Black Unemployment Is Still Shamefully High

Black Unemployment Is Still Shamefully High

In a recent article entitled “Black Unemployment is Still Shamefully High,” from The Atlantic magazine (link here), the author for the well written piece brings attention to something our President either doesn’t care about or is somehow unable to do anything about, which is the fact that black unemployment has not gotten better during his run; and if anything it’s actually gotten much worse.

English: Barack Obama delivers a speech at the...

English: Barack Obama delivers a speech at the University of Southern California (Video of the speech) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

For “the most powerful man in the world” he seems strangely unable to do much of anything when it comes to institutionalized racism in the form of high unemployment, inner city blight, an educational system incapable of doing much more than warehousing. Is it that Congress and the Senate won’t let him do anything, that he really means well and is a great guy but is paralyzed by all the red tape? Or is it that he’s a person who loves to hear himself speak, loves the spotlight and power, but doesn’t care about others more than in terms of what they can do for him and his career? We’ll probably never know the real Obama, but we can see what’s going on in our world if we’re brave enough to open our eyes and assess.

Unemployment has gotten worse under Obama, and he laughs and preens and struts and even lectures black Americans, while he refuses to take action to ameliorate situations and institutions bent on crippling them either through inaction, malice, or ignorance (and does it ultimately matter the intent when the outcome is the same?).

How many of candidate Obama’s promises has he kept? None I can find.

The rich get richer, the poor get poorer, safety nets are taken down, schools continue on their downward slope, and Obama’s kids will be very well off for the rest of their lives. And perhaps that’s all that really matters- to him.

I applaud the Atlantic for being one of the few great magazines still being published and daring to address the issue.

Our Criminal Justice System: Time for Peer Review?

Our Criminal Justice System: Time for Peer Review?

One of the main reasons I got married was for peer review.


Granted, peer review wasn’t the only reason I got married…but the thing is, for an academic nerd, who lives principally in her own head, one of the best things about living with someone else is the opportunity to bounce those wild ideas you may have at four in the morning against the touchtone of your significant other’s critical intellect.


After all, just about everything sounds good the first time you say it to yourself.


I count on my husband to offer a fresh perspective—that’s one of the best things about living with someone who grew up in a different part of the world.

So I had a peer review moment a few days ago, as I grumbled to my husband about the work Tony Goldwyn (President “Ghost” as the fans like to call him in Shonda Rhimes’s delightful series Scandal), has been doing with The Innocence Project, an organization dedicated to exonerating the falsely accused and unjustly imprisoned.  Goldwyn’s 2010 film, Conviction,  raised awareness concerning this problem while highlighting the actor’s additional talents as a director.


US correctional population timeline-zh-hans

US correctional population timeline-zh-hans (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My issue was not with the Innocence Project’s mission to exonerate the falsely accused—particularly given the recurring evidence that Americans—particularly men—of color live under presumptions of guilt that can ruin lives.  (Note, for example, a recent Washington Post editorial, detailed on the Innocence Project Blog).


But in a country where over 1.5 million adults were incarcerated in 2011, according to recent Bureau of Justice Statistics—where 1 in every 34 Americans is under the supervision of the Criminal Justice system–and this number, which represents a decline from higher levels of incarceration in 2000, is still the highest number of incarcerated in the industrialized world –and where black and Hispanic males make up a disproportionate percentage of those incarcerated,  why does our discussion always have to be about “innocence” and guilt?  If the laws against a variety of crimes–particularly drug use–are selectively applied, shouldn’t we really be focused on inequitable enforcement?  On mitigating the handicaps of those who are incarcerated–increasing their access to civil rights, education, and job training?


English: Timeline of yearly U.S criminal justi...

English: Timeline of yearly U.S criminal justice spending. 1982-2006. By function (police, corrections, judicial). Not inflation adjusted. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As someone who has been teaching at a community college for over a decade, and working, on the side, on prison education issues for the last two, I’m constantly struck by the way inequality of opportunity paves the school to prison pipeline that ends in tragedy for so many young people of color in the United States.  Rather than asking whether-they-did-or-didn’t, shouldn’t we be supporting access for incarcerated men and women to financial aid for education that can transform lives and has been shown, statistically, to lower recidivism rates by approximately one-third?


If rehabilitation, rather than punition, really is our goal, educating the incarcerated would represent a solid way to put our money in front of our mouths–and help everyone in prison, not just the ones we discover are “innocent.”

