The Meaning of the Women’s March

Many people may wrongly assume that the Women’s March, the day after the inauguration of Donald Trump is about having our feelings hurt or being vindictive that “our” candidate didn’t win.  And, though many of us, myself included did have our feeling hurt, the Women’s March is about so much more than that.

 

For some/many women this is an opportunity for catharsis.  Though not all women supported Hillary, many did so even if less than enthusiastically.  Many of us believed that the glass ceiling would crack just a bit more with her election.  And, when that didn’t happen, many of us mourned, not just her loss, not just Trump’s victory, but also yet another discouraging moment in the fight for equal rights.  The march is a chance to come together and remind the country that women are still here, we may be discouraged but we are still deeply embedded in the fight for equal rights…we aren’t going anywhere, we need to be taken seriously, and perhaps next time around we will indeed see a crack in that glass ceiling.  For many women to be surrounded by other women will be cathartic and healing.

 

It’s nothing newsworthy that many women found Trump to be reprehensible…his “locker room” excuse for sexually harassing behavior just the last straw in a string of offensive remarks and actions.  And, of course the Women’s March is in part a reaction to him.  But, I think even more so, it’s a reaction to what many of us believe are real threats to women’s civil and human rights.

 

Many of the proposals that Trump ran on and that the republican congress seems poised to act on will significantly set back women’s civil and human rights and will threaten women’s lives.  We fear that Planned Parenthood will be defunded this year, that the clock could be turned back on the fight for equal pay, which, despite the Lilly Ledbetter Act, is still far from guaranteed, and that the overturning of Roe V. Wade may be a reality that is not far off.  Indeed many states are already enacting rigid restrictions on abortion and with the way the Supreme Court appointees are likely to go, these state laws will likely be upheld and the dismantling of Roe may not be far behind.

 

It’s not just reproductive justice that is at stake, many issues that women care about, from education to health care, safe and affordable housing, criminal justice reform and immigration rest in the balance as well.  And, Trump’s nominees to date leave us little to be optimistic about.

 

Women are far more likely to live in poverty, they are almost always the one’s left behind caring for the children of their husbands, partners and sons who go to jail.  Women are not only more likely to use preventative health care than are men, but our health care needs are different, especially as they revolve around reproductive issues and child bearing.  Women are the caretakers of our children’s education and housing.  And, because women are far more likely to live in poverty, access to safe and affordable housing, child care, and affordable health care are all issues that impact women and their children perhaps more profoundly than they do men.  We need people running agencies like Health and Human Services and the Department of Education who understand the needs that women and our children have.  We need them to be committed to equal access for all who live in our country, not just for those who can afford private school tuition or to rent, let alone buy, a home in a safe neighborhood, or to purchase private health insurance.  Sadly, we have reason for concern: we have a nominee for Secretary of Education who hopes to dismantle our public school system rather than identify weakness and propose and enact reforms.  We have a nominee for Secretary of Housing and Urban Development who knows nothing about the challenges facing not only those who live in public housing, but those who are long waiting lists to move into scarce units.

 

This march, like so many, provides a moment for community and solidarity, for healing, [hopefully] for bridging race and sexuality differences, and also an opportunity for social action and protest: an opportunity to remind the world and the republican led congress that women are still here, we are still relevant, and we are willing to engage in social action to protest and seek remediation of our civil and human rights.  We take this opportunity to stand up and demand that the Trump administration and the republican led congress invite women of all identities and backgrounds to the table, to listen to experts on issues of housing and health care and education, who can predict which types of programs will allow women and their children to pursue the American Dream and which will keep us further from it.

 

I don’t necessarily believe that bad things happen for a reason, that the election of Trump can somehow be turned into a positive, but Trump’s election sounded a siren.  Nothing that we have taken for granted for the last forty years is safe.  And, though we’ve seen the erosion of welfare benefits and reproductive rights take place for decades, including under the watch of President Bill Clinton, there is nothing like the election of Donald Trump to remind women that we need to be ever vigilant; just as civil rights have eroded for Black Americans, so they have for women, and both trends will continue in this direction if we do not constantly hold those in power responsible for protecting the civil and human rights we worked so hard to attain.

 

The Women’s March will likely mean many things to many people, and it will be many things; but above all else, let it be a reminder that a glass ceiling still exists in every part of life when it comes to gender equality; the struggle goes on so that we can ensure that our daughters have better opportunities, more access, and more control over their own bodies than we did, rather than less.

