both substances are systemic chemicals that work their way from the seed through the plant. The substances also get into the pollen and the nectar and can damage beneficial insects such as bees.

In 2006, the Washington Post reported that Bayer’s GMO rice, LLRICE 601 rice, endowed with bacterial DNA that makes rice plants resistant to a weed killer made by the agricultural giant Aventis, was spreading out of control. U.S. commercial supplies of long-grain rice had become inadvertently contaminated with the rice not approved for human consumption, said Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns. 

The following year, Bayer admitted it was unable to control the spread of its genetically-engineered organisms despite “the best practices [to stop contamination],” demonstrating once again that all outdoors field trials or commercial growing of GMO crops must be stopped

Europe has been way ahead of the U.S. in acknowledging the dangers and banning GMOs and dangerous pesticides.

Is merger a sign of decline?

While a Bayer-Monsanto deal (like a DuPont-Dow deal or ChemChina-Syngenta deal) certainly threatens the world food supply with domination by GMOs and destructive agrochemicals, there may be an underreported bright side: Industries that are doing well generally spin off; industries that are performing poorly generally merge and consolidate.

Recent reports suggest the stock of large agricultural, biotech and seed companies, including Monsanto, is foundering, –a likely reflection of the growing, world-wide rejection of their products.  Moreover, even though the long-awaited, industry-friendly National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine report did not find human “dangers” in eating GMOs, it also definitively did not find they produced greater crop yields. Wait—wasn’t that the justification given for creating GMO crops? 

Thanks in large part to the global anti-GMO and Millions Against Monsanto movement, the Biotech Tech Bully from St. Louis is on the ropes. By changing its name, Monsanto hopes we’ll forget its evil deeds.

Not a chance, On October 14-16, merged or not with Bayer, the OCA and the global grassroots will expose Monsanto’s crimes against humanity and the environment at the Monsanto Tribunal, a citizens’ tribunal which will take place in The Hague, Netherlands. 

Perhaps it’s time to put Bayer and Big Pharma on trial as well and build an even larger global united front: Billions Against Bayer-Monsanto.


Republished with permission under license by CommonDreams

How racism has shaped welfare policy in America since 1935

A Halloween gathering in Los Angeles for children who live on the street, in shelters or in cars. Lucy Nicholson/Reuters

By Alma Carten

A recent UNICEF report found that the U.S. ranked 34th on the list of 35 developed countries surveyed on the well-being of children. According to the Pew Institute, children under the age of 18 are the most impoverished age population of Americans, and African-American children are almost four times as likely as white children to be in poverty.

These findings are alarming, not least because they come on the 20th anniversary of President Clinton’s promise to “end welfare as we know it” with his signing into law, on Aug. 23, 1996, the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (P.L. 104-193).

It is true that the data show the number of families receiving cash assistance fell from 12.3 million in 1996 to current levels of 4.1 million as reported by The New York Times. But it is also true that child poverty rates for black children remain stubbornly high in the U.S.

My research indicates that this didn’t happen by chance. In a recent book, I examine social welfare policy developments in the U.S. over a 50-year period from the New Deal to the 1996 reforms. Findings reveal that U.S. welfare policies have, from their very inception, been discriminatory.

Blemished by a history of discrimination

It was the 1935 Social Security Act, introduced by the Franklin Roosevelt administration, that first committed the U.S. to the safety net philosophy.

From the beginning, the policy had two tiers that intended to protect families from loss of income.

On one level were the contributory social insurance programs that provided income support to the surviving dependents of workers in the event of their death or incapacitation and Social Security for retired older Americans.

The second tier was made up of means-tested public assistance programs that included what was originally called the “Aid to Dependent Children” program and was subsequently renamed the Aid to Families with Dependent Children in the 1962 Public Welfare Amendments to the SSA under the Kennedy administration.

The optimistic vision of the architects of the ADC program was that it would die “a natural death” with the rising quality of life in the country as a whole, resulting in more families becoming eligible for the work-related social insurance programs.

But this scenario was problematic for black Americans because of pervasive racial discrimination in employment in the decades of the 1930s and 1940s. During these decades, blacks typically worked in menial jobs. Not tied to the formal workforce, they were paid in cash and “off the books,” making them ineligible for social insurance programs that called for contributions through payroll taxes from both employers and employees.

Nor did blacks fare much better under ADC during these years.

The ADC was an extension of the state-operated mothers’ pension programs, where white widows were the primary beneficiaries. The criteria for eligibility and need were state-determined, so blacks continued to be barred from full participation because the country operated under the “separate but equal” doctrine adopted by the Supreme Court in 1896.

Jim Crow Laws and the separate but equal doctrine resulted in the creation of a two-track service delivery system in both law and custom, one for whites and one for blacks that were anything but equal.

A ‘colored’ drinking fountain – segregation applied to welfare benefits too. Russell Lee/Library of Congress

Developments in the 1950s and ‘60’s further disadvantaged black families.

This happened when states stepped up efforts to reduce ADC enrollment and costs. As I examined in my book, residency requirements were proposed so as to bar blacks migrating from the South to qualify for the program. New York City’s “man in the house rule” required welfare workers to make unannounced visits to determine if fathers were living in the home – if evidence of a male presence was found, cases were closed and welfare checks discontinued.

Always an unpopular program

Because of the strong American work ethic, and preference for a “hand up” versus a “hand-out,” the means-tested, cash assistance programs for poor families – and especially ADC renamed AFDC – have never been popular among Americans. As FDR himself said in his 1935 State of the Union address to Congress, “the government must and shall quit this business of relief."

As the quality of life did indeed improve for whites, the number of white widows and their children on the AFDC rolls declined. At the same time, the easing of racial discrimination widened eligibility to more blacks, increasing the number of never-married women of color  and their children who were born out of wedlock.

One point, however, to note here is that there has always been a public misconception about race and welfare. It is true that over the years blacks became disproportionately represented.But given that whites constitute a majority of the population, numerically they have always been the largest users of the AFDC program.

Holes in the safety net

The retreat from the safety net philosophy can be dated to the presidencies of Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan.

