#ChangeTheDebate

Police arrest three young women for suspected drug dealing in the San Francisco area. 1995, San Francisco, CA.

It’s that time again! It’s the time when hollow buzz words such as “prosperity” and “freedom” dominate the airwaves, bombarding the senses yet falling short of truly addressing the issues. Yes, folks, its election time in the United States! With less than a week left before the election, partisan bickering is nearing its highest levels and the pressure to “choose sides” is increasing with each day. Two of the largest voting groups that are being targeted in these final weeks are students and black voters. Large supporters of Barack Obama in 2008, these constituencies could be the deciding factor in ever-important swing states such as North Carolina and Ohio. However, there is a disturbing lack of discussion regarding the topic of mass incarceration in the United States, a systemic epidemic that disproportionately affects Black and Latino youth.

Mass incarceration has become a third rail topic for major presidential candidates. Discussion of mass incarceration, or incarceration of any kind, is not a leading topic for President Obama or Mitt Romney. When President Obama was sworn into office, there was hope that the United States could finally leave some of the racism of its past behind. There was true optimism that issues that disproportionately affect black communities – like unemployment, the drug war and incarceration – would finally be addressed. Admittedly, these hopes were misguided. The mere presence of a Black President wasn’t going to suddenly upend the systemic inequalities of United States history. Even though it may have been optimistic and naïve, there are still outcries for the current administration to confront this issue that is intertwined with everything from health care to education.

The Black community has not been silent on this issue. Legal Scholar Michelle Alexander has written on the topic, paralleling the current state of mass incarceration, where 1 in 3 men in the Black community is imprisoned, to Jim Crow laws. These are the very communities that Barack Obama needs to win on Tuesday.

What can be done?

Now is the time to speak up about mass incarceration. Contact both the Republican and Democratic parties and demand that mass incarceration be a part of their platform. You can also contribute to and support organizations that work to end the injustice of our criminal justice system. The ACLU, Critical Resistance and the Prison Activist Resource Center do wonderful work.

Not enough?

Move beyond the confines of the two-party system and vote for someone else. There are at least 14 other candidates that are running for president and voicing your opinion is not a “vote wasted.”

by Caroline Lefaivre

 

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5 Comments

  1. Folashade

     /  November 5, 2012

    While I am an avid Obama supporter, I also recognize the need for broadening the discussion to allow for a more complete representation of the American public. Issues such as those mentioned above (mass incarceration of people of color, unemployment, healthcare, etc) do deserve more attention and I am glad that this piece helped to shed light on this (especially that there are actually 14 other candidates!)

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  2. Lauren Silver

     /  November 26, 2012

    It is interesting that such a prominent issue affecting black and latino communities is rarely discussed in mainstream politics. I agree that the American public was naive in thinking that electing a black president would automatically solve issues in the black community. I wonder if combating mass incarceration is the first step in decreasing racism in the US, or if improving education, housing, and overall well being of black and latino communities would eventually reduce the number of black and latinos imprisoned. Regardless, it is an issue of high priority that needs to be taken more seriously by our political leaders.

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  3. Nick Konstantine

     /  November 26, 2012

    I think it’s difficult in general to address these topics when a significant number of the decision makers in U.S. politics are White men. It’s just not something at the forefront of their minds and even if it was, it’s not a popular enough topic to run a campaign on when you’re hoping to attract wealthy White donors/voters. I believe that we’re only going to make progress on this front once there is more diversity on the state level, in Congress and in the House of Representatives.

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  4. Emily S.

     /  December 6, 2012

    This is a really great take on the issue. I think many this election season were frustrated by the absence of many critical issues, mass incarceration being one of them. As you said, “The mere presence of a Black President wasn’t going to suddenly upend the systemic inequalities of United States history,” yet unfortunately many people thought that would be the case. Hopefully people will take your advice and help support organizations working to put an end to mass incarceration. If we don’t speak up and let policy makers know that it matters to us, things will never change.

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  5. Amazing! This blog looks exactly like my old one! It’s on a
    totally different subject but it has pretty much the same layout and design.
    Superb choice of colors!

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