 

UNCONDITIONAL LOVE FOR THE BLACK MALE ATHLETE

UNCONDITIONAL LOVE FOR THE BLACK MALE ATHLETE

Every few weeks or so we have this conversation.  There seems no better time to have it again than now, on the heels of college football bowl games that included athletes who have been accused of acts of violence against women.  These are certainly not the first cases, but they shine a light on a perplexing phenomenon: the unconditional love of the Black male body, at least as long as he can throw, run, catch, dunk and score in an athletic contest.

 

For centuries, as is well documented by Angela Davis, Orlando Patterson, and many others, Black men have been lynched, perhaps as many as 50,000, for allegedly violating the gender-sexuality-race intersection, that is; for the accusation, almost always false, of raping a White woman.

 

Let us be clear: under no circumstances should a Black man, or any man, be lynched for rape.  Lynching is not an appropriate punishment for any crime.  Furthermore, as much of our research demonstrates, we care deeply about the rights of the wrongfully accused and convicted and have worked tirelessly to bring attention to those serving long sentences for crimes they did not commit, most often the wrongful conviction is of a Black man who was accused of raping a white woman.

 

We have extensively researched this miscarriage of justice hence, we get it.

 

This intersection has a long and very complex history that continues to ruin Black men’s lives even today.

 

That being said, we find it perplexing that within this context of the hyper policing of Black male bodies as they intersect with White women’s sexuality, a special case of unconditional love is reserved for Black male athletes.

 

And, not just by Black people but especially by White men: coaches, athletic directors, boosters, teammates, sheriffs, judges and fans.

 

During the last days of 2016 and the first days of 2017, several college football teams faced scrutiny for their protection of Black men accused of heinous crimes, including 12 football players at the University of Minnesota who are accused of gang-raping a woman in October and a player at the University of Oklahoma, Joe Mixon, who is seen on video punching a woman in the face, leaving her unconscious. In both cases, the perpetrators of violence are Black and the victims are White.

 

It’s not at all surprising to us that athletes who are accused of, caught on tape, and even convicted of abusing women are defended, by both men and women, get to keep their jobs, and continue to be revered…names like Jameis Winston, Ray Rice, OJ Simpson and so many others make that case for us.  But what we find intriguing is the extension of that unconditional love when the crime involves the rape of a white woman by a Black male athlete.

 

Clearly that love does not extend to the more than 500 cases of Black men exonerated after spending decades in prison for the rape of a white women they did not commit.

 

Orlando Patterson argued in Rituals of Blood that the lynching of Black men was in large part a reaction of fear that Whites had of Black male bodies and especially of Black men’s sexuality.

 

Yet, when powerful, physically imposing Black men who play football or basketball engage in the same behavior, White men not only turn a blind eye, but in fact go to great lengths to defend the Black man, by paying for top lawyers, by hiding evidence, and even by extolling their right to a second chance as Brent Mussberger did during the broadcast of the 2017 Sugar Bowl when Joe Mixon led his team to victory.

 

In general, violence perpetrated against women is rarely taken seriously, regardless of the race of the victim.

 

But, that being said, how can we explain this unconditional love in the context of hundreds of years of lynchings?

 

One explanation could be that the love of so many White men (and women) have for famous athletes transcends their sense of justice.  But we argue that it is deeper than that; this unconditional love that White men extend to Black male athletes must be analyzed using Patterson’s lens: Black male bodies are revered when their power is limited to the one place where Black men are allowed to excel: the athletic field, as Earl Smith argues in Race, Sport and the American Dream.  As long as Black men are segregated to this singular place, as athletes, not as owners or coaches or anyone with any real power, then they are extended an unconditional love, even when they transgress the sacred space of White women’s sexuality.  In this sense, their expression of power, even when used to abuse White women, is not threatening to White men, it does not threaten White men’s roles as leaders in business, entertainment, politics, the economy or even in sports.  Therefore these Black men’s bodies not only need not be policed, but they can continue to be worshipped.

 

To read more see our books:

Prisoner Re-entry and Social Capital: The Long Road to Re-entry

Social Dynamics of Family Violence

 

 

NOTRE DAME’S WALK- ON ‘RUDY’ INCOGNITO

The male “walk-on” in college sports, and in particular in football, has become a joke.  Announcers voraciously proclaim that Joe Blow or John Caric is or was just a walk on but now performs at a level above and beyond coaches expectations is a farce.