My husband  listened patiently (he usually does) but then pointed out that in the age of what Michelle Alexander  has termed  The New Jim Crow  no one organization can take on every issue.   Triage is needed; priorities have to be set.  And first, surely, must come assistance for those who have been victimized by racism even while playing by the rules.
I was still mulling over my husband’s take when we turned on the television and found ourselves watching the PBS/New York Times interview that followed the screening of the Ken Burn’s new film (made with daughter Sarah Burns and David McMahon) The Central Park Five.  The testimonials of these eloquent, traumatized young men, each of whom served seven years for a crime they never committed, highlights the importance of establishing innocence, and the human cost of failing to do so.

“You’re right,” I told my husband, rather shamefacedly.  “Establishing innocence–or guilt beyond a reasonable doubt–has to come first.”

My husband and I are still debating this, however, because another film that was recently screened in my home town of New York City—Released, directed by David Rothenberg —profiled the work the Fortune Society has been doing at a Bronx residence for the formerly incarcerated known as “the Castle” —helping re-entering men and women repair breaches with loved ones, find meaningful employment, and empower themselves through education.  Two of individuals profiled in the film are enrolled as students on campuses of the City University of New York.


The testimonials of the men and women profiled in Released  has reaffirmed my conviction that peer review isn’t just for married folks—a full and critical conversation, where all voices are heard, and all points are considered, is the bedrock value of our civil society.  And in that debate, education remains the most forceful instrument for rectifying the gap between those who are heard and those whose voices are throttled.  We can prioritize the simple justice of incarcerating only those whose guilt has been proven; but we need to widen access to education to all those accused—regardless of race, class, or gender—so all of us can contribute to a process of peer review that can improve our criminal justice system and build a better society for our children.


Emily Sohmer Tai







Woman who ran black site bypassed for top spy job – Yahoo! News

Woman who ran black site bypassed for top spy job – Yahoo! News.

We don’t know from reading this article if the mystery woman in question who tortured her prisoners did so under duress and simply followed orders to keep her job. She obeyed orders in every turn. Which is what you’d think they would want. Ordering torture and then destroying videos of the tortures (which would sicken anyone who’d see them I’m sure) is doing what she was told to do.

English: Independent Investigation Group IIG t...

English: Independent Investigation Group IIG tests Power Balance Bracelets with Dominique Dawes from Yahoo Weekend News (Photo credit: Wikipedia). You are hot. I’d really like to date you, but my mommy told me it wasn’t right.

I suspect there’s more to the refusal for the job than Feinstein just not liking her, but what do I know? I don’t see what they see, certainly. But it nonetheless is a statement that they’re still not ready for a woman to lead them, even if she is adept at torturing and destroying evidence.

Donald Trump Outs Jon Stewart as a Jew – Yahoo! News

Donald Trump Outs Jon Stewart as a Jew – Yahoo! News.

Here’s a shocker, Jon Stewart is a Jew! Thanks, Trump! Every Jew in America knew this guy was Jewish the minute we laid eyes on him, and then heard him do his “oy geyvault” schtick and knew without doubt.

Jon Stewart (detail of original picture)

Jon Stewart (detail of original picture) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Is pointing out this obvious fact anti-semitism? It depends on your definition of anti-semitism, but it’s pretty petty to point out that someone is Jewish these days just as much as it pointing out that a biracial person has African blood in them at some point (or that of another culture). What does it have to do with your hairpiece or Jon Stewart?

Please, Mr. Trump, I like your TV shows and you seem like a reasonably smart guy, so I don’t get it.

In entire court term, justices see 1 black lawyer – Yahoo! News

In entire court term, justices see 1 black lawyer – Yahoo! News

English: United States Supreme Court building ...

English: United States Supreme Court building in Washington D.C., USA. Front facade. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In entire court term, justices see 1 black lawyer – Yahoo! News.

What can be said about this except for the obvious sadness in the headline. Despite whatever advance we may as a country have made education in this country is still more about warehousing than education and is still parceled out according to wealth and status.

I wish schools were different but they are not and never will be. Young minority children need more than rappers and bas

ketballers to look up to, and when the schools themselves segreate quality and class sizes according to ethnicity and wealth and status, it’s ultimately the same as it was fifty years ago if not worse. (Then you could take electives such as shop class, auto mechanics, music, art. Now most schools no longer have these classes.)

It’s just a damn depressing headline that doesn’t surprise me, but is just a sad reminder of where we really are in this country.