To the Editor,
In the aftermath of Michelle Alexander’s recent appearance at Central Connecticut, I remain greatly concerned about the lost opportunity to address the enduring problem of Jim Crow. To begin, the chosen format of a “moderated conversation” left the question begged as to why institutional racism remains alive and well in the United States. Would not a brief lecture followed by Q & A and audience comment organization of the event catalyze a meaningful discussion of the several formidable barriers to the attainment of a socially just and equitable society? How many present that evening were aware of the following catastrophic dimensions of Jim Crow?
The correlation of the unprecedented increase in the targeted domestic imprisonment of blacks to the politically bipartisan endorsed escalation of America’s “Global War on Terror,” replete with its own parallel Gulag Archipelago of secret torture facilities scattered over 1,000 extant foreign military bases? That in its brutal pursuit of global hegemony, America has serially violated International Humanitarian Law—with impunity—in the realms of both domestic and foreign policies? That the government of the U.S. stands alongside the most repressive regimes on the planet in its refusal to sign the International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid (1973) as well as the more recent Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (2002), whose four criteria for the convening of a tribunal are all comprehensively met by U.S. government? Of the tortures of African Americans committed by police officers at the Homan Square and Rikers Island prisons (in Chicago and New York City, respectively)? Would it have been fair to ask why neither Homan Square nor Rikers are absent from Ms. Alexander’s text?
The presentation also omitted mention of a landmark study undertaken by the Malcolm X Center, published in 2011, entitled “Operation Ghetto Storm.” The principle finding of the report was that an African-American is extra-judicially assassinated once every 28 hours. That is to say, black men and women, children included, are gunned down by law enforcement officers at the aforementioned rate, who are then procedurally exonerated of their actions and neither subject to investigation nor criminal prosecution. As disturbing, the researchers affirmed in their conclusion that the results they obtained were very likely conservative because no agency of the federal government (Department of Justice, FBI) is required by law to compile these statistics.
In view of all that I have attempted to briefly summarize herein, it is by any measure of human decency unconscionable that Americans are willfully indifferent to a criminal injustice system that avidly embraces the death penalty, 70 percent of whom are black of the total number on death row. That Ms. Alexander gave the former president a pass on all these matters and even affirmed, without any hint of irony, that she believed President Barack Obama had expressed regret that he had not done more to address the issue of black mass incarceration beggars belief. He regrets his inaction? Really?
Obama had eight years in office to resolve the problem and he most emphatically did nothing. The system remains intact and is indeed flourishing, as she herself acknowledged when noting that the dimensions of the prison industrial complex had actually had been augmented by yet another parallel system of detention centers that effectively “ICE’d” victims of his draconian immigration policy.
She might have mentioned, too, that Obama had deported during his two terms in office more “illegals” than President Bill Clinton and President George W. Bush combined. Ms. Alexander similarly failed to underscore the former president’s approval of Hillary Clinton’s candidacy for the Oval Office. This was coupled to the discrete omission that she and her husband were the architects of the notorious 1996 crime bill that led to the exponential leap of incarcerated blacks, and that Mrs. Clinton herself once characterized all black children as “‘super-predators’ who needed to be brought to heel.” …”who needed to be brought to heel?”
Over the decades since my graduation, I have observed the virus of political correctness lock down the free expression of speech that is the very foundation of a university. The existence of a “Free Speech” zone, for example, would be amusing were it not so tragically reflective of a mind-set that does not appear to grasp that every square foot of the campus is a free speech site.
Today, many Americans reflexively believe, from left to right on the political spectrum, that the U.S. is the world’s greatest country. A comprehensive recitation of historical facts would not in the least change their minds. American exceptionalism is an article of faith embraced by the overwhelming majority of our citizenry, many of whom will cite the election of a black to its highest office as proof of our color blindness.
At the advent of Barack Obama’s administration, the U.S. ranked 37th out of 181 countries in Infant Mortality Rates; when he left office, the U.S. ranked 56th. By the close of his regime in 2016, America ranked 43rd in Maternal Mortality and 46th in Under 5 Child Mortality Rates (these rankings are compiled by UNICEF from country reports submitted to the World Health Organization by, in this case, the Center for Disease Control, in Atlanta, GA). The disproportionate number of those accounted for by the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Report (MMR) are black and to lesser extent, other persons of color.
If nothing else, at least the context of the brutal realities borne from moment to moment by African Americans at home and “the other” victims of our Global War on Terror deserved a hearing on Feb. 28. It is unconscionable that they were not.
Walter Zielinski, New Britain, class of 1979