On the one hand, politicians wanted to reduce the cost of welfare. Under Reagan policies of New Federalism, social welfare expenditures were capped and responsibility for programs for poor families given back to states.

On the other hand, the demographic shift in the welfare rolls exacerbated the politics around welfare and racialized the debate.

Ronald Reagan’s “Welfare Queen” narrative only reinforced existing white stereotypes about blacks:

“There’s a woman in Chicago. She has 80 names, 30 addressees, 12 Social Security cards and is collecting veterans’ benefits on four nonexistent deceased husbands. She’s got Medicaid, is getting food stamps and welfare under each of her names. Her tax-free cash income alone is over $150,000.”

Reagan’s assertions that the homeless were living on the streets by choice played to conventional wisdom about the causes of poverty, blamed poor people for their own misfortune and helped disparage government programs to help the poor.

The 1990s gear change

By the late 1990s efforts of reforms targeting the AFDC program shifted to more nuanced forms of racism with claims that the program encouraged out-of-wedlock births, irresponsible fatherhood and intergenerational dependency.

The political context for the 1996 reforms, then, was fueled by racist undertones that played into public angst about rising taxes and the national debt that were attributed to the high payout of welfare checks to people who were not carrying their own weight.

This emotionally charged environment distorted the poverty debate, and paved the way for a reform bill that many saw as excessively punitive in its harsh treatment of poor families.

Although credited to the Clinton administration, the blueprint for the 1996 welfare reform bill was crafted by a caucus of conservative Republicans led by Newt Gingrich as part of the Contract with America during the 1994 congressional election campaign.

Twice President Clinton vetoed the welfare reform bill sent to him by the GOP-dominated Congress. The third time he signed, creating much controversy, including the resignation of his own adviser on welfare reform, the leading scholar on poverty David Ellwood.

The new bill replaced the AFDC program with Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF). Stricter work requirements required single mothers to find work within two years of receiving benefits. A five-year lifetime limit was imposed for receiving benefits. To reinforce traditional family values, a core principle of the Republican Party, teenage mothers were to be prohibited benefits, and fathers who were delinquent in child support payments were threatened with imprisonment. States were banned from using federally funded TANF for certain groups of immigrants and restrictions were placed on their eligibility to Medicaid, food stamps and Supplementary Social Security Income (SSI).

The impact

Despite many bleak predictions, favorable outcomes were reported on the 10th anniversary of the bill’s signing. Welfare rolls had declined. Mothers had moved from welfare to work and children had benefited psychologically from having an employed parent.

However, the volume of research generated at the 10-year benchmark has not been matched, in my observation, by that produced in years leading up to the 20-year anniversary.

More research in particular is needed to understand what is happening with families who have left welfare rolls because of passing the five-year lifetime limit for receiving benefits but have not sustained a foothold in an ever-increasing specialized workforce.

Disentangling intertwined effects of racism and poverty

U.S. welfare policy is, arguably, as much a reflection of its economic policies as it is of the nation’s troublesome history of racism.

In the words of President Obama, racism is a part of America’s DNA and history. 

Similarly, the notion that anyone who is willing to work hard can be rich is just as much a part of that DNA. Both have played an equal role in constraining adequate policy development for poor families and have been especially harmful to poor black families.

Racism has left an indelible mark on American institutions. In particular, it influences how we understand the causes of poverty and how we develop solutions for ending it.

Indeed, with the continual unraveling of the safety net, the 20th anniversary of welfare reforms can be an impetus for taking a closer look at how racism has shaped welfare policy in the U.S. and to what extent it accounts for the persistently high poverty rates for black children.


Republished with permission under license by The Conversation


Alma Carten is an Associate Professor of Social Work; McSilver Faculty Fellow, New York University

Dr. Alma J. Carten earned her Bachelor of Arts degree from Ohio University, her Master of Social Work degree from the Whitney M. Young Jr. School of Social Work, and her Doctorate in Social Welfare from Hunter College School of Social Work of the City University of New York. At NYU, Dr. Carten is former chair of the social welfare programs and policies area, and teaches in the social welfare policies and human behavior curricula sequences in the MSW program and social policy analysis in the doctoral program. Dr. Carten is also a consultant reviewer for the US Department of Juvenile Justice, Children’s Bureau of the Administration for Children and Families, helping to shape the national standards for child welfare outcomes. She has held a number of faculty appointments, including director and chair of the Westchester Social Work Education Consortium, and has taught at Hunter College School of Social Work and and the Behavioral Science Department at the New York City Policy Academy. Additionally, she was a member of the Administration for Children’s Services Commissioner’s Task Force on Minority Agencies. She served as president of the New York City Chapter of the National Association for Social Workers from 2000-2002.

Dr. Carten has professional experience in the private and public sectors. She served on the United Way of New York City agency membership Review Panel, and is a board member and consultant for a number of New York City voluntary social welfare agencies, the Administration for Children and Families, and the Children's Bureau at the federal level. Her work in government includes director of the Office of Adolescent Services for the New York City Human Resources Administration with responsibility for policy development and the design and implementation of citywide services for pregnant and parenting teens, interim commissioner of the Child Welfare Administration, special advisor to the HRA commissioner/administrator during the Dinkins administration, and appointed member of the Mayor's Commission on the Foster Care of Children. She has conducted research and published on family preservation programs, maternal substance abuse, child survivors of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, independent living services for adolescents, dimensions of abuse and neglect among Caribbean families, and neighborhood-based services and mental health services and the African American community.

Dr. Carten’s professional interests focus on child welfare, and the delivery of culturally competent services to children and families.  She has conducted extensive research studying the Caribbean and African immigrant communities in the New York metropolitan area.

She co-edited with Dr. James R. Dumpson, entitled Removing Risk from Children: Shifting the Paradigm, and a chapter titled "Family Preservation, Neighborhood Based Services," in Child Welfare Services: An Africentric Perspective, Everett & Leashore, co-editors. Her most recent publication “Reflections on the American Social Welfare State: The Collected Papers of James R. Dumpson,” is published by NASW Press, and she is primary editor of "Anti-Racist Strategies for Transforming Health and Human Service" in press with Oxford University Press.

