Mental Slavery

The Black community has two big problems on it’s hands:  the blind leading the blind, and those who can see leading the blind into traps.

With the progression of the Internet, misleading information can spread faster than ever.
Don’t get me wrong, there’s lots of great information out there; but, one has to be willing to do thorough research, and then think for themselves on all the information they have gathered.  If nine sites publish a lie, and only one publishes the truth, how can you tell the difference?  Usually there’s some common-sense processes that will make you re-evaluate the article.  You can spot a lot of lies in the news if you pay close attention.

Here’s a perfect example, which brought me to write this.  Someone on Twitter said “There are more black men in prison than were in slavery!”  I have seen this similar tweet a few times.  I asked to the see where they read that.  And here it is.

The title of the post says “More Black Men Now in Prison System than Were Enslaved”.  In the first sentence of the article they quote law professor Michelle Alexander, from her book on the prison industrial complex, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness.  Alexander states: “More African American men are in prison or jail, on probation or parole than were enslaved in 1850, before the Civil War began,”

Let’s compare these two sentences.  Read them a few times out loud.

1. More Black men now in prison than were enslaved.
2. More Black men in jail, prison, probation, or parole than were enslaved in 1850.

So really, Ms. Alexander is saying: there are more Black men in the American criminal system than the amount of Black men during ONE YEAR of slavery in America.

But the title of the post says something completely different.  That more Black men are in prison than all of the 300 plus years of slavery in America!

It wouldn’t make sense to compare the numbers anyway, since I’m sure the entire African American population has increased since 1850.  I also highly doubt that accurate population records were kept back then, especially since Blacks were considered property and not human.  It also doesn’t make sense because slavery is a LIFELONG status.  The men she speaks of could have been imprisoned for a few weeks, a few months, or a few years.  But they are all being lumped as “Black men in the prison system”.  The African slave trade occurred in North and South America, The Caribbean, Europe, and Africa itself.  This article is mixing apples and oranges with all kinds of other fruit.  But once someone writes the buzz words “slavery” “Black men” and “prison” in a sentence, we all rush to see the train wreck.

Some people are at least half complicit in this mental slavery, because they don’t take more time to analyze the information.  And some others, such as the writer of the article, mislead people on purpose.  Everyone spreads the information on tweets, Facebook, blogs, emails, and text messages.  The next thing you know we have a state of emergency that seems almost too overwhelming to solve.  This increases the insecurity of the Black identity, as we shake our heads and say “Yet another stain on the Black legacy.”  There is no doubt that Black men are disproportionately imprisoned and arrested.  And much of that disproportion can be linked to poverty and racism, which all tie into slavery and Black history in America.  But misleading comparisons such as this (from a Black “educated” woman I might add) do not paint Black men any better, nor do they serve to properly inform people about reality.

What if I told you there are more Black men that have graduated college than are in prison?  You’d question that I’m sure.  But you can see this video where a man does the math.

It never sat well with me when people would assert that there are more Black men entering prison than are rotating out of a 4 year college institution.  And when something doesn’t sound right, a lot of times it isn’t right.

Before you run with any information, carefully ask yourself who is writing it and why?  Half of the titles alone are to shock you into reading it.   As much as the Information Age can spread teachings and truths, it can just as easily, if not more easily, spread lies.

Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery, none but ourselves can free our minds!
-Bob Marley

Black Male Graduation Rates and Our Freedom

From NPR:

A report from the Massachusetts-based Schott Foundation paints a bleak picture of how young black men fare in school: fewer than half graduate from high school. And in some states, like New York, the graduation rate is as low as one in four. The foundation’s John Jackson and David Sciarra of the Education Law Center discuss what’s needed to improve educational attainment among African American children.

After listening to their discussion,  it was refreshing to know that the problem isn’t something innate with our boys, and that white males in the same educational predicament produce the same low outcome. We know this – and it forces us to turn a keen eye onto the education system, especially in states where more money can and should be allocated towards the education of our kids – like California. Where do we begin to demand that a change is made to ensure that our young men don’t grow up destined for a life on the streets or in a jail cell?

It takes me back to my first few months living back in Leimert Park. Every day, I see a countless number of black men, between the ages of 21-40, walking the streets during work hours. They all are wearing the same uniform – baggy jeans, long t-shirts and printed hoodies -and they are just walking the street. Not working, not going to school, but standing on street corners looking dead in the eyes. Zombies is what I call them – and I wonder how many of them are the products of our failing educational system. What other reason would explain a strong, healthy man walking up and down the street all day with nothing to do?

What concerns me most is that these statistics have a direct relationship with literacy rates in the black community. How many of our children are making it to high school not reading on grade level? How does this happen? For all that our community had to suffer through in order to gain the freedom to learn how to read, our education system is reverting us right back to slavery. After all, how difficult can it be to enslave a group that isn’t literate? They have no choice but to depend upon the intellect of others.

All of this reminds of Frederick Douglass in his Narrative when he speaks of how the harshness of slavery, and the lack of intellectual stimulation can change a man into a beast – and I think about the zombies that walk around my neighborhood. I think of all the stories I hear from black women about the challenges of finding a suitable mate – and again I see those zombies. How many of these men came into this world with all the hope and potential they could ever imagine, and now find themselves with nothing to do and nowhere to go? How many of them are fathers? In time, what will happen to them?

People, what can we do to ensure our future generations retain the freedom our ancestors fought for?