*On November 18, 1993, then Senator Joe Biden let it fly on the Senate floor. He lambasted the “predators on the streets” and “sociopaths” who were “beyond the pale,” and must be “cordoned off.” Biden punctuated his impassioned cheer of the Clinton Crime Bill up for Senate passage with borderline race tinged rhetoric about broken homes, family squalor and ignorance. The inference was he was talking about young Blacks.
Biden’s words that day keep coming back to haunt him like a hideous nightmare. Trump dredged it up again at the last presidential debate. Joe, Trump intoned, you branded young Blacks as “super-predators.” He then gleefully finger pointed Biden as practically the Founding Father of the 1994 Crime Bill; the bill widely reviled as the single biggest cause of the mass prison incarceration of explosion of mostly young Blacks and Hispanics.
Biden, in defense, did the same two things that he’s done repeatedly every time he gets hit over the head by Trump and the GOP with his cheerlead of the bill. He denied that he called anyone “super predators.” He didn’t, but his label of “predators on the streets” came darn close. It’s his second counter though that he hopes will take some of the sting out of his overexuberant tout of the bill a quarter century ago. He called it “a mistake,” and says times have changed. He spruces up some of the features of the bill such as ramped up drug treatment and services that he claims ownership of in the bill.
Biden pivots and rightly points out that the majority of the Congressional Black Caucus backed it out of fear of violent crime and drug plague hammering Blacks. He then does a quick fast forward to cite his array of criminal justice system and police reform-oriented proposals he’s put forth during the campaign.
It doesn’t change the past but it’s part mea culpa and bigger part hope that it gets Trump off his back, and does no damage among Black voters on November 3.
Trump, though, won’t go away on this. He senses a tiny opening with this that can be exploited to fuel the still very deep sting and resentment over the bill. There’s some cause for worry about that.
The draconian bill was the brainchild of Reagan and Bush Sr., they could not have gotten the bill through a mostly Democratic-controlled Congress. But then President Clinton did. He muscled it through Congress. The bill shelled out $22 billion to the states and feds to hire more police and prosecutors build new prisons, and courts, and establish crime commissions.
It criminalized thousands, mostly Blacks and Latinos, for petty crimes and drug possession, ignited the biggest prison-police boom in U.S history, spurred dozens of states to adopt three strikes laws, led to the deadly rash of racial profiling cases, and widened the gaping racial disparities in prison sentencing. The anti-crime legislative mania also tacitly encouraged more states to disenfranchise thousands of ex-felons. The law added more than 30 new provisions for the death penalty in federal law. To no surprise, the majority of those that await execution are Black men. In 1993, there were less than a half million blacks in America’s jails. That figure has soared to more than 2 million today with still about half of them Black.
Biden’s public pledge to change that takes the battle against crime in the direction that it should have gone even twenty years ago. And that’s putting massive resources into investment and repair in poor and minority communities, while committing to fight to end the blatant racial disparities in arrests, sentencing, imprisonment, and the death penalty that have become the trademark of the criminal justice system.
However, the damage that the bill wreaked is done. And Trump knows the bitterness that it has caused among many Blacks. He can take the issue twist and turn it around on Biden to the point of casting himself as some sort of Harriet Tubman liberator of Blacks from the shackle of mass incarceration. So, as Biden squirms on the crime bill, Trump parlays his threadbare record on criminal justice issues which include nothing more than after much arm twisting endorsing a Second Start and a handful of pardons of Black inmates.
The challenge then is not to hold Biden’s feet to the fire for a policy from the past that’s had and has bad consequences for the present. But to hold him feet to the flame to deliver on her pledge to push for meaningful criminal justice system reforms, and programs and initiatives to aid the urban poor once in the White House.
The crime bill will forever remain part of Clinton’s legacy, the good, and the much larger bad of it. Trump will cynically and calculatingly twist that odious history around and call Biden on the carpet for it. And hope that enough other Blacks do the same to dampen enthusiasm for him.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. He is the author of What’s Right and Wrong with the Electoral College (Middle Passage Press)He is a weekly co-host of the Al Sharpton Show on Radio-one. He is the host of the weekly Hutchinson Report on KPFK-Pacifica Radio.
The Wattree Chronicle: Dubious Donnie’s Just Reward
*I hate to celebrate another person’s misfortune. That kind of pettiness is totally classless. But watching Donald Trump having to agonize through his current loss to Joe Biden is making me want to dance in the street.