 

DOJ report on Baltimore echoes centuries-old limits on African-American freedom in the Charm City

Police armored cars drive down a Baltimore street following the death of Freddie Gray in 2015. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

By Jessica Millward

African-American rights in Baltimore have always been in jeopardy. The recently released report from the Department of Justice on the Baltimore Police Department is sobering, but not surprising.

As a scholar of early African-American history in Maryland, I see similarities between laws regarding enslaved and free blacks living in Baltimore prior to the Civil War, and the overpolicing of African-Americans today. African-Americans in antebellum and contemporary Baltimore share the same problem: limits on black freedom.

Antebellum foundations for unequal treatment

On the eve of the American Revolution, Maryland was second only to Virginia in the number of people it held in bondage. By the beginning of the 19th century, the number of free blacks began to rise. Baltimore had a significant free black population well before the 14th Amendment made blacks citizens. According to the 1790 U.S. census, 927 free blacks resided in the county that included Baltimore city. By 1830, Baltimore city and the surrounding county was home to some 17,888 free African-Americans.

Historian Barbara Field notes that the increase of free blacks in Maryland was a direct result of replacing tobacco harvesting, which required a full-time labor source, to wheat. Harvesting wheat did not require a year-round labor supply. Between the change in labor demands and African-Americans protesting their condition, the free black community in Virginia and Maryland grew.

Arrival of freedmen and their families at Baltimore, Maryland
Arrival of freedmen and their families at Baltimore, Maryland – an everyday scene. Library of Congress/Frank Leslie

This was a concern for lawmakers. Laws such as the 1790 Act Related to Freeing Slaves by Will or Testament were designed to extract the maximum amount of labor from the enslaved before they were awarded freedom, or their free black relatives could purchase it for them. This meant enslaved men were freed only when they ceased to be in peak physical condition, and enslaved women were freed after their childbearing years.

Once freed, African-Americans had to show “proof of a sufficient livelihood,” affirming their ability to care for themselves, or otherwise end up in the city jail or re-enslaved. The irony of this proclamation was that once freed, African-Americans found ways to stave off poverty by working in trades similar to the jobs they had while enslaved. If they avoided the county jail, free blacks were subject to curfews and sanctions against traveling. Many counties in Maryland passed laws requiring free blacks to move out of the state for fear they would incite the local enslaved population to rebel.

Perhaps the most alarming attempt to address the problem of black freedom was the development of the American Colonization Society (ACS) and its chapters in antebellum cities such as Baltimore. Under the guise of Christianity and missionary work, the ACS promised enslaved African-Americans all the rights and privileges of freedom, so long as they relocated to Liberia. Organized by white slaveholders, politicians and religious organizations, the ACS offered a solution to both slavery and the rise in free blacks in the United States – resettle blacks outside the country.

Black intellectuals of the time were divided over resettlement campaigns. Abolitionist newspapers published countless articles protesting the efforts of the colonization society. Historian Robert Brugger notes that a group of free blacks surrounded the gangplanks in the Baltimore harbor in an attempt to stop the forced removal of their friends and family to Liberia.

As these 19th-century examples demonstrate, policing African-American freedom has a long history in Baltimore. African-Americans could escape slavery, but they were not truly free. New laws were continually passed to limit, if not completely dismantle, the very few rights they possessed.

Baltimore today: DOJ report documents violations of civil rights

The findings in the DOJ report echo the restrictions on lives of antebellum free blacks in key ways. African-Americans were arrested in greater proportion than their nonblack peers. According to the report:

BPD made roughly 44 percent of its stops in two small, predominantly African-American districts that contain only 11 percent of the City’s population. Consequently, hundreds of individuals — nearly all of them African American – were stopped on at least 10 separate occasions from 2010–2015. Indeed, seven African-American men were stopped more than 30 times during this period.

African-Americans were frequently arrested for loitering. If their presence became a problem, whether real or perceived, Baltimore police exercised a zero-tolerance policy when it came to African-Americans resulting in unlawful searches, seizures and arrests. As in the 19th century, the mere presence of African-Americans provided grounds for arrest.

People gather to remember Freddie Gray and all victims of police violence during a rally outside city hall in Baltimore, Maryland.
People gather to remember Freddie Gray and all victims of police violence during a rally outside city hall in Baltimore, Maryland. REUTERS/Bryan Woolston

In the 19th century, attempts were made to remove blacks from society by, among other means, sending them to Liberia or forcing them to move away. Today, arresting and detaining African-Americans quarantines them from the rest of society. If the arrest sticks and the individual is prosecuted and found guilty, he is incarcerated. If convicted of a felony, he is not allowed to vote.

African-Americans make up 44 percent of the Baltimore police force and 63 percent of the population of Baltimore city. As the New York Times points out, “Baltimore’s police department has a lower percentage of blacks than the population it serves. But in contrast to other cities that have been wracked by tension and protests over police confrontations with black men, the city’s mayor, its police commissioner, the state’s attorney are all black, giving a somewhat different tenor to clashes between the power structure and its critics.” Indeed, arguments about policing that exclusively point to racism or bias among officers as the root of the problem don’t hold for cities like Baltimore. I believe the problem is also tied to anti-black aspects of the laws they are tasked with enforcing.

The DOJ report provides a critical opportunity to assess and reform disparities in the legal system, especially as we continually bear witness to the almost daily death dance between African-Americans and the police. It makes clear that African-American rights are in jeopardy. The key difference between African-Amerians in Baltimore then and now is that blacks are now citizens. They are entitled to, among other things, the right to due process under the law.

However, the DOJ findings make clear that African-Americans in Baltimore are disproportionately harassed, searched, detained and, in the case of Freddie Gray, murdered. The fear is not that the DOJ report has unmasked truths that we prefer to deny. The fear is that there will be a failure to reform the system in light of these findings. Greater than the fear is the reality that policing black citizens will continue to include practices that are eerily reminiscent of the past.


Republished with permission under license from The Conversation.


Jessica Millward is an Associate Professor of History, University of California, Irvine

Dr. Millward's first book, Finding Charity’s Folk: Enslaved and Free Black women in Maryland was published in Fall 2015 as part of the Race in the Atlantic World series, Athens: University of Georgia Press. She is also working on two additional projects. The first is centered on migration and citizenship in the Black Atlantic, 1770-1860. The other focuses on African American women's experiences with sexual assault and intimate partner violence through the end of the 19th century.

