Authentic American Citizenship

Consider these two news bits from last week alongside the continuing denial of Obama’s citizenship:  At the Guardian Amy Goodman reported that the death penalty case of Mumia Abu-Jamal, a former Black Panther member who’s been in jail for 29 years, was declared unconstitutional.  Goodman recounts what landed Abu-Jamal in prison:

Early on 9 December 1981, Philadelphia police officer Daniel Faulkner pulled over a car driven by William Cook, Abu-Jamal’s brother. What happened next is in dispute. Shots were fired, and both Officer Faulkner and Abu-Jamal were shot. Faulkner died, and Abu-Jamal was found guilty of his murder in a court case presided over by Judge Albert Sabo, who was widely considered to be a racist. In just one of too many painful examples, a court stenographer said in an affidavit that she heard Sabo say, in the courtroom antechamber, “I’m going to help them fry the n****r.”

Judge Sabo was apparently not too good with the requirements of his job either.  The recent ruling is a result of sloppy sentencing procedure.  Among all industrialized nations in the world, why is the U.S. the last to maintain the death penalty, along side such human rights exemplars as China, Yemen and Iran?  Said Abu-Jamal at a recent conference on racial imprisonment at Princeton University (via telephone):

Vast numbers of men, women and juveniles … populate the prison industrial complex here in America. As many of you know, the US, with barely 5% of the world’s population, imprisons 25% of the world’s prisoners … the numbers of imprisoned blacks here rivals and exceeds South Africa’s hated apartheid system during its height.


Talking Points Memo reports that Oklahoma state representative Sally Kern (R) recently came under fire for what she says was a quote taken out of context.  During a debate to end Affirmative Action in the state government, Kern said, “We have a high percentage of blacks in prison, and that’s tragic, but are they in prison just because they are black or because they don’t want to study as hard in school?”  Numerous legislators released criticisms of Kern, including several of her Republican colleagues.  To be fair, here’s the full paragraph from the debate, which came right before her comments about the problems of reverse discrimination:

You know I think that God gave us two ears so that we could hear both sides of the argument. We have heard tonight already that in prison there are more black people. Yes there are and that’s tragic. It’s tragic that our prisons here in Oklahoma, what are they, 99% occupancy? But the other side of the story perhaps we need to consider is this just because they’re black that they’re in prison or could it be because they didn’t want to work hard in school and white people often times don’t want to work hard in school or Asians often times. But a lot of times that’s what happens. I taught school for 20 years and I saw a lot of people of color who didn’t want to work as hard, they wanted it given to them. Matter of fact I had one student that said, “I don’t need to study, you know why? The government’s gonna take care of me.” That’s kind of revealing there.

Of course there’s not much to take out of context.  Kern and others who oppose entitlement programs do so on the basis that those in prison, in poverty, out of work, or under-educated are so because they don’t deserve anything better.  Doubting that a black man could ever become president of the U.S. is just part of the same argument.



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