Donald Trump is currently showing the world just how petty and vindictive he is. He’s purposely doing everything in his waning power to make America suffer for voting him out of office. Due to his petty, vindictive nature, he’s trying to punish America by refusing to concede and failing to cooperate with a smooth transition of power.
His intent – other than his desperation over having to face the possible legal consequences of his past behavior – is to make it much harder for President-Elect Joe Biden to pick up the pieces after he’s gone, and he doesn’t care how many Americans he’s responsible for killing in the process. And the Republican Party clearly recognizes that fact, but they’re much too weak-kneed and self-serving to defend the American people from this atrocity. But America will recover, so all Trump’s actually doing is making a fool of himself, ensuring his place in the garbage heap of history, and clearly demonstrating just how rudderless this nation has been for the past four years.
Trump insists that the election was rigged, while not only the facts, but simple logic suggests that’s not the case. The fact that Donald Trump lost, while the Republican Party fared much better than expected, indicates that the American people didn’t reject conservatism, but Donald Trump.
This article/essay continues at The Wattree Chronicle.
Kimberly Ellis: Triple-Dog Dare: An Open Letter to California Governor Newsom
*No governor likes to be bullied, especially you (we know from personal experience). Nor would I recommend anyone to dare the leader of the fifth largest economy in the world to demonstrate his raw political power, for that also is not the wisest way to convince Governor Newsom to go your way.
And yet, here we find ourselves and Black women in California are doing just that.
Right now, you have an obligation to fill the seat vacated by the only Black woman in the United States Senate. Just a few years ago, Californians chose a Black woman to represent them and it would be an inexcusable slight – a proverbial slap in the face – to replace her with a man, irrespective of his race. Full stop.
California’s one million Black women fought hard to finally get a seat at that decision-making table and we will not accept it being given away in the third act of political theater. This isn’t a game of musical chairs, and if you truly believe that representation matters, then don’t talk about it, be about it.
So, let’s be clear – this seat must be filled by a Black woman — as the voters intended. And, in this moment, someone who stands out as both worthy and capable is Congresswoman Barbara Lee.
The protégé of Shirley Chisholm, Barbara Lee’s commitment to environmental justice, healthcare as a human right, reproductive freedom and advocacy against unnecessary wars is beyond reproach.
More importantly, it’s her two decades’ of experience in the halls of Congress that is our incontrovertible proof that she’s ready on day-one to walk into the Senate at a time when we need unapologetically bold leadership the most. We can’t afford to promote someone who will have to learn Washington, DC on the job. And with the Senate headed toward a deadlock at best… nope; the stakes are too high.
But beyond the practical and policy, Barbara Lee is the safest political choice that will avoid a bloody and ridiculously expensive Dem-on-Dem election in two years when this seat comes up again. No one is more respected by both the moderate and progressive wings of California Democrats and non-partisans.
To refresh our memories, it was Barbara Lee who bridged California’s Hillary and Bernie divides in 2016 and she did it again in 2020. It was Barbara Lee who led the charge for progressive policy inclusions in our Party’s platform this year. It was Barbara Lee who came out first and hardest for Vice President-Elect Harris when she decided to run for President nearly two years ago.
And while some folks are still debating whether Black lives matter, after this past election, one thing is for damn sure – Black votes matter, don’t they?!
Lest we forget, it was the Black women organizers (and voters) in Philly and Milwaukee and Detroit and Atlanta who literally snatched this country from the jaws of death and it’s because of them that we’re even having this conversation right now.
But seriously, think about it: Black women are being asked to give up our only seat in the United States Senate due to a vacancy created by the success of a Black woman. It’s like we can’t win for losing and we also can’t win for winning. It’s the cruel irony for me…
Appointing a Black woman to replace a Black woman isn’t doing us a favor. It’s doing right by us. And that’s on periodt.
So, please Mr. Governor, trust us, this isn’t a dare; it’s a request to return to an era of meritocracy and dignity that’s been missing from our politics for far too long. California’s Senate replacement pick for Vice-President Elect Harris should be Congresswoman Barbara Lee.
We’re counting on you to do the right thing, White Chocolate.
Kimberly Ellis is an American activist and was the Executive Director of Emerge California from 2010 until she ran for the Chair of the California Democratic Party in 2017.