Millward writes commentary on topics related to slavery, African American women and US History.

Are Black People Stuck in the Past?

Some people have commented that slavery happened a long time ago and that black people are stuck in the past and need to forget about slavery. People often state that no one alive today has ever experienced slavery and that white decendants are not responsible for the sins of their ancestors. Had white decendants not benefited from the inheritance those sins produced, I might agree with those statements, but when you accept the benefits, you must also accept the liability and responsibility. 

Slavery in what is now the U.S. began in 1619 and ended in 1865. While it is true that slavery ended 150 years ago, it was replace by Jim Crow, a system in many regards very similar to slavery. Jim Crow began at the end of the Reconstruction Period around 1877 and didn't begin to end until the 1950's with the Supreme Court decision of Brown vs. The Board of Education of Topeka, which declared segregation in public schools unconstitutional, and, by extension, that ruling was applied to other public facilities. However, it took another decade of protest before the civil rights act and the voting rights act provided meaningful relief.

The continued legacy of slavery, Jim Crow and institutionalize racism is  continued discrimination, economic and other forms of oppression. The effects were long term and some have argued African-Americans suffer from Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome.

The video below does a good job of explaining some of the horrors of slavery and demonstrates some of the lingering affects.

Buck Breaking

The video below describes a little known slave breaking technique where male slaves were beaten and raped in front of their family and other slaves on the plantation.

Some of the scenes depicted in the video above were from the movie "Amistad' and  "Goodbye Uncle Tom", a 1971 movie based on historical documents and revealed horrors and hidden evils of slavery.

There are some who claim that sex farms never existed and the concept is black propaganda. An 1849 publication titiled, "A Few Words, on the Encouragement given to Slavery and the Slave Trade, by recent measures, and chiefly by the Sugar Bill of 1846", by Stephen Cave, ESQ, M.A. Barrister at Law; states on page 17:

"It is scarcely profitable here to allude to the quadroons of the slave states; ladies, who in complexion, education, and refinement, might vie with the fairest and most favoured daughters of Europe; who are yet sold as the negroes, into hopeless slavery. Their case, though one of the foulest blots on the American Institutions, is not one of those, encouraged by our commercial policy; their life is a very different one to that of the labouring slaves; but in their case, as on the slave breeding farms of Virginia, are to be found instances of fathers selling their own children, making merchandize of their own flesh and blood."

Another publication, "Letter to Louis Kossuth concerning Freedom and Slavery in behalf of the American Anti-Slavery Society" published in 1852 mentions "breeding plantations" on pages 27-28. The publication, "Lincolniana", published in 1865, mentions slave breeding farms on page 25

Now that we have provided documentary proof that slave breeding farms existed, we now remind you to use common sense and deductive reasoning. During the 1800's, homosexuality was considered socially unacceptable, taboo and in many cases illegal. You wouldn't expect men who participated in this sort of behavior to publicize it, would you? However, think about how effective a technique this would be to make male slaves submit. I can think of no greater method to strip a man of his dignity, sense of manhood and will to fight. I can't begin to imagine the humiliation those men felt who were victims of this breaking techique.

 

 

Should the U.S. provide reparations for slavery and Jim Crow?

By Carlton Mark Waterhouse – Professor of Law and Dean's Fellow, Indiana University

photo of a Woman with slave girl in the mid 19th century, New Orleans
Woman with slave girl in the mid 19th century, New Orleans.

The debate over reparations in the United States began even before slavery ended in 1865.

It continues today. The overwhelming majority of academics studying the issue have supported the calls for compensating black Americans for the centuries of chattel slavery and the 100 years of lynching, mob violence and open exclusion from public and private benefits like housing, health care, voting, political office and education that occurred during the Jim Crow era.

Despite this academic support, the nation is arguably no closer to consensus on this issue than it was 150 years ago. Not surprisingly, my research has shown that the idea remains widely unpopular with white Americans and overwhelmingly supported by African-Americans.

The example of a Founding Father

The debate over reparations began not long after the country was founded.

In 1790, Benjamin Franklin committed to instruct, employ and educate the children of those he had set free from bondage. Franklin saw this as a way to “promote the public good, and the happiness of these our hitherto too much neglected fellow-creatures.”

After slavery ended, Senator Thaddeus Stevens of Pennsylvania proposed the reparations bill in 1867. It provided 40 acres of land to each adult male and to each female who was the head of a family. In addition, it called for funding to construct a homestead on the land. Stevens saw reparations as necessary to avoid racial hatred, inequality and strife.

Callie House, who was born enslaved, took up the charge in the 1890s under the auspices of the National Ex-Slave Mutual Relief, Bounty and Pension Association. She was arrested and ultimately imprisoned for her efforts in 1917. She was accused of raising money to support a cause that the government argued was so implausible as to constitute fraud. The organization had built a membership in the tens of thousands from 1897 to 1898, and continued to grow thereafter.

Scholars pick up the cause

photo of Slave market in Atlanta, Georgia in 1864
Slave market in Atlanta, Georgia in 1864.

The case for reparations for African-Americans was taken up in academic and popular circles more than 40 years ago.

Yale Law Professor Boris Bitkker gave the first significant academic treatment of the issue in his book “The Case for Black Reparations” in 1972. The book followed the public demand for US$500 million in reparations from white churches and synagogues by civil rights leader James Foreman.

The issue remained on the political agenda of some black nationalist organizations like the the Nation of Islam and later the National Coalition of Blacks for Reparations. It was also part of the research agenda of scholars such as Bernard Boxxil and Howard McGary. Boxill and McGary provided a basis in moral philosophy for black reparations that future scholars expanded into other disciplines.

In 2001, well-known anti-apartheid activist Randall Robinson published his book “The Debt: What America Owes to Blacks.” After its publication and popular success, a new group of academics began to give significant attention to the issue.

A popular movement also arose that sparked lawsuits relating to slavery and state-supported racial violence in Tulsa, Oklahoma (see Race Riots). All of the suits were dismissed by the courts, causing many to conclude that legislative action was the only possibility for redress.

