The argument on prisons

Recently I had had a few debates with several people about the relevancy of prisons. Whether or not prisons where an appropriate form of punishment in our modern times. The opposing view was that prisons did more harm than good, by further indoctrinating people into crime or that prisons permanently hinders people from ever fully entering mainstream society after they are released. Off course many people who hold an anti-prison viewpoint don’t give an alternative to prisons or when they do it’s a vague answer such as rehabilitation, without giving details on how this rehabilitation would be administered.

I am not at all condoning our justice system. There is certainly many ways in which it can be approved. It is particularly audacious that the United States has less than five percent of the global population but holds about twenty-five percent of its prison population. So I say the problem isn’t necessarily prisons, but the fact that we have too many people in prisons and that one particular ethnic group is overly represented among that prison population. 

I wholeheartedly believe that many offenses that warrant prison sentences today are unjust. Such as drug offenses, which on the surface is a victimless crime since it involves two consenting parties, the drug dealer and the purchaser of the drug. I also believe crimes like tax evasion and failure to pay child support shouldn’t warrant prison time since it does more bad than good by having society pay for the maintenance of offenders who essentially didn’t pay society in the first place, an unusual sense of justice if one truly thinks about it.

To run any modern society you need to establish a government with effective rule of law. The government must have some coercive power to make sure all it’s populace abide her laws. How do you deter people from engaging in crime? By establishing punitive retribution for anyone who breaks the law. The most popular form of such a retribution in all nations is a prison system. In prehistoric human societies, humans probably carried punishment on an offender in three ways. The first was in a form of payment to the offending party through cattle, tools, or involuntary servitude; second would be in exclusion from the clan or in other words being permanently banned from the group; third would have been death.

All three are used today in a modified form, the first through fines that one would pay( usually as tickets for a minor offense); The second would be imprisonment which is essentially separating someone from everyone else, and third (although not very common among industrialized nation) is the death penalty.

Many would argue that prison act as a conditioning for criminals, but has that to do with the Prisons are the innate conditions of the prisoner himself. Among people there are just bad apples, some people are naturally more aggressive; more impulsive; less able to use foresight in their decisions as compared to others, coupled this with unsavory environment leaves some prone to criminality, and of course leaves the rest of us with the difficult decision of the best way to deal with said crime.

Off course I am not arguing against any imposition of reform. I feel as if reform is important particularly in the case of minor offenders. But this should be available as an opposition for prisoners and not so much a requirement. First and foremost prisons are meant as punishment and should be seen as such, consequences are that best deterrent to ill behavior. Still, access to some reformatory programs would be good for both the inmate and society. Programs such as skill training or educational opportunity would help inmates reintegrate into mainstream society after being released from prison.

In point, in order to truly argue against prisons, you have come up with a system that both keeps society safe and can address how to reduce crime.


Dangers and misconceptions of masculinity among Black males

On an early bus ride to work one cold morning, I had a conversation with an old drunkard. The conversation began when he had made a remark of the book I was reading, which happened to be the “Souls of Black folk” by W.E.B Dubois. He remarked how I was reading a very important book, to paraphrase him 

“ The black man is lost…..the black man isn’t the gangsta…..the white man is the real gangsta….the black man is weak…you see how they emasculate the black by having him wear dresses and these kids think it’s cool…. The black woman doesn’t respect the black man(as he was saying this he pointed to two black female passengers who were in front of us)” He spoke on until his stop.

This brief conversation left an impression on me. Everything this drunkard old man said wasn’t nothing I haven’t particularly heard before spurted out particularly by older black men. I must say some aspects of his brief speech I actually agree on.

Chiefly that the black man is emasculated. But his emasculation has nothing to do with black men being depicted as being gay or wearing a dress but is because the black man in this country holds no power.  A brief definition of masculinity states “possession of the qualities traditionally associated with men”. This is, of course, a very broad definition leaving one to have many interpretations of this. But generally, masculinity is associated with power. Now let’s define power( in the noun sense). In a quick google search, I have came upon two definitions. First, “the ability to do something or act in a particular way, especially as a faculty or quality”, second, “the capacity or ability to direct or influence the behavior of others or the course of events”.