 

Whether a “recruited” walk-on or a “regular” walk-on these athletes are now enjoying a kind of notoriety as outlets like ESPN glorify their existence making it seem like this is a now coveted position to be in as an athlete. Of perhaps greater concern is that this glorification of the walk-on is critical to producing an ideology that anyone who arrives on campus, at least any man, has the opportunity if he works hard enough to join the ranks of the most elite, he may soon be wearing the jersey of the Ohio State Buckeyes and taking the field with 100,000 people screaming his name.

 

What is never mentioned in this glorification is that this spot is only reserved almost exclusively for white men who can punt or kick a football.

From our perspective, the true meaning of the term “walk on” is exemplified best in the movie RUDY.

 

In this fictional account of Notre Dame football Daniel Rudy Ruettiger (played by Sean Astin in the movie) so wants to play football at Notre Dame that he does what it takes to be a member of the team, including washing uniforms and taking care of the grounds, and painting the famous Fighting Irish! helmets the night before the tame.  Thoug Rudy Ruettiger is real, his characters has ceased to exist in real life. Walk-ons today don’t wash uniforms or paint helmets.  Instead, the walk on of today can often hold down a first string (starting position) on the team – even though he is a walk on.

 

How can we can explain this phenomenon?  On the face of it, this does not make sense.  Football and basketball programs at Division 1 colleges and universities spend hundreds of thousands of dollars each on recruiting, not to mention the salary of recruiting coordinators, and the time spent watching tapes, taking in high school games and visiting mom and grandma in the living room.  (Dad’s are rarely the focus of recruiting visits.  For an interesting perspective on this check out Oscar Robinson’s auto-biography: The Big ‘O’: My Life, My Time, My game).  Why then would a coach invest any energy into developing a walk-on or extend playing time to a player that simply “walked on” instead of in the players he has spent nearly a decade trying to recruit?

 

Perhaps the answer lies in the way that financial aid and scholarships are doled out to high profile football and basketball programs.

 

Division 1 football programs provide a minimum of 85 full scholarships.  Yet their rosters typically list an additional 15-20 players, non-scholarship athletes or “walk-ons.”  Football programs “coordinate” with financial aid and scholarship offices such that the “walk on” receives financial support that is equivalent to at least a partial athletic scholarship.

 

This seems find on the surface, how nice that a football team can bring an additional 15-20 players to campus to earn an education.  And, yet, these 15-20 players are more often than not receiving aid that otherwise would have gone to non-athlete students.  Artists, musicians, smart kids who have financial need and no athletic ability.

 

So, why are most of the walk-ons we see on Saturday afternoon football games white?  Is it simply because most punters and kickers happen to be white?  Or is there something else at work here?  That is, you don’t see Black players who are “walk-ons.”

 

As I argue in Race, Sport and the American Dream, stereotypes about the genetics of athletic ability result in coaches rarely if ever recruiting mediocre Black players.  Black players, in college and in the professional ranks, must be “Blue Chip” athletes if they are going to be recruited or drafted.  The data on starters bears this out.

 

So, what?  Well, for starters, it means that an under-developed Black player is unlikely to be afforded the opportunity to “walk on” in the same way that an under-developed white player will be.  Second, and this is likely to be more controversial, for all the concern that many white students have about under-prepared Black students being given financial support—vis-à-vis—the athletic scholarship—to attend college, it is actually white student athletes who, as walk-ons, are dipping into the financial support once reserved for non-athlete students.  Third, if the walk-on is not receiving anywhere near a full scholarhip but is playing regularly, this furthers the already deep exploitation of athlete labor; in this case the athlete may be receiving little by way of “payment” for his services while contributing to the revenues generated by his team http://amzn.to/1gaOJrY.

 

Finally, it begs the question, what does it mean for a university to provide an additional 15-20 scholarship to a football team that already has 85 scholarships of its own, and plays, on average, no more than 30-40 players in a given season?  Along with many other things, the walk-on is yet another example of athletic departments hi-jacking the system of higher education in America.

 

To read more see: Race, Sport and the American Dream [http://amzn.to/1gaOJrY]

 

A Letter to my Feminist Daughter….

glass-ceiling

I talked to you the day after the election and you asked me, how was Donald Trump elected President of the United States?  How, you asked me, did tens of millions of Americans vote for an unqualified, unprepared, inexperienced man instead of for a qualified, prepared, experienced woman?

Hillary Clinton may not have been perfect, but there was no doubt that she was smarter, more prepared, she had policy recommendations, you said, and Donald Trump didn’t have any of those things.

 

In a contest of flaws, Donald Trump easily won.

