Thursday, February 4, 2016

No Longer Color Blind

I remember when I was 4 yrs old sitting with my mommy sorting M&Ms by color before eating them one at a time... saving the orange for last because those were the best. (Yes, even at 4 yrs old I was a tad on the obsessive compulsive side of the spectrum.) My mother (who was an amazingly sweet wonderful person) tipped my world when she showed me how much prettier my groupings would be if I mixed up the colors into an M&M rainbow. That was my first lesson in diversity.

I grew believing not seeing color was the best way to fight racism. So I didn't notice when as I going through school each year there were less and less diversity until only a handful of African American kids were in my graduating class.

This next piece is swiped directly from:

Incarceration Trends in America
  • From 1980 to 2008, the number of people incarcerated in America quadrupled-from roughly 500,000 to 2.3 million people
  • Today, the US is 5% of the World population and has 25% of world prisoners.
  • Combining the number of people in prison and jail with those under parole or probation supervision, 1 in ever y 31 adults, or 3.2 percent of the population is under some form of correctional control
Racial Disparities in Incarceration
  • African Americans now constitute nearly 1 million of the total 2.3 million incarcerated population
  • African Americans are incarcerated at nearly six times the rate of whites
  • Together, African American and Hispanics comprised 58% of all prisoners in 2008, even though African Americans and Hispanics make up approximately one quarter of the US population
  • According to Unlocking America, if African American and Hispanics were incarcerated at the same rates of whites, today's prison and jail populations would decline by approximately 50%
  • One in six black men had been incarcerated as of 2001. If current trends continue, one in three black males born today can expect to spend time in prison during his lifetime
  • 1 in 100 African American women are in prison
  • Nationwide, African-Americans represent 26% of juvenile arrests, 44% of youth who are detained, 46% of the youth who are judicially waived to criminal court, and 58% of the youth admitted to state prisons (Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice).
Now I realize not all the kids I went to grade school and middle school with were in jail but it makes me understand that while I had the privilege of being color blind people of color do not. 

Another statistic: 35% of black children grades 7-12 have been suspended or expelled at some point in their school careers compared to 20% of Hispanics and 15% of whites (from same link as above).

John Oliver explored how mandatory minimums have affected people of color in a devastating way.

Over Thanksgiving I got a speed ticket. It was unfair but I paid the $288 ignoring the 8 lawyer's offices who magically knew I'd gotten a ticket and could help me fight it. I'm lucky enough to be in a position to pay the ticket... but what if I wasn't... I could easily see how someone without the funds could spiral downward... and since I live in the South (where yes racism is still very much a thing) what if my skin color wasn't pasty white?

I recently passed a sign in a work zone that threatened speeders with a $1000 fine and 30 days... 30 days!!!! How does one keep a job? What if one falls into the category that doesn't get a pass...

We can no longer afford to be color blind. Let's take off the glasses and see things as they are... Educate yourself. Vote to change things.

Hugs, Z. 

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