The NY Times Editorial Board post below is in response to an article published in the NY Times on April 20, 2015. That article, titled: 1.5 Million Missing Black Men- By JUSTIN WOLFERS, DAVID LEONHARDT and KEVIN QUEALY APRIL 20, 2015, can be found here: http://www.nytimes.com/…/04/20/upshot/missing-black-men.html?
OneWorld Progressive Institute, Inc., is pleased to see this analysis by the Times Editorial Board. We highly recommend both the article and the analysis to our readers, and ask them to please share this blog widely. It would be most helpful if more people in television media would do this type of responsible analysis of various events rather than stoking the fire to get larger ratings. What passes for subject analysis these days on some of the more popular cable programs is not only appalling, but also distructive.
OneWorld particularly wants to draw attention to this part of the NY Times analysis because it account for thousands of Ct prisoners: “But since the 1980s, the rising number of black men who were spared premature death was more than offset by the growing number shipped off to prison, many for nonviolent drug offenses.”
According to figures recently provided by Mike Lawlor, CT’s Undersecretary, Criminal Justice Division, 72 percent of the more than 16,000 people in CT’s prisons are African Americans and Latinos; yet they make up only 22 percent of the population. Contrary to what is portrayed in the media, most of these people are not in prison for violent crimes, but for possession of drugs, selling drugs within 1,500 feet of a school or day care center. There is a mandartory 2 year jail sentence if you are found to be in possession of Marijuana within the designated school zone. This possession could be in your house. In New Haven there are 49 schools; many of them are close to people’s homes. Therefore, smoking Marijuana in your home could get you arrested, tried and imprisoned. People who live in the suburbs are less likely to be in these situations. One must ask if the war on drugs was not intended to have exactly the consequence it has had. Take a look at who invest in prisons, and at the escalation of prison building in certain parts of the USA since 1980s. Race, Poverty and Education are interwoven into mass incarceration in America. Whether teachers are doing so consciously or not, they contribute greatly.
An analysis in The Times — “1.5 Million Missing Black Men” — showed that more than one in every six black men in the 24-to-54 age group has disappeared from civic life, mainly because they died young or are locked away in prison. This means that there are only 83 black men living outside of jail for every 100 black women — in striking contrast to the white population, where men and women are about equal in numbers.
This astounding shortfall in black men translates into lower marriage rates, more out-of-wedlock births, a greater risk of poverty for families and, by extension, less stable communities. The missing men should be a source of concern to political leaders and policy makers everywhere.
While the 1.5 million number is startling, it actually understates the severity of the crisis that has befallen African-American men since the collapse of the manufacturing and industrial centers, which was quickly followed by the “war on drugs” and mass imprisonment, which drove up the national prison population more than sevenfold beginning in the 1970s.
In addition to the “missing,” millions more are shut out of society, or are functionally missing, because of the shrinking labor market for low-skilled workers, racial discrimination or sanctions that prevent millions who have criminal convictions from getting all kinds of jobs. At the same time, the surge in imprisonment has further stigmatized blackness itself, so that black men and boys who have never been near a jail now have to fight the presumption of criminality in many aspects of day-to-day life — in encounters with police, in schools, on the streets and on the job.
The data on missing African-American men is not particularly new. Every census for the last 50 years has shown the phenomenon.
In earlier decades, premature death played a larger role than it does today. But since the 1980s, the rising number of black men who were spared premature death was more than offset by the growing number shipped off to prison, many for nonviolent drug offenses. The path to that catastrophe was paved by what the sociologist William Julius Wilson described as “the disappearance of work,” which devastated formerly coherent neighborhoods.
As deindustrialization got underway, earnings declined, neighborhoods grew poorer and businesses moved to the suburbs, beyond the reach of inner city residents. As Mr. Wilson wrote in his 1996 book, “When Work Disappears,” for the first time in the 20th century, most adults in many poor inner-city neighborhoods were not working.
Joblessness became the norm, creating a “nonworking class,” that lived in segregated areas where most residents could not find jobs or had given up looking. In Chicago, where, Mr. Wilson carried out his research, employers wrote off the poor by not advertising in places where they could see the ads. The situation was so grave in 1996 that he recommended the resurrection of a Works Progress Administration-like strategy, under which the government would provide public employment to every American over 18 who wanted it.
The sociologist Devah Pager, a Harvard professor who has meticulously researched the effect of race on hiring policies, has also shown that stereotypes have a powerful effect on job possibilities. In one widely cited study, she sent carefully selected test applicants with equivalent résumés to apply for low-level jobs with hundreds of employers. Ms. Pager found that criminal convictions for black men seeking employment were virtually impossible to overcome in many contexts, partly because convictions reinforced powerful, longstanding stereotypes.
The stigma of a criminal record was less damaging for white testers. In fact, those who said that they were just out of prison were as likely to be called back for a second interview as black men who had no criminal history at all. “Being black in America today is just about the same as having a felony conviction in terms of one’s chances of finding a job,” she wrote in her book, “Marked: Race, Crime and Finding Work in an Era of Mass Incarceration.”
In recent months, the many grievous cases of unarmed black men and boys who were shot dead by the police — now routinely captured on video — show how the presumption of criminality, poverty and social isolation threatens lives every day in all corners of this country. (Bold emphasis & color inserted by OneWorld)
Citizens Respond / Comments: There were 485 comments posted before the comment section in the NY Times was closed. As always, many of the comments are thoughtful, provocative, illuminating as well as annoying.
1) Is it about tolerance and inclusion? Or intolerance and exclusion? Is it about increasing the size of the tent? Or decreasing the welcome…
2) Poverty and lack of opportunity are, I think what should be discussed. Where I live there is a blue collar city that like so many American…
3) The problem of “missing” black men is part of a broader American malaise. Who benefits from their “forcing out”? How is the criminalization…
485 Comments- Readers shared their thoughts on this article. The comments section is closed. To send a letter to the editor, write to email@example.com.
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