The legislative approach had succeeded previously in one instance. Years earlier, the Florida legislature enacted legislation that made Florida the first and only state to provide reparations for state-supported mob violence against African-Americans during the 1923 Rosewood massacre.

A number of cities and universities began investigating their historic relationship to slavery. Several states issued apologies for slavery. The United States House of Representativesfollowed suit in 2008. The Senate joined in the following year. The 2014 article by Ta Ne-hisi Coates in The Atlantic represents a recent resurfacing of the issue.

My current research explores the commonality between the views held by the majority of American whites on this issue and the views of dominant ethnic and racial groups who oppose redress for injustices and harms inflicted in other countries.

Social hierarchy and reparations globally

Following World War II and the extermination of Roma peoples alongside Jews in death and concentration camps, the Federal Republic of Germany refused redress to the Roma at the same time it provided extensive reparations to Jewish victims.

Australia’s rejection of reparations in response to the theft of over 100,000 indigenous children over the course of 60 years under federal and state laws provides another example. Japan’s refusal to provide redress to the Korean woman forced into sexual slavery during World War II is one more.

In each case, the rejection of redress corresponds to the low social status of the victims. This reflects a phenomenon social psychologists identify as “social dominance.” It describes a state in which certain groups have a disproportionate share of a society’s “negative social value” such as incarceration, poverty and substandard housing. Others in the same society have a disproportionate share of “positive social value” including education, political power, wealth and quality housing.

Groups enjoying the benefits of social dominance often reject claims by subordinate groups, even when they are rooted in horrible and well-established historic injustices.

The reasons for rejecting these claims vary, but they ultimately flow from the perceived flawed character of the group members. Following World War II, German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer identified the Roma as a “race of criminals” who in no way deserved reparations. In Australia, former Prime Minister John Howard rejected reparations based on the idea that “contemporary Australians should not be held responsible for mistakes of the past.” An interesting position in light of the continuation of the practice into the 1970s.

photo of A ledger recording the sale of slaves in Charleston, South Carolina.
A ledger recording the sale of slaves in Charleston, South Carolina.

In Japan, the claim was made that the issue of the “Korean comfort women” was settled at the end of the war by the agreement to end hostilities. It is worth noting that in Germany and Australia, both groups had disproportionately high incarceration and poverty rates and were broadly viewed as having cultural and moral deficits. In Japan, a similar view is illustrated by the recent remarks of a government official that the victims of the years of enslavement were actually Korean prostitutes who “volunteered.”

Uprooting racial subordination in America

In the same way, white Americans' rejection of reparations has little to do with the oft-repeated challenges that “my family did not own slaves” or that “the debt was paid in the blood of the Union and Confederate soldiers.”

African-Americans fall at the bottom of America’s racial and social hierarchy. That reality has routinely and popularly been explained as a result of their inferiority. Initially the claim was rooted in genetics. Today it is based primarily on a theory of cultural deficiency.

Until these ideological bases of racial subordination are acknowledged and rejected, no “case for reparations” will convince the majority of white Americans that reparation are due African-Americans. A clear example of this can be found in the hundreds of comments to my recent New York Times editorial on the issue. The comments reflect the negative views of African-Americans held by many readers as well as an intense emotional rejection of reparations.

My proposal looks at slavery and the Jim Crow era separately. I draw the distinction to prevent the memory of the enslaved from being overshadowed by the more recent injustices of the Jim Crow era. I believe each group of victims warrants specific attention and an appropriate response.

Compensatory reparations should be limited to the harms of the Jim Crow era.

For slavery, I suggest that reparations take the form of monuments, museums, memorials and educational programs that are currently lacking in this country. One early step would be the creation of commissions at the state and local level that would identify the enslaved, their owners, and any role they played in the development of the state and its industries. This information would be used along with existing research and funded grants to develop appropriate projects to honor the enslaved and to demarcate the contributions they made.

A comparable examination should be made at the federal level to note persons of national significance. In light of the centuries-long history of slavery that took place here, we have a great deal to learn and illuminate about this aspect of our shared history.

This approach provides the focus needed on the lives of the enslaved, their humanity, and their indispensable contribution to America’s growth and development. At the same time, the proposal attends to the survivors of the governmental abuses inflicted over the course of 100 years following slavery’s end who remain without recognition or redress.


Republished with permission under license from The Conversation

Professor Carlton Waterhouse has served at the Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law since 2010. He is nationally recognized for his work on environmental justice and is known internationally for his research and writing on reparations for historic injustices and state human rights violations. His views have been published in the Wall Street Journal online and his articles have appeared in prestigious law journals including the Pennsylvania Journal of International Law, the Fordham Environmental Law Review, and the Rutgers Law Review. He attended college at the Pennsylvania State University where he studied engineering and the ethics of technology before deciding to pursue a legal education. He is a graduate of Howard University School of Law, where he was admitted as one of its distinctive Merit Fellows. While in law school, he was selected for an internship with the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law where he participated in the preliminary formation and development of the Civil Rights Act of 1992. Professor Waterhouse currently serves as a member of the Indiana Advisory Committee to the United States Civil Rights Commission

After law school, he began his career as an attorney with the United States Environmental Protection Agency where he served in the Office of Regional Counsel in Atlanta, Georgia and the Office of General Counsel in Washington, D.C. At the EPA, he served as the chief counsel for the agency in several significant cases and as a national and regional expert on environmental justice, earning three of the Agency’s prestigious national awards. His responsibilities at the EPA included enforcement actions under numerous environmental statutes, the development of regional and national policy on Environmental Justice and the application of the Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to the EPA permitting actions. Following a successful nine-year career with the EPA, Professor Waterhouse enrolled in a Ph.D. program in the Emory University Graduate School of Arts and Sciences as one of the select George W. Woodruff Fellows. The previous year, he graduated with honors from the Candler School of Theology at Emory University with a Master of Theological Studies degree. In 2006, he graduated from Emory with a Ph.D. in Social Ethics.

Kimberly Gardner given the power to change lives

Congratulations to Kimberly Gardner on her outstanding primary victory!  

