Today is National Honesty Day, no joke. But it is ironic that the person who invented this “holiday” was the Press Secretary for an ex-Governor of Maryland, M Hirsh Goldberg. Just when Baltimore is looking for some answers from its police force and its mayor, we are forced to listen to the “truthiness” of political spin in the wake of Freddie Gray’s murder in police custody. And tomorrow won’t deliver any more answers. Makes you long for that French policeman after that German co-pilot plunged his jet into a mountain.
We couldn’t believe it, he was giving us the facts, and talking to us like adults.
But what if politicians did just start saying what they really thought? And then they needn’t apologize for it; today, Hillary and Jeb, tell us what you really think about the criminal justice system in our country. Explain to us why 98% of Black males in New York between the ages of 18 and 20 can expect some sort of interaction with the criminal justice system.
I’ve talked about UVA’s Miller Center before, but this latest American Forum titled “Arresting Citizenship: Consequences of American Crime Control” happened before Baltimore. http://millercenter.org/events/2015/arresting-citizenship-consequences-of-american-crime-control-rebroadcast
Yale University Assistant Prof of Political Science and African American Studies, Vesla M Weaver, spoke quite candidly about the decline of our democratic process in poor urban areas of the country. About how once misdemeanors a few decades ago have become felonies. About how people in these blighted neighborhoods have learned not to drive with more than two other Blacks in the car, since they will most likely be stopped by police. About how they must learn to avoid walking through certain streets since they may be targeted by police. About how they live day to day fenced inbetween a police station, a courthouse and a jail; a Bermuda triangle of poverty.
Weaver wrote a book that should be on the nightstand of every big city Mayor, and every Presidential candidate – “Arresting Citizenship: The Democratic Consequences of American Crime Control,” it explores the effects of increasing punishment and surveillance in America on democratic inclusion, particularly for the black urban poor.”
And every single person we interviewed in the book, their earliest encounter with the state, with the criminal justice state, was before the age of 15. Ok? So what they revealed to us what that maybe sometimes later on in their youth was that they had something more serious. But early on they’re coming to know the criminal justice system in a way that white suburban youth are not. You know, they’re going to basketball games, they’re going to high school. They’re not being stopped by police. Um so there’s been this disassociation between criminal population and the custodial population and it’s important to make that disaggregation because it’s very easy to say well you know they’ve done bad things right? Um many people in their adolescence, and if you go back to this longitudinal study that I mentioned 50% of the population reports doing something that could have landed them a misdemeanor or even a felony. Right? But a very small percentage of that group is actually having criminal justice contact.