 

How do I tell you that my generation of feminist failed you, that the glass ceiling is still nearly as intact as it was when I was your age?

 

You, my daughter, will have to work twice as hard, be twice as good, be twice as prepared and you still might not get the job.

 

Did we get complacent after we elected a Black man to the office of the Presidency of the United States not once but twice?  Did we assume too much as women like Hillary Clinton were able to rise into positions of power?  Did we feel too secure in our world when the US Supreme Court protected what remains of Roe v. Wade and made marriage equality the law of the land?

 

How do I explain to you that tens of millions of Americans voted for a man who has been accused of sexual harassment, perhaps even assault, who has engaged in racial discrimination and racial bigotry, who wants to build a wall to keep out Mexicans who he assumes are rapists or murderers, who wants to keep out Muslims refugees fleeing war-torn countries in the middle east because he assumes they are terrorists?

 

I don’t have to tell you that Americans have been electing White men who are racists and misogynists and homophobes and xenophobes for years…you need look no further than Mount Rushmore to see men who owned slaves and endorsed eugenics.

 

But it’s not just in politics, we give men, of all races and ethnicities, a “pass” every weekend when we turn on our television sets and watch rapists and child abusers and batterers run down the field or court or glide across the ice.

 

Remember how many women, of all races and ethnicities, donned their Ray Rice jerseys just a week after they watched him punch his then fiancé Janey Palmer unconscious demanding that he be allowed to play?

ray-rice-jersey-women-wearing

And, of course, it’s not just athletes, it also entertainers and powerful business men, like Roger Ailes who continue to succeed even after being found guilty of the worst acts of oppression and bigotry.

 

We also give a “pass” to the men who live in our neighborhoods, the men who we work with our worship with.  Men we encounter every day are allowed to achieve despite the ways in which they treat women and children, and racial minorities and religious minorities and members of the LGBTQ community.

 

The election of Donald Trump, as shocking as it is, is a powerful reminder that despite all of the progress we have made, we are a long way from true equality.  That we must fight fiercely not only to bring down more barriers but to protect the gains we have worked so hard to achieve.

 

Imagine this, you may have less of a right to make decisions about your reproductive life than I had at your age.  Who could have imagined this?

 

When you and your brother were little, you had placemats featuring all of the US Presidents that you ate your breakfast and lunch on every day.  One day at breakfast your brother, 2 ½ years older than you, turned to you and proclaimed that the only way you would get into the White House was by marrying the President. I never believed he said that because he valued you (or me) less, but because his placemat made it clear, only White men were US Presidents.

 

Sadly, another election cycle has gone by and the US Presidents placemats, though they now include a Black man, still send the message to girls (and perhaps more importantly boys) that women do not belong in the White House unless they marry the President.

And, in some ways, that’s exactly why this election hurt so much, because Americans didn’t think working twice as hard or being twice as qualified was enough.  Americans were not yet ready to value a woman’s contributions on their own merit, instead they evaluated her in part based on her relationship to her husband and held her responsible for his transgressions.

 

I don’t want your value, my daughter, or any woman’s value, to be determined by their father, their brother, or their husband.  You don’t need a man to prove you are valuable.  Your value is inside of you.  Don’t ever forget that.

THEY ALL COME HOME: Returning Home From Jail or Prison

When Lamar M. exited the bus arriving at the New York City Port Authority from the Clinton Correctional Facility in the Village of Dannemora, upstate New York, he was lost.

clinton-prison

 

The last time he was in the city was 15 years, 3 months and 27 days ago. He was sent to prison for selling crack cocaine.

Having spent the last 15 years incarcerated, Lamar did not have a reliable place to stay, few friends or family and no job.

Although clean, he knew the temptations pulling at him—even while incarcerated—would kick in and he really wanted help.

This story, true, happens every day in almost every major city and small town across America. And, while the total numbers vary—depending on who is counting and who is counted—the challenges for these cities and towns is how to systematically incorporate the flow of mostly men (but some women) into society as newly functioning productive citizens.

It is, after all, harder than it sounds as movies and folklore have it “you committed the crime, you did your time now resettle and become a productive citizen.” It is not that easy!

But, since these newly released prisoners are less likely to have participated in rehabilitation programs than prisoners in the past, they come back with few if any skills. This is a black mark that does not help the re-entry process.

Then, there is the issue of meeting the requirements of parole. Far more prisoners return to their respective communities on parole than on unconditional release. This means the urgency for a job (and housing) is imminent.