Last month, we posted, "We Need Black Prosecutors". The voters of St. Louis decided the same thing and elected Kimberly Gardner as the democratic nominee and the next presumptive St. Louis City Circuit Attorney. In a city that is majority African-American, it is of extreme importance that St. Louis is finally positioned to have it's first Black Circuit Attorney. Ms. Gardner will become the most powerful person in the St. Louis City criminal justice system.

When a kid commits a crime, the justice system has a choice: prosecute to the full extent of the law, or take a step back and ask if saddling young people with criminal records is the right thing to do every time.

"It's easier to build strong children than to repair broken men"

Adam Foss, a former assistant district attorney in Suffolk County, Massachusetts discussed how prosecutors can change lives. He is among the type of black prosecutors we had in mind when we wrote our post last month. Below is a video of a TED talk Mr. Foss gave about the power of the prosecutor. At the beginning of his talk, he asked the audience a few simple questions that drove home a very powerful point that too many prosecutors miss.

What makes Ms. Gardner's victory even more amazing is the fact that she won dispite the fact the neither the St. Louis Police Officers Association or the Ethical Society of Police (St. Louis' black police union) endorsed her. Both unions endorsed other candidates. As a result, Ms. Gardner doesn't have any political obligation to police officers. 

I've never had the pleasure of meeting Ms. Gardner, but the limited interviews and news clips I have seen, indicates she shares some of the same sentiments as Mr. Foss.

I believe Ms. Gardner will be a fine circuit attorney dedicated to her new position and will be a refreshing change from the current administration.

However, there is no greater protection than personally understanding your rights. It's still important to educate yourself about the law and how our court system works.

40 Reasons Our Jails and Prisons Are Full of Black and Poor People

The deaths of Philando CastileAlton Sterling, the police ambushes in Dallas and Baton Rouge resulted in more post being published on this site than any other month in our history. The police shooting of Charles Kinsey while he laid on the ground with his hands up demonstrated that even when you do everything imaginable to prevent police violence against you, it may still occur. 

Court.rchp.com has over 200 pages and posts, hundreds of informative videos and is constantly growing. Bookmark our site so you can visit again, because there's too much information to digest in one visit. Start with our home page, then Understanding Missouri Courts and Legal research for Non-Lawyers to get an overview of what it takes to represent yourself when you have legal issues. You might decide that self representation is not for you. Gaining additional knowledge can help you better understand the legal process and the concepts your lawyer may discuss with you. 

Our rights are under attack and unless you take steps to learn how to preserve those rights, they will simply fade away. Don't learned the hard way that you can not always depend on others to help you. You must learn to help yourself when it comes to legal issues. The article below provides you with 40 reasons why you should use this site to learn more about the law and how to use it for you benefit. 


photo of chained prisoners
What does it say about our society that it uses its jails and prisons as the primary detention facilities for poor and black and brown people who have been racially targeted and jail them with the mentally ill and chemically dependent? It's a crisis not just for those locked behind bars, but for all of us. (Photo: AP)

By Bill Quigley

The US Department of Justice (DOJ) reports 2.2 million people are in our nation’s jails and prisons and another 4.5 million people are on probation or parole in the US, totaling 6.8 million people, one of every 35 adults.  We are far and away the world leader in putting our own people in jail.  Most of the people inside are poor and Black.  Here are 40 reasons why.

One.  It is not just about crime.  Our jails and prisons have grown from holding about 500,000 people in 1980 to 2.2 million today.  The fact is that crime rates have risen and fallen independently of our growing incarceration rates.

Two.  Police discriminate.  The first step in putting people in jail starts with interactions between police and people.  From the very beginning Black and poor people are targeted by the police.  Police departments have engaged in campaigns of stopping and frisking people who are walking, mostly poor people and people of color, without cause for decades.  Recently New York City lost a federal civil rights challenge to their police stop and frisk practices by the Center for Constitutional Rights during which police stopped over 500,000 people annually without any indication that the people stopped had been involved in any crime at all.  About 80 percent of those stops were of Black and Latinos who compromise 25 and 28 percent of NYC’s total population.  Chicago police do the same thing stopping even more people also in a racially discriminatory way with 72 percent of the stops of Black people even though the city is 32 percent Black.

Three.  Police traffic stops also racially target people in cars.  Black drivers are 31 percent more likely to be pulled over than white drivers and Hispanic drivers are 23 percent more likely to be pulled over than white drivers.  Connecticut, in an April 2015 report, reported on 620,000 traffic stops which revealed widespread racial profiling, particularly during daylight hours when the race of driver was more visible.  

Four.  Once stopped, Black and Hispanic motorists are more likely to be given tickets than white drivers stopped for the same offenses.

Five.  Once stopped, Blacks and Latinos are also more likely to be searched.  DOJ reports Black drivers at traffic stops were searched by police three times more often and Hispanic drivers two times more often than white drivers.  A large research study in Kansas City found when police decided to pull over cars for investigatory stops, where officers look into the car’s interior, ask probing questions and even search the car, the race of the driver was a clear indicator of who was going to be stopped: 28 percent of young Black males twenty five or younger were stopped in a year’s time, versus white men who had 12 percent chance and white women only a 7 percent chance.  In fact, not until Black men reach 50 years old do their rate of police stops for this kind of treatment dip below those of white men twenty five and under.  

Six.  Traffic tickets are big business.  And even if most people do not go directly to jail for traffic tickets, poor people are hit the worst by these ticket systems.  As we saw with Ferguson where some of the towns in St. Louis receive 40 percent or more of their city revenues from traffic tickets, tickets are money makers for towns.  

Seven.  The consequences of traffic tickets are much more severe among poor people.  People with means will just pay the fines.  But for poor and working people fines are a real hardship.  For example, over 4 million people in California do not have valid driver’s licenses because they have unpaid fines and fees for traffic tickets.  And we know unpaid tickets can lead to jail.

Eight.  In schools, African American kids are much more likely to be referred to the police than other kids.  African American students are 16 percent of those enrolled in schools but 27 percent of those referred to the police.  Kids with disabilities are discriminated against at about the same rate because they are 14 percent of those enrolled in school and 26 of those referred to the police.

