New Black Paper seeks to call activists to action

Freddie Allen | 9/6/2013, 12:47 p.m.
“There is a ‘state of emergency’ without urgency in Black America,”
Ron Daniels, president of the Institute of the Black World 21st Century talks about the IBW Black Paper project in Washington, D.C. Freddie Allen

“While there are other worthy areas to be focused on, the answers to our solutions, beginning in the next election, will depend largely on who wins those elections and who wins those elections is determined in large part by who turns out to vote,” he said.

Nkechi Taifa, a senior policy analyst for civil and criminal justice and reform with the Open Society Foundations, an organization that works for public policy reform, said that it doesn’t matter if we’re talking about vigilantism, police brutality, prosecutorial abuse or court processes, as a race Blacks have been subjected to a double standard of justice.

“Fifty years ago the police and the Klan worked hand-in-hand. It was overt, it was direct, it was in your face,” Taifa said. “Today, 50 years later, the United States has moved from overt racist lynchings and explicitly blatant discrimination to institutionalized racism and institutionalized mass incarceration as its punishment of choice.”

Taifa cited a range of actions – including racial profiling, abuse of prosecutorial discretion, the lack of diversity in jury pools, the removal of Blacks from jury pools – that skew the criminal justice system in favor of Whites.

She lauded Attorney General Eric Holder’s recent speech on criminal justice reform and said that the proposals he laid out were a step in the right direction. Ultimately, it will be up to community stakeholders, activists and scholars like those who penned the Black Paper to explain the importance of those reforms and connect the dots for those affected members of the Black community in everyday language, she added.

“It is time that we as scholars, advocates and the media raise the ante and have the audacity to advance creative solutions to break the criminal punishment continuum once and for all and fashion new systems based on prevention rather than punishment and compassion, rather than criminalization,” Taifa said. “The mass incarceration, the mass criminalization and the institutionalized genocide of Black people must end. What we need is justice, not ‘just us.’”