Is the black man in this country in possession of either definition. I am in particular interest of the second definition as it is potent to my argument. When asking yourself who are the most powerful people in the world what comes to mind. For most people, it might be a political leader or a business magnet, two groups that exempt the second definition to the fullest. Now consider your typical political or business leader, what else comes to mind? Generally men, who wear suits, that are well spoken, and who possess great intelligence. Men of these positions are not your general ideals of urban masculinity. They are generally not physically imposing or brash in their speech, but yet they hold considerable power in any modern society.

Now when you began to think of the race associated with these types of men it generally tends to be white (i.e Bill Gates, Donald Trump, Elon Musk) of course there are notable exceptions(Barack Obama, Jay-Z), but in general we see the men with all the real power in our society as white men.

In Urban culture masculinity is heavily associated with gangsterism( the exhibition of gangsta behavior,  promiscuity with many women, and the ability to murder other men with little remorse), This is something I have encountered many times myself as a black man who grew up in South Jamaica, Queens, NY. Your entire identity is based on not being deemed soft and earning the respect of your peers through the acts of violence. OF course, this isn’t exclusive among inner city blacks( I can think of Machismoism in Latin America as an outward example), but this is dangerously pervasive in the black community among black males.

I believe the contemporary understanding of what it mean to be a man in the black community leads to violence in the inner city, the sexual objectification of black women, and the pervasiveness of homophobia in the black community. I believe that as black men we need to question what it really means to be a man, and if that definition is holding us back from achieving true masculinity i.e power.

Hypocrisy of murder in the Black community

Why is that whenever there’s an incident where a young black man gets murdered
by a white police officer, there is this outrage in the black community? But this same
feeling of grievance isn’t present by the significant number of young black men
murdered by other black men. The fact is, statistically the number one cause of death for young black men in America is murder, and the number one perpetrators in these murders are other black men.

Now I’m not  exonerating a white cop that kills an innocent young black man, but I
believe that their needs to be the same amount of passionate outrage for the thousands of black youth’s that die on the streets of Chicago, Detroit, or New Orleans by other black youth’s every year.

I understand the background of these crimes are disenfranchisement and lack of
Opportunities; that lead’s many young men of color to crime. With very
little hope for the future and lack of scope of what is out there for them.

So as anyone who is reading this blog might realize I’m addressing the recent events
in Ferguson, Missouri. I don’t need to give anyone a summary of the event’s that went on this small city these past few months(as anyone who doesn’t live under a rock should already know), Ferguson is going through political unrest. Massive amounts of protesting and rioting. Police serving as these crowds adversaries’ in this tragic tale of community anger towards what they deem as injustice, for an innocent youth.

African Americans need to take more responsibility in our neighborhoods, more supervision and insight in our children lives. There is no reason me as a black man should feel safer in a white neighborhood then I do in a black neighborhood.

Constantly we are bombarded with the rhetoric that we should fear the police, but is it the police that is the reason many black communities are parallels to war zones, those not different from the ones you would find in Syria, Gaza, or the Congo. The neighboring city is St Louis, a predominately black city, that has a considerable homicide rate (ranked number 3 in America and 45th in the world). Is just another example of how many blacks ignore problems of violence’s blighting the black community every day.

Now when it comes to the police, I believe they should be held responsible. Critics to this blog post will reply that cops are public servants and should be held to higher standard than some black gang-banger. And to this criticism, I’m in complete agreement. Cops are given a great deal of power. They are allowed to carry firearms in public and under certain circumstances are granted the right to take an individual’s liberty and life. To quote a famous fictional wise man “with great power comes great responsibly”, police officers have a responsibility to protect and serve the community that pays their salary. Many times as I walk through my neighborhood of Jamaica, Queens I see cops accost black men for no other reason but that they are gathered together in a particular area. Wondering to myself if this was a white neighborhood, with white males, would the police be so attentive towards this group’s actions are would they just go on with their duties? My instincts steer me towards the latter.