Nine.  Though Black people make up about 12 percent of the US population, Black children are 28 percent of juvenile arrests.  DOJ reports that there are over 57,000 people under the age of 21 in juvenile detention.  The US even has 10,000 children in adult jails and prisons any given day.

Ten.  The War on Drugs targets Black people.  Drug arrests are a big source of bodies and business for the criminal legal system.   Half the arrests these days are for drugs and half of those are for marijuana.  Despite the fact that Black and white people use marijuana at the same rates, a Black person is 3.7 times more likely to be arrested for possession of marijuana than a white person.  The ACLU found that in some states Black people were six times more likely to be arrested for marijuana than whites.   For all drug arrests between 1980 and 2000 the U.S. Black drug arrest rate rose dramatically from 6.5 to 29.1 per 1,000 persons; during the same period, the white drug arrest rate barely increased from 3.5 to 4.6 per 1,000 persons.  

Eleven.  Many people in jail and prison because the US has much tougher drug laws and much longer sentences for drug offenses than most other countries.  Drug offenders receive an average sentence of 7 months in France, twelve months in England and 23 months in the US.

Twelve.  The bail system penalizes poor people. Every day there are about 500,000 people are in jails, who are still presumed innocent and awaiting trial, just because they are too poor to pay money to get out on bail.   Not too long ago, judges used to allow most people, even poor people to be free while they were awaiting trial but no more.   In a 2013 study of New York City courts, over 50% of the people held in jail awaiting trial for misdemeanor or felony charges were unable to pay bail amounts of $2500 or less.  

Thirteen.  This system creates a lot of jobs.  Jails and prisons provide a lot of jobs to local, state and federal officials.  To understand how this system works it is good to know the difference between jails and prisons.  Jails are local, usually for people recently arrested or awaiting trial.  Prisons are state and federal and are for people who have already been convicted.  There are more than 3000 local jails across the US, according to the Vera Institute, and together usually hold about 500,000 people awaiting trial and an additional 200,000 or so convicted on minor charges.  Over the course of a year, these local jails process over 11.7 million people.  Prisons are state and federal lockups which usually hold about twice the number of people as local jails or just over 1.5 million prisoners.

Fourteen.  The people in local jails are not there because they are a threat to the rest of us.  Nearly 75 percent of the hundreds of thousands of people in local jails are there for nonviolent offenses such as traffic, property, drug or public order offenses.

Fifteen.  Criminal bonds are big business.  Nationwide, over 60 percent of people arrested are forced to post a financial bond to be released pending trial usually by posting cash or a house or paying a bond company.  There are about 15,000 bail bond agents working in the bail bond industry which takes in about $14 billion every year.   

Sixteen.  A very high percentage of people in local jails are people with diagnosed mental illnesses.  The rate of mental illness inside jails is four to six times higher than on the outside.  Over 14 percent of the men and over 30 percent of the women entering jails and prisons were found to have serious mental illness in a study of over 1000 prisoners.  Arecent study in New York City’s Rikers Island jail found 4,000 prisoners, 40 percent of their inmates, were suffering from mental illness.  In many of our cities, the local jail is the primary place where people with severe mental problems end up.  Yet treatment for mental illness in jails is nearly non-existent.  

Seventeen. Lots of people in jail need treatment.  Nearly 70 percent of people prison meet the medical criteria for drug abuse or dependence yet only 7 to 17 percent ever receive drug abuse treatment inside prison.

Eighteen.  Those who are too poor, too mentally ill or too chemically dependent, though still presumed innocent, are kept in cages until their trial dates.  No wonder it is fair to say, as the New York Times reported, our jails “have become vast warehouses made up primarily of people too poor to post bail or too ill with mental health or drug problems to adequately care for themselves.”  

Nineteen.  Poor people have to rely on public defenders.   Though anyone threatened with even a day in jail is entitled to a lawyer, the reality is much different. Many poor people facing misdemeanor charges never see a lawyer at all.  For example, in Delaware more than 75 percent of the people in its Court of Common Pleas never speak to a lawyer.  A study of Jackson County Michigan found 95 percent of people facing misdemeanors waived their right to an attorney and have plead guilty rather than pay a $240 charge for a public defender.  Thirteen states have no state structure at all to make sure people have access to public defenders in misdemeanor courts.

Twenty.  When poor people face felony charges they often find the public defenders overworked and underfunded and thus not fully available to provide adequate help in their case.  In recent years public defenders in Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri and Pennsylvania were so overwhelmed with cases they refused to represent any new clients.   Most other states also have public defender offices that have been crushed by overwork, inadequate finances and do not measure up to the basic principles for public defenders outlined by the American Bar Association.  It is not uncommon for public defenders to have more than 100 cases going at the same time, sometimes several hundred.  Famous trial lawyer Gerry Spence, who never lost a criminal case because of his extensive preparation for each one, said that if he was a public defender and represented a hundred clients he would never have won a case.

Twenty One.  Lots of poor people plead guilty.  Lack of adequate public defense leads many people in prison to plead guilty.  The American Bar Association reviewed the US public defender system and concluded it lacked fundamental fairness and put poor people at constant risk of wrongful conviction. "All too often, defendants plead guilty, even if they are innocent, without really understanding their legal rights or what is occurring…The fundamental right to a lawyer that America assumes applies to everyone accused of criminal conduct effectively does not exist in practice for countless people across the US."

Twenty Two.  Many are forced to plead guilty.  Consider all the exonerations of people who were forced by police to confess even when they did not do the crime who were later proven innocent: some criminologists estimate 2 to 8 percent of the people in prison are innocent but pled guilty.   One longtime federal judge estimates that there is so much pressure on people to plead guilty that there may easily be 20,000 people in prison for crimes they did not commit.

Twenty Three.  Almost nobody in prison ever had a trial.  Trials are rare in the criminal injustice system.  Over 95 percent of criminal cases are finished by plea bargains.   In 1980, nearly 20 percent of criminal cases were tried but that number is reduced to less than 3 percent because sentences are now so much higher for those who lose trials, there are more punishing drug laws, mandatory minimum sentences, and more power has been given to prosecutors.

