Good and Mad Reading for the Weekend

Post Date: June 21, 2013

It’s been awhile since we did Good and Mad Reading, but this Newsweek article called “The Fight for Black Men” is un-missable.

The tag-line to the article explains the source of outrage: “There are more African-Americans in the corrections system today—in prison or on probation or parole—than there were enslaved in 1850.”

It’s a grim article with a strand of hope running throughout. A snippet:

As the Rev. Al Sharpton, the nationally known civil rights activist and founder of the National Action Network, told me in an interview, “We’re in the best of times and worst of times, at the same time.” “It’s the best-time times,” Sharpton continued, “because we have a black president, black attorney general, black CEOs. But it’s the worst of times because millions of African-American men are being locked up and left out like never before.”

Ben Jealous, the president of the NAACP, agrees. In an interview, Jealous declared to me that “black men are the most incarcerated people on the planet … warehoused in prison for nonviolent crimes that two decades ago would have resulted in little to no jail time.”

But Jealous is also hopeful. The NAACP is going state by state, attaching practical solutions to [Michelle] Alexander’s thesis. And because of strained prison budgets and concern about bloated government, they are finding receptive audiences not just among liberals but among conservatives too. For example, they are presently working with Gov. Nathan Deal of Georgia, a Tea Party Republican, to, in Jealous’s words, “make their prison system dramatically smaller.” “Our allies on the right are beginning to think about criminal-justice reform,” Jealous says. “They are finally getting beyond ‘tough on crime’ slogans, and actually focusing on what works.”

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