Exacerbating the problem is the fact that, as sociologist Devah Pager showed in her experiment {Pager, Devah. 2003. “The Mark of a Criminal Record.” American Journal of Sociology 108(5): 937-975} society treats Blacks and Whites looking for work differently. That is, race matters. But, so does felony status. Black men returning from prison find they have at least two strikes against them.

And, as we show in our research so does access to friends, family, business associates ALL who can help establish the connections and networking needed to be successful.

Also, very important is that public housing restrictions work against securing a place to live; in some states felons are banned from living with friends and / or relatives in public housing while trying to get settled.

At last check, Lamar did not make it. The temptations mentioned above pulled him back to drug dealing and in one deal that went wrong he accidentally (according to him) shot a women who later died in the hospital.

gernalow-wilson

As a three-time offender, Lamar M. is now serving a life sentence.

Hence, as a society we need more expansive and effective, user-friendly ways to make re-entry doable for those men and women who have completed their punishment and want to move on with their lives.

 

For more, see: Angela J. Hattery and Earl Smith, Prisoner Reentry and Social Capital: The Long Road to Reintegration.

http://www.amazon.com/Prisoner-Reentry-Social-Capital-Reintegration/dp/0739143891

Social Dynamics of Family Violence 2nd Edition

Social Dynamics ed 2 cover

We are thrilled to announce the publication of our newest book, the 2nd Edition of the Social Dynamics of Family Violence!  The ONLY book on the market that examines all forms of family violence–child abuse, elder abuse, intimate partner violence, violence in LGBTQ families–using a feminist, intersectional frame which identifies the causes of family violence as relations of power.  Race, class and gender are explored in each and every chapter, including how police and social workers respond depending on the identity of the perpetrator and the victim.  Using a sociological lens our discussion moves way beyond individuals and examines the social structures that produce family violence, including demography, culture and the economy.  New to this edition we expand our discussion of culture to include transnational marriage migration in the Hmong community as well as an entirely new chapter on institutional gender based violence in the military, the Catholic church, fraternities and SportsWorld. We propose models for social change that would reduce inequalities overall and result in declines in all forms of family violence.  We’d love to see you a copy of the Social Dynamics of Family Violence, 2nd Edition 🙂

Privilege is the Power to Control….

Scalia

So, this week a large Southeast university made the decision to accept a $30 million dollar gift in exchange for re-naming the law school after recently deceased Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.

 

There have been a variety of negative responses to the decision to rename the law school, petitions have been circulated, meetings have been held, even state assembly people have weighed in. This blog is not about the decision to rename the law school, this blog is about my experiences watching two white men try to defend it, which provided a window into the deepest forms of power and privilege.

 

Power is often defined as the ability to make other people do things. What was on display this week is the fact that power can also be the ability to prevent people’s actions from impacting one’s own life.

 

Last week I watched and listened as two White, heterosexual, upper-class men defended the decision to name the law school after Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. They both defended the decision using similar language which is not surprising given that they both participated in making the decision. But, I think it goes much deeper than that. They both employed a similar defense of the decision because they both occupy particular positions of power.

 

Let me start by saying that to the best of my knowledge both men are good men and probably have the best of intentions. But, because of their power and privilege, both could defend the decision by invoking the framework of “disagreement.” Both men acknowledged forcefully (and deliberately) that they vehemently disagreed with some of Scalia’s decisions, specifically his position on marriage equality. I use the term deliberate because prominent members of the university community identify as members of the LGBTQ community.

 

For men like these two, Scalia’s decisions and positions can be interpreted as nothing more than a disagreement.

 

For those of us with fewer privileges and less power, because of our positionality, our very human and civil rights are violated by Scalia’s decisions and positions. If Scalia had his way, members of the LGBTQ community would not be allowed to legally marry the person they love and have committed their lives to. For Black and Hispanic people, Scalia’s decisions with regards to school segregation prevented them from sending their children to the best resourced schools in their communities. If Scalia had his his way, women would not have the legal right to determine their reproductive trajectories: abortion would be completely illegal and access to other birth control measures would be limited. For thousands of incarcerated people, sitting in prison for decades, convicted of crimes they did not commit, Scalia’s pen removed their legal right to have their DNA tested. Imagine that, Scalia argued that even in cases where there is DNA evidence that would likely exonerate an inmate, he argued that the US Constitution does not guarantee the individual the right to prove their innocence and gain their freedom.