Twenty Four.  Poor people get jail and jail makes people worse off.  The poorest people, those who had to remain in jail since their arrest, were 4 times more likely to receive a prison sentence than those who got out on bail.  There are tens of thousands of rapes inside jails and prisons each year.  DOJ reports over 4,000 inmates are murdered each year insideeach year.  As US Supreme Court Justice Kennedy told Congress recently “This idea of total incarceration just isn’t working.  And it’s not humane.  We [society and Congress and the legal profession] have no interest in corrections, nobody looks at it.”

Twenty Five.  Average prison sentences are much longer than they used to be, especially for people of color. Since 1990, the average time for property crimes has gone up 24 percent and time for drug crimes has gone up 36 percent.  In the US federal system, nearly 75 percent of the people sent to prison for drug offenses are Black or Latino.  

Twenty Six.  There is about a 70 percent chance that an African American man without a high school diploma will be imprisoned by the time he reaches his mid-thirties; the rate for white males without a high school diploma is 53 percent lower.  In the 1980, there was only an 8 percent difference.  In New York City, for example, Blacks are jailed at nearly 12 times the rate of whites and Latinos more than five times the rate of whites.

Twenty Seven.  Almost 1 of 12 Black men ages 25 to 54 are in jail or prison, compared to 1 in 60 nonblack men.  That is 600,000 African American men, an imprisonment rate of five times that of white men.  

Twenty Eight.  Prison has become a very big private business.  Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) owns and runs 67 for-profit jails in 20 states with over 90,000 beds.   Along with GEO (formerly Wackenhut), these two private prison companies have donated more than $10 million to candidates and spent another $25 million lobbying according to the Washington Post.  They lobby for more incarceration and have doubled the number of prisoners they hold over the past ten years.

Twenty Nine.  The Sentencing Project reports that over 159,000 people are serving life sentences in the US.  Nearly half are African American and 1 in 6 are Latino.  The number of people serving life in prison has gone up by more than 400% since 1984.  Nearly 250,000 prisoners in the US are over age 50.

Thirty.  Inside prisons, the poorest people are taken advantage of again as most items such as telephone calls to families are priced exorbitantly high, some as high as $12.95 for a 15 minute call, further separating families.

Thirty One.  The DOJ reports another 3.9 million people are on probation.  Probation is when a court puts a person under supervision instead of sending them to prison.  Probation is also becoming a big business for private companies which get governments to contract with them to collect outstanding debts and supervise people on probation.  Human Rights Watch reported in 2014 that over a thousand courts assign hundreds of thousands of people to be under the supervision of private companies who then require those on probation to pay the company for the supervision and collect fines, fees and costs or else go to jail.  For example, one man in Georgia who was fined $200 for stealing a can of beer from a convenience store was ultimately jailed after the private probation company ran up over a thousand dollars in in fees.

Thirty Two.  The DOJ reports an additional 850,000 people are on parole.  Parole is when a person who has been in prison is released to serve the rest of their sentence under supervision.  

Thirty Three.  The DOJ reported in 2012 that as many as 100 million people have a criminal record, and over 94 million of those records are online.  

Thirty Four.  Everyone can find out people have a record. Because it is so easy to access to arrest and court records, people who have been arrested and convicted face very serious problems getting a job, renting an apartment, public assistance, and education.  Eighty-seven percent of employers conduct background checks.  Employment losses for people with criminal records have been estimated at as much as $65 billion every year.  

Thirty Five.  Race is a multiplier of disadvantage in unemployment for people who get out of prison.  A study by Professor Devah Pager demonstrated that employers who were unlikely to even check on the criminal history of white male applicants, seriously discriminated against all Black applicants and even more so against Black applicants with criminal records.

Thirty Six.  Families are hurt by this.  The Sentencing Project reports 180,000 women are subject to lifetime bans from Temporary Assistance to Needy Families because of felony drug convictions.

Thirty Seven.  Convicted people cannot get jobs after they get out.  More than 60 percent of formerly incarcerated people are unemployed one year after being released.  Is it a surprise that within three years of release from prison, about two-thirds of the state prisoners were rearrested?

Thirty Eight.  The US spends $80 billion on this big business of corrections every year.  As a retired criminal court judge I know says, “the high costs of this system would be worth it if the system was actually working and making us safer, but we are not safer, the system is not working, so the actual dollars we are spending are another indication of our failure.”  The cost of being number one in incarceration is four times higher than it was in 1982.  Anyone feeling four times safer than they used to?

Thirty Nine.  Putting more people in jail creates more poverty.  The overall poverty rate in our country is undoubtedly higher because of the dramatic increase in incarceration over the past 35 years with one research project estimating poverty would have decreased by 20 percent if we had not put all these extra people in prison.  This makes sense given the factthat most all the people brought into the system are poor to begin with, it is now much harder for them to find a job because of the barriers to employment and good jobs erected by a criminal record to those who get out of prison, the increased number of one parent families because of a parent being in jail, and the bans on receiving food stamps and housing assistance.

Forty.  Putting all these problems together and you can see why the Center for American Progress rightly concludes “Today, a criminal record serves as both a direct cause and consequence of poverty.”

What does it say about our society that it uses its jails and prisons as the primary detention facilities for poor and black and brown people who have been racially targeted and jail them with the mentally ill and chemically dependent?  The current criminal system has dozens of moving parts from the legislators who create the laws, to the police who enforce them, to the courts which apply them, to the jails and prison which house the people caught up in the system, to the public and business community who decides whom to hire, to all of us who either do something or turn our heads away.  These are our brothers and sisters and cousins and friends of our coworkers.  There are lots of proposed solutions.  To learn more about the problems and the solutions are go to places like The Sentencing Project, the Vera Institute, or the Center for American Progress.  Because it’s the right thing to do, and because about 95 percent of the people who we send to prison are coming back into our communities. 


The article was republished with permission under license from CommonDreams

Bill Quigley, the author of this article, is Associate Director of the Center for Constitutional Rights and a law professor at Loyola University New Orleans.  He is a Katrina survivor and has been active in human rights in Haiti for years. He volunteers with the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti (IJDH) and the Bureau de Avocats Internationaux (BAI) in Port au Prince. Contact Bill at quigley77@gmail.com