Wednesday, August 4, 2010

From 100:1, to 18:1 - Yay!! or Yay??

"So we have come to cash this check — a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice. We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quick sands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God's children."
Martin Luther King, Jr.
(I Have a Dream speech - August 28, 1963)
Seems that check, of which Dr. King so forcefully spoke almost 47 years ago, has bounced - yet again.

While there's certainly cause for some celebration after the passing and signing (hm-m-m, the Changeling was uncharacteristically silent during this signing) of the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010, I see no reason for Black folk to be saying, "Yay!!" and Lindy Hoppin' (I had the pleasure of spending a little time with the venerable Ms. Miller back in 2003).  Akin to the  "3/5 of a man compromise," - drawn up by greedy (read taxation), power-hungry (read Congressional representation) white men who enshrined their supremacy over Blacks in the Constitution - this legislation continues to scream, "We are better than you." 

Me?  I'm saying, "Yay??" Because after all the studies and on-the-record hearings which simply concluded - "Got powder? Got crack? Same thing." - privilege, and the White Supremacist Capitalist Patriarchy still win the day!  The conspiracy theorist in me believes this has more to do with helping states like California balance their budgets wrecked by overzealous prosecution of Black and Brown folk, than anything else.  It never fails does it?  Seems only when something's re-e-ally good for them do we benefit ever so slightly.  Plus ça change, plus c'est le même chose (translation:  The more it changes, the more it remains the same).  {heavy sigh}

Congress calling a reduction in, instead of a total elimination ofthe sentencing  disparity - "FAIR" - is nothing more than another generous portion of "shinin' up shit and callin' it gold" (kind of like the bait-and-switch the Changeling and Pelosi pulled, hoodwinking women into believing that the Lilly Ledbetter Act dealt with gender-based, pay inequities). 

And, as expected, the NAACP is doing its share of shoveling, which smacks of that "tranquilizing drug of gradualism" for which Dr. King said we had no time all those years ago:
"The NAACP supported this legislation as an important first step toward completely eliminating this racially discriminatory sentencing disparity." (emphasis mine)
An important first step!  Please.  It's been 24 and 22 years respectively, since the Anti-Drug Abuse Acts of 1986 and 1988 legitimized this disparity!  How many more years will the "premier civil rights advocacy entity on Capitol Hill" think are appropriate before there is no disparity at all - 24 again?  Funny how the Changeling, channeling Dr. King, could invoke the "fierce urgency of now" to get  Black voters to vote for him, but those same Black voters are still willing to "be patient and wait" for the rights to which they're entitled as full citizens of these United States - the same rights, incidentally, that are clearly, already afforded ALL similarly situated white citizens. {smdh}

And let's not forget - the Act is not retroactive. So the thousands of lives already negatively affected before this insult passed, will still be negatively affected now that it has. Yeah, that's fair too.

 But lest you think I'm always a glass-half-empty kinda girl, I am saying - Yay!! - to the elimination of the mandatory-minimum sentencing of 5 years for simple possession of crack cocaine.  This move may finally make at least these defendants feel EQUAL to their "simple possession" counterparts in the meth, powder and heroin world whose punishment was probation, or at the very most - a one-year prison sentence.

And I say, "Yay!" again, to all the documented, and unwavering heavy-lifting of The Sentencing Project (24 years) and the U.S. Sentencing Commision (22 years) on this issue.  It has always been their thorough commitment to this work - not the NAACP's - that has offered me the most enlightenment on this ongoing okey-doke over the years. 

Could they be a part of my aforementioned conspiracy?  Could be.  But I appreciate that they at least did the research, and again and again, presented the information to Congress which, up until now, has been fighting them tooth and nail since at least 1995 (and still are if we're honest).  Still doesn't make the Act itself any fairer though.

Just a couple more pesky, "privilege" observations before I let you go: 

What about the sentencing for methamphetamines which appears to not only be ravaging small, rural communities where it began, but now also, upscale communities? Will meth cookers, traffickers and dealers still be able to enjoy the "privilege" of going through drug court programs that offer treatment - rather than jail - as they have been? Probably so, especially since little, if anything will be changed for white coke traffickers and dealers.  Just curious.

And according to The Sentencing Project:
The Fair Sentencing Act of 2010 would raise the minimum quantity of crack cocaine that triggers a 5-year mandatory minimum from 5 grams to 28 grams, and from 50 grams to 280 grams to trigger a 10-year mandatory minimum sentence. The amount of powder cocaine required to trigger the 5 and 10-year mandatory minimums remains the same, at 500 grams and 5 kilograms respectively.
Seems to me, white traffickers will still enjoy the "privilege" of making a whole lot more money than the dime-bag boys before they go to jail (seeing as 28 grams equal .028 kilograms versus the 500 grams which equal .5 kilograms and, 280 grams = 0.28 kilograms versus the 5 kilograms).  More product, priced five times more than the dime-bag boys' product, sure sound like more money to me.  Just sayin'...

UPDATE:  Commission Unanimously Approves Sentence Reductions for Prisoners Confined Under Harsh Crack Cocaine Law


RiPPa said...


This was an awesome read. I was just talking to my wife about just how I'm conflicted with this new legislation. At the end of the day this "new equality" will not eliminate the bullshit war on drugs which target people of color.

Deb said...

Hey Rippa! Thanks!

"At the end of the day this "new equality" will not eliminate the bullshit war on drugs which target people of color."

Agreed. And I don't believe it's meant to. Sounds more like a dog whistle to distract while they figure out how to get their damned hands on (more of) the drug money! :-)

Manly-man Arnold's proposal for marijuana legalization, I believe - includes the ability for the state to tax the weed they're allowing! As each state follows suit (because most all are operating at some kind of deficit), that whole "War on drugs" will become but a "pipe dream" (pun intended). {smdh}

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