 

None of these people, myself included, has the power to prevent the impact of these kinds of decisions on our daily lives; our civil and human rights lay at the mercy of Supreme Court Justices like Antonin Scalia. So, it is no wonder, that for us, we cannot view his decisions and positions as merely a disagreement; his decisions and positions determine our access to the opportunity structure and pursuance of the American Dream: who we can marry, when or even if we choose to have children, where our children can attend school, and in the case of innocent people rotting in prisons, their chance for freedom.

 

Power is more than the ability to make others do things. Power is the ability to prevent the behavior of others from impacting the daily lives of the privileged.

 

The distance between those with power and those without is the difference between a “difference of opinion” and the protection of one’s civil and human rights.

Darryl Hunt…you will be missed……

Darryl Hunt

 

As a writer, I tend to process difficult things by writing about them….and so I turn to this outlet as a way to process the death of a dear friend who died much to soon…..

 Earl and I first saw Darryl Hunt shortly after Christmas in 2003, not long after he was released from prison, at the Winston-Salem WalMart. We recognized him from the news accounts. What struck us was his demeanor, he appeared to us to be mesmerized and perhaps overwhelmed by the incredible variety and sheer volume of items stocking the WalMart shelves. We were curious about the experiences of someone who is incarcerated, confined in a cage, for decades, for a crime they did not commit. And, we wanted to know how we could help.

We reached out to Mark Rabil (our daughters participated at the same gym) and soon we were having lunch at the LightHouse Café in downtown Winston-Salem. Mark offered to introduce us to Darryl and our decade long collaboration began soon thereafter

 Anyone who has met Darryl, even once, is captivated by him. He is the most humble person, remarkable for someone who was so severely mistreated by the criminal justice system, and really by much of the Winston-Salem community for so long.   He has a way of pulling you in. You want to be around him. He has an aura about him.

How could we not get involved in the social justice work that Darryl committed his life to?

  • We served on the board of the Darryl Hunt Project for Freedom and Justice
  • We attended galas and holiday parties and the premiere of the HBO documentary: The Trials of Darryl Hunt
  • Every Thanksgiving we donated a couple of dozen turkeys so that the associates would have something to contribute to their holiday celebrations
  • We brought Darryl to our classes and invited him to give lectures as far away as Colgate University in upstate New York when we were on sabbatical leave
  • Our sociology students were the first to work on the innocence part of Darryl’s project—not much publicized–, opening and reading letters from prisoners who sought Darryl’s help and support as they proclaimed their innocence

But after being involved in many different ways, we soon realized that as professors—teachers and scholars—the best way we could help Darryl was to understand Darryl’s experience in the broader context.

 

Many other people helped Darryl tell his story.

 

We set out to tell the story of Darryl.

 

  • Why did so many exonorees look like Darryl? (46%, or half of all the people exonerated are Black men.)
  • Why did so many exonerations involve the rape and/or murder of a white women by a black man? (A crime that occurs only 10% of the time, but accounts for nearly 70% of the exonerations?)
  •  Why are exonerations disproportionately present in a relatively small number of jurisdictions? (Cook County, Illinois—Chicago, accounts for nearly 10% of all exonerations nationwide along with does Dallas County, Texas and New York City)

And, what we learned, and what we have shared in public lectures, in our classes, and in many publications is that there are indeed patterns to exonerations because there are patterns to wrongful convictions.

As in all other areas of the criminal justice system, black men are mistreated. They are lied to, they are manipulated, they are railroaded into confessing crimes they did not commit. Prosecutors withhold evidence just to get a conviction. And, these are not just random events. They are clustered. They occur in patterns. They are not just a set of unconnected mistakes; they are in fact the deliberate miscarriages of justice.

 And, as a result, hundreds of black men, (and white and Hispanic men), have spent nearly 20,000 combined years in prison for crimes they did not commit.

 

 Tragic.

And equally tragic, when law enforcement and prosecutors collude to lock up any black man instead of the real perpetrator, the real perpetrator often goes on to commit other crimes. We know now that Deborah Sykes was not the only women brutalized by Willard Brown. The Innocence Project in New York City projects for the crimes of rape and murder that every time a perpetrator is free—and the wrong man is incarcerated—the real perpetrator commits, on average 3 more rapes and/or 2 more murders.

 

When we fail to get it right, everyone loses.

 

The more we learned about exoneration, the more we learned about the prison industrial complex, mass incarceration, and the process of re-entry. We worked with Darryl to research the impact of his re-entry program on associates who participated.

