Just yesterday (June 11, 2013) I posted the following as my Facebook status:
Racists, corporations and government agencies (often synonymous) have united to close schools in Black and Brown neighborhoods, restrict services to the poor and working class, crush unions, construct more privatized prisons, violate our right to privacy, unfairly persecute those who fight for us, and dismiss our right of political dissent. Meanwhile, we’re debating philosophical and theological issues that we’ve already resolved decades ago. Can we now unite and form a plan to address our “life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness?” If we’re all dead, imprisoned, impoverished and stripped of civic power, these debates will be utterly irrelevant anyway…
Perhaps I should provide evidence to support the claims I made in the first sentence:
- Philadelphia announces 23 school closings, yet plans to build a $400 million prison
- Chicago announces 50 school closings, the largest of any school district in American history. Meanwhile, they are planning to build a $100 million basketball arena. Mayor Rahm Emmanuel personally appointed the Chicago School Board; Incidentally, he is a good friend and adviser (Former White House Chief of Staff) of President Obama
- New York City announces 26 school closings; This brings the total closed under Mayor Bloomberg to 140
- Detroit Public Schools owns 80 unused school buildings and is looking for private companies to purchase them
- The overwhelming majority of these school closings are in poor Black communities
- We are witnessing a national trend of union-busting, potentially displacing hundreds of thousands of workers and stripping those who remain of important labor protections from greedy corporations. This commonly occurs through the adoption of “right-to-work” laws, euphemistically named legislation that severely cripple unions’ ability to negotiate labor contracts and weakening their financial strength by providing workers with union membership without having to pay union dues. Nearly half of American states have adopted these laws, and big business has created a powerful lobbying movement to push for these laws.
- Mega companies like the Corrections Corporation of America (which owns 65 prisons) and the Geo Group (which owns 66), spent between $2.5 million – $17.4 billion lobbying to the federal government to pass legislation favorable to their companies over the last 7 to 10 years. In 2011, these companies earned more than $3 billion in revenue combined
- The longer inmates stay incarcerated, the more profit a private prison makes. With such enormous sums of money involved, corruption naturally follows. This past April, Pennsylvania judge Mark Ciavarella Jr “received a 28 year prison sentence for conspiring with private prisons to sentence juvenile offenders to maximum sentences for bribes and kickbacks which totaled millions of dollars. He was also ordered to pay $1.2 million in restitution.” Between 2003-2008, judge Ciavarella unfairly sentenced more than 5000 young men and women; their cases were eventually dismissed and they were released.
- Studies show that private prison facilities are even more overcrowded, unsafe and negligent than their state-owned counterparts.
- A complicated matrix of state and local legislation, bribery of judges, and racialized arrests ensure that the majority of those incarcerated in such facilities are Black and Brown people. Thus private prisons are in fact, a new and improved form of racial slavery and labor exploitation. As sister Angela Davis notes in her article, “Masked Racism: Reflections on the Prison Industrial Complex,” “Prisons do not disappear problems, they disappear human beings. And the practice of disappearing vast numbers of people from poor, immigrant, and racially marginalized communities has literally become big business….Colored bodies constitute the main human raw material in this vast experiment to disappear the major social problems of our time.”
Government Attacks on our privacy
- The tragedy of 911 created a level of government hysteria we have not seen since the Cold War days of the Soviet Union vs. the United States. In the interest of “national security, President Obama and his intelligence community are taking unprecedented steps to invade our privacy on and off the internet
- According to the ACLU, the U.S. government secretly monitors “telephone calls and e-mails, web browsing records, financial records, credit reports, and library records”of innocent American citizens, then attempts to analyse these records to determine which citizens are likely to be a threat to national security.
- Just 4 days ago, President Obama confirmed reports that the government conducts secretive raids of citizens’ phone and internet activity and defended such activities as being vital to security interests.
- Under a program code-named “PRISM,” the FBI and National Security Association have access to the servers of 9 internet companies for the purpose of monitoring and “extracting audio and video chats, photographs, e-mails, documents and connection logs.”
…And I haven’t even discussed police brutality, the reduction of social services, US imperialism via its warmongering abroad, Black-on-Black violence, or the fiasco that is U.S. healthcare. So if political-minded Black people, who say they’re for Black empowerment aren’t talking about and trying to organize around THESE issues, then exactly what the ##@$! are we talking about? Perhaps we all should start having dreams similar to mine, then WAKE UP and WORK TOGETHER to bring them into being…..
Agyei Tyehimba is a former NYC public schoolteacher, co-founder of KAPPA Middle School 215 in the Bronx, NY, and co-author of the Essence Bestselling book, Game Over: The Rise and Transformation of a Harlem Hustler, published in 2007 by Simon & Schuster. Agyei has appeared on C-Span, NY1 News, and most recently on the A&E documentary, “The Mayor of Harlem: Alberto ‘Alpo’ Martinez.” Mr. Tyehimba is a professional consultant and public speaker providing political advice and direction for Black college student organizations, community activist groups, and nonprofit organizations. If you are interested in bringing Agyei to speak or provide consultation for your organization, please contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.