BMEE Authors: Urgent Steps Are Necessary to Address Implicit Bias in Early Education
*The school to prison pipeline starts as early as preschool for our youngest Black learners.
According to the U.S. Department of Education (2016-2017), Black children face issues with preschool access and exclusion, and are prone to receive harsher discipline than non-Black students who display the same behavior.
Statistics show that Black children are 15% of the K-12th grade student population; however, they are 36% of students suspended at least once. Too many Black early learners are bounced around between multiple preschools or childcare programs like urban nomads.
During the height of the George Floyd protests, a group of African American men with professional experience in education, policy, research and social work formed Black Men for Educational Equity (BMEE) to address implicit bias in early education. Over the last five months, BMEE examined the disparities and inequalities that exist in the system for young Black children and have created a plan of action for addressing these systemic issues.
To combat this problem, BMEE is calling on the California Legislature to ensure that Black preschoolers are not excluded from important educational components and success through implicit bias and structural racism. Having access to quality preschool, fair treatment in the classroom, and equal opportunity for success are all crucial components in helping our Black preschool students succeed now, and for generations to come.
Too often, the three “B’s” predict a preschooler’s risk of expulsion: “big, Black and boy.” Black children are expelled at twice the rate of white children, particularly if they are bigger or taller than their peers. Research reveals this is less about the physical characteristics of the child and more about what is going on in the teacher’s mind, than what the child is doing. Although there is great need in California for preschool and childcare services, preschool is not compulsory.
Preschools in California currently can exclude students prior to even attempting to teach them based on subjective behavioral expectations. These unfounded behavioral expectations are often fraught with implicit bias and hidden from research as providers are not required to track or report reasons for exclusion, expulsion, or suspension. It is tantamount to expulsion without any process or notice of rights, and contrary to long term public policy.
Young Black children, particularly Black boys, are too often victims of an education system that fails them and stifles their potential to succeed. When Black children are held to different standards for learning and behavior and even worse, higher standards are seen for them in preschool, it furthers the systematic racial divide.
“It is important early education staff shift from destructive approaches to discipline and towards research-informed best practices,” commented Dr. Judy D. White, Riverside County Superintendent of Schools. “The Research is clear that when teachers are supported with resources and evidence-based training, preschool can help young children build crucial social-emotional and pre academic skills. A child’s ability to successfully navigate social and emotional learning at a young age is a major factor in educational success. Exclusionary discipline such as suspension isolates the children most in need of social-emotional development, and results in poor educational outcomes. We want all preschoolers to experience an inclusive and welcoming learning environment.”
While legislators have made efforts to address preschool accountability, such as AB 752 by Assemblywoman Blanca Rubio (D-Baldwin Park) which proposes a series of interventions and referrals before expelling a child, there remains a hole the size of Mount Everest in California’s early learning accountability and teacher training system.
California should establish developmentally appropriate policies and structures to provide support to preschool providers by clarifying definitions for suspension and expulsion in preschool and providing due process. Due process should come before any sort of expulsion to help ensure disciplinary practices are not abused. It is long past time for California to take measurable action to eliminate exclusionary practices that contribute to the preschool to prison pipeline.
Preschool providers should collect and track data on rates of expulsion and suspension in early learning and preschool settings. At a minimum, four dominant categories should disaggregate the data. They are: sex, race, ethnicity, and disability status. Information could be housed locally and by the state. Preschool providers should also be required to provide due process before kicking a student out.
“California’s early learning and care system continues to suffer from historic and structural racism and sexism,” according to Dr. Mary Ann Dewan, Santa Clara County Superintendent of schools. ”Policies and procedures such as incentivizing providers to expel children who are deemed ‘problematic’, paying a higher reimbursement for part-day preschool than full-day preschool and directing CalWORKS recipients to lower-quality childcare programs serves to perpetuate the inequities caused by structural racism and sexism. Now that we know better, it’s time to do better.”
“BMEE is here to shake up the system and not maintain the status quo,” said Khaim Morton, owner KRM Strategies and BMME Member. KRM strategies specializes in the advancement and application of comprehensive legislation and government affairs strategies. “All Black children deserve an opportunity to succeed. Research shows that implicit bias demonizes Black children before they get to kindergarten. BMEE’s vision is to remove stigmas that Black preschoolers are subjected to and support policy solutions.”
About the Authors:
BMEE is a group of African American men with professional experience in education, policy, research and social work.
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