 Our research revealed that associates who committed to Darryl’s re-entry strategies and programming were more successful than others in making the transition to life in the free world.

 

We could not have been more pleased when Darryl agreed to endorse our book which came out of the research we conducted with his associates

 Prisoner re entry book 

So, how do we continue to tell the story of Darryl Hunt?

 

We will continue to teach about exonerations in our classes and continue to show The Trials of Darryl Hunt. We will continue to do empirical research on exonerations and other aspects of the Prison Industrial Complex.

 

We will turn our research to the final question of Darryl’s life: How many years of life does wrongful incarceration, locking innocent men (and women) in cages, often for decades, innocent of any crime, rob from them after they are released? What is the impact of decades of incarceration and the stress of knowing you are innocent on the health and well-being of exonorees?

 

How many men (and women) like Darryl will die decades too early because of the accumulation of their mistreatment?

 

Darryl used to often say: “If it can happen to me it can happen to anybody.”

 

We say back: But why did it have to happen to you?

 

Today we grieve the loss of our friend. As Mark Rabil said: “He finally got the death penalty.

It isn’t fair.

 

MISSING BLACK MEN (part 2): Homicide

homicide police line

Introduction

This post is not about the politically charged term “Black-On-Black-Crime.”

Rather, it is about the early life death –or YEARS OF LIFE LOST (ILL)–of young black men between the ages of 15 and 34.  Most of whom are killed by other black men. The mortality risk for young black men is increasingly high as more and more guns are finding their way into the culture of the American inner city, space where hundreds of thousands of black Americans live.

What We know

We know that homicide is an intra-gender & intra-race crime.

Epidemiologists (Wintemute 2015) have long noted the public health epidemic of firearm violence in the US, noting:

During the ten years from 2003 to 2012, the most recent year for which data are available, 313,045 persons died from firearm-related injuries in the United States. These deaths outnumber US combat fatalities in World War II; they outnumber the combined count of combat fatalities in all other wars in the nation’s history. The total societal costs of firearm injuries were estimated to be $174.1 billion in 2010.

Epidemiologists have also noted this trend among young black males, beginning most notably directly after the end of the Vietnam war up through the present. We learn that firearm violence (homicide) is among the leading cause of death for young black men ages 15–34 in 2012.

The concentration of mortality from firearm homicide is highest among young black males–moreso than among black females and / or white males–solely because this group is highest for engaging in risky behavior. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in Atlanta tracks these risky behaviors and notes that for the age group being killed there are six.  These are:

  1. Behaviors that contribute to unintentional injuries and violence
    2. Sexual behaviors that contribute to unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV infection
    3. Alcohol and other drug use
    4. Tobacco use
    5. Unhealthy dietary behaviors
    6. Inadequate physical activity

While not conclusive this list of six risky behaviors gives us an indicator to rely on especially indicator #1 and helps us to understand the following CDC table;

causes of death

To illustrate, I have chosen the cities of Chicago and Baltimore where the number of homicides have escalated in recent years.

Since homicide is the leading cause of death for young black men–they are approximately 10 times more likely to die of murder than whites of the same age group–it stands to reason that we should know why these early deaths are happening?

A recent headline suggested that in the city of Chicago 75% of those persons murdered are Black and that 71% of the known murderers are Black (http://bit.ly/20yQ90w). One chart from the same newspaper shows the homicide victims by their age and we can see that for age cohorts between 17 and 35 is where most of the deaths take place.

chicago_victims_by_age_2

The following chart shows the homicide victims by their race.  This is interesting in that the only double digit percentages are for both Hispanics and blacks.

chicago_victims_by_race

In the news across 2015 and 2016 there was constant reminder of how dangerous it is for young black men in the city of Baltimore, home of the Netflix TV series The Wire. In Baltimore there was for 2015 a homicide rate of 47 per 100,000 people. In 2015 Baltimore had over 340 homicides with Freddie Gray being #88 after a fatal ride in the back of a police van in April.

Out of a tally of the 100 most recent homicides for 2015-2016 – 89 of the 100 were black victims. And, with 90% of the homicides being black young men we also know that the perpetrators are also young black men.

When looking for the reasons why this is happening we get the usual answers: geography; poverty; lack of schooling; single family home; no fathers involved in parenting etc.  Yet, this can’t be all there is to the story?

What We Don’t Know

One thing is definite: we don’t know why these young men are killing each other (Hattery and Smith 2012).  Sociologically, then, the question becomes why do young black men kill one another at such alarming rates?

