By Zerline Hughes
The Washington Post last week published a submission by a Stanford University professor. The headline: “There’s been a big decline in the black incarceration rate, and almost nobody’s paying attention.”
A friend sent the article my way and I was immediately upset. Sure, you see the words decline, incarceration, and Black, and you think, “great news.” But the way it was presented, I’m thinking “loaded news.”
Right there in the headline it says “nobody’s paying attention.” Hmmm … well, let’s just starting off there. I guess I’m busy too keeping my son, 13, from being one of those 1 in 3 Black men that will touch the criminal justice system to notice that there was a decline in Black incarceration. That’s fair, right?
But then, when I continued to read and saw “African Americans are benefiting from the national de-incarceration trend,” I scoffed. But maybe it’s only the semantics. African Americans are not “benefiting” from anything when it comes to our criminal justice system.
The meat of the article is that it seems White women are serving time at increasing rates, and White men are not far behind. I wonder if that means there will FINALLY be an all out crisis or state of emergency declared on mass incarceration. You know, the way it should have been four decades ago when Black men began filling up our prisons at an increasingly higher rate than Whites. To be exact, Pew Research quoting BJS stats reported that there was a more than 230 percent increase in Black men serving time while there was a 158 increase for White men between 1960 and 2000.
Further, the article blames the increase in Whites going to prison on their deteriorating health and well-being of is also refreshing — and another slick play on semantics. Read it:
“More generally, multiple indicators of health and well-being have shown evidence of deterioration in white Americans over the past 15 years, including rising rates of suicide, drug overdose, poor mental health and inability to work.”
I recall hearing Black incarceration was due to animalistic, brute and inhumane tendencies, in addition to words being used like poverty-stricken, “poor”and uneducated. Our narratives, word choice, and priorities need major adjusting. Here’s another example from the New York Times.
Alas, if this means someone with rank will finally look at ending mass incarceration and fixing our broken justice system, I’ll take it. Maybe now, in addition to discussing re-entry during events like Washington Post Live’s trending discussion that I attended last week, we’ll talk about NO entry, as one of the panelists put it.