A Time to Heal: Repairing America’s Relationship with Young Black Men

Here on The Dylan Ratigan Show, we’re trying to point out the need to change the relationship between young black men and America.  That means starting the conversation our country, more often than not, prefers to avoid.  But as we’ve seen time and time again, that refusal creates dangerous consequences.

Today we spoke to three of the most influential voices on this issue in America today: criminologist and co-chair of John Jay College’s National Network for Safe Communities David Kennedy, civil rights leader and CEO & Chairman of the Hip-Hop Summit Action Network Dr. Ben Chavis, and attorney Jami Floyd. 

Watch the segments here, and learn more below:

The statistics on young black men in America are staggering, but critical for us to talk about as we take on this issue.  Right now, one in 100 Americans are behind bars, and nearly 1/3 of black men will spend time in prison in their lifetime. Here are a few more facts to be aware of:

– Blacks are ten times as likely as whites to be incarcerated for drug crimes, even though they have similar levels of drug use.
– More young black men have done prison time than military service or earned college degrees.
– Black men in prison make up 40% of the prison population, but are only 14% of the U.S. population.
– Since 1971, there have been more than 40 million arrests for drug-related offenses.
– There are more blacks under correctional control today — in prison or jail, on probation or parole — than were enslaved in 1850, a decade before the Civil War began.
– There are 50,000 arrests for low-level pot possession a year in New York City, representing one out of every seven cases that turn up in criminal courts.  Most of these arrested are black and Hispanic men.

How You Can Get Involved

Educate yourself and others about the facts on and on the solutions.  Visit the website for Dr. Ben Chavis’ organization at OccupytheDream.org. An excellent place to start is at the website for the Center for Crime Control and Prevention at John Jay College in New York, which is actively engaged in crime prevention initiatives in communities around the country and the world.  They especially focus on the big issues affecting our most vulnerable communities: gangs and other violent groups, gun violence and gun trafficking, overt drug markets and domestic violence.  They also focus on repairing the relationship between those communities and law enforcement.

In 2009, the center launched the National Network for Safe Communities, composed of more than 50 cities successfully using their strategies around the nation, and committed to their continued development and broader implementation.

Read their statement of principles:

1. The levels of violence in America are unacceptable. Each year, 16,000 people die from violent crime in America. The levels of homicide are four to seven times higher than in Europe. Among young men of color living in high crime neighborhoods, the risk of becoming a homicide victim is 65 times higher than the national average.

2. The realities of drug markets are unacceptable.  In many neighborhoods, drug dealers and drug buyers have taken over the streets, forcing residents to stay in their homes.  These drug markets are violent and volatile, undermining community safety and inhibiting development of local economies.

3. The tensions between the police and minority communities are unacceptable. Police and residents of minority neighborhoods too often distrust one another, which undermines respect for the law and impedes enforcement of the law.

4. The levels of incarceration in America are unacceptable. The four-fold increase in the rate of incarceration in America since the late 1970s has caused enormous strain on the same minority neighborhoods that are living with excessively high crime rates. These neighborhoods are given a false choice between lower crime rates and fewer arrests.

MORE: Ending the Stranglehold of the Prison Industrial Complex on America with criminologist David Kennedy and Dr. Ben Chavis (Feb 2012)

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OP-ED: Occupy the Dream – The Mathematics of Racism by Dylan Ratigan and Russell Simmons (Jan 2012)
VIDEO: Russell Simmons and Dr. Ben Chavis on Occupy the Dream (Jan 2012)