As stated above I don’t think it is all about concentrated poverty or concentrated geography or fatherlessness. One good starting point–never  mentioned in this research topic–is alienation.  Alienation has been defined by a lot of theologians and scholars and the term carries a lot of different meanings.  Here we go with the work of Emile Durkheim who saw alienation as having at minimum five features: (1) powerlessness, (2) meaninglessness, (3) normlessness, (4) isolation and (5) self-estrangement.

According to Durkheim, normlessness or what he calls ANOMIE takes place when acceptable social norms are no longer accessible. That is, when individuals become cut off from society (friends, family, social relationships) and have no real grounding they lose touch socially, psychologically, economically etc.  This detachment or alienation or anomie can and often does bring the individual to decision making that is irrational.

Irrational decision making with gun in hand can and often does lead to the violence of homicide.  As demonstrated here in Chicago and in Baltimore and many, many other major urban centers for 2015 and 2016 this means hundreds of thousands of young black men are dead.  For young black men this means for the above mentioned dates approximately 5000 young black males have been killed by another black male.

 

 

Conclusion

“If it’s not a public health problem, then why are all those people dying from it?”

–Dr. David Satcher, Centers for Disease Control

 

Knowing that young black men are killing other young black men is a conundrum. For the real question is what is to be done? How can interventions, predicting when/where this lethal violence will take place so that it can be thwarted?  I am not sure. I do know that the literature on the topic spells out (a) jobs, (b) better schooling opportunities, (c) m0re hands on parenting etc.  Yet, we do know by the time these young men are adults it is too late.  Whatever the strategies are they have to start early on and become a systematic part of the acculturation process.

 

Notes

  1.   It would be interesting to follow up on the research of Frank Sulloway in his massive book Born To Rebel: Birth Order, Family Dynamics, an Creative Lives to see where young black males who commit homicide are located in their family birth order. He says that it is typical for the youngest of siblings to follow a path of violence.

2.   Read part 1: “BLACK MEN, VIETNAM, DRUGS & PRISON

 

References

Durkheim, Emile. 1933. The Division of Labor in Society. NY: MacMillan Co.

Hattery, Angela and Earl Smith. 2012. {New edition 2016} The Social Dynamics of Family Violence.

Mydans, Seth. 1980. “Homicide Rate Up for Young Blacks.” New York Times  http://nyti.ms/244LV5j

Ollman, Bertell. 1977. Alienation. London: Cambridge University Press.

Sulloway, Frank. 1996. Born To Rebel: Birth Order, Family Dynamics, an Creative Lives. New York: Pantheon Books.

Wintemute, Garen. 2015. “The Epidemiology of Firearm Violence in the Twenty-First Century United States.”  Annual Review of Public Health 36:5-19.

 

 

A feminist votes for Hillary Clinton…Never in my lifetime

File Mar 01, 5 19 22 PM
So, a couple of weeks ago I wrote a blog that interrogated Hillary Clinton and posed some really difficult questions of Hillary Clinton.

I concluded several things in that blog:

1. Hillary Clinton is not my ideal woman candidate;
2. It is reasonable to demand that Hillary Clinton respond to critiques of some of previous positions, including her support of dismantling welfare and mass incarceration, both of which have been detrimental to the Black community
3. If not now, when?

Luke warm on Hillary Clinton I was surprised by the emotion I felt this morning when I opened up my Democratic ballot and saw her name there. I was surprised that it mattered so much to me to cast my vote for a woman. A woman who will undoubtedly be the Democratic nominee for President of the United States.

I grew up with stories about my grandmother, Goldie Secor Hattery, who was not able to vote until the passage of the 19th amendment.

Despite having Hillary Clinton on the primary ballot in 2008, I never actually believed I would see, in my lifetime, a woman make a serious run for President of the United States.

And, as I shared my elation with my kids, Travis and Emma, both of whom are in their 20s, I realized that they have grown up in a generation of young people who have never not seen women and Black people on the ballot.

I realize that for my children, a diverse slate of candidates, though obviously not diverse enough, is all they have ever known. It is par for the course. Perhaps they believe that the presidential slate will always be diverse, whereas I worry that for me, both Hillary Clinton’s candidacy and the election and subsequent election of Barak Obama, feel like an anomaly, a one time thing.

Despite my critique, I felt proud as a woman and a feminist to cast my ballot for Hillary Rodham Clinton. I felt proud for my grandmother.

My wish is that my children never need to feel this pride; for them a diverse slate of candidates will be the norm rather than an exception to the rule.