Sunday, November 25, 2012

Book Profile on Incarcerated Black Males and the Myth of Black Progress

While Barak Obama a Black male was recently re-elected for president many African American men without a high school diploma, being in prison or jail is more common than being employed - a sobering reality that calls into question post-Civil Rights era social gains.

Nearly 70 percent of young Black men will be imprisoned at some point in their lives, and poor Black men with low levels of education make up a disproportionate share of incarcerated Americans. In her book Invisible Men: Mass Incarceration and the Myth of Black Progress, sociologist Becky Pettit demonstrates another vexing fact of mass incarceration: most national surveys do not account for prison inmates, a fact that results in a misrepresentation of U.S. political, economic, and social conditions in general and Black progress in particular.

Invisible Men provides an eye-opening examination of how mass incarceration has concealed decades of racial inequality. The book examines the hidden ways incarceration impacts our perception of African American advancement in mainstream measures of voter turnout, educational attainment, and employment. Most national population surveys including the U.S. Census fail to count prison inmates, who are disproportionately young Black males.

Pettit’s research shows that these methods have rendered the inmate population invisible. As a result, mass incarceration and our failure to acknowledge it in our data sets has effectively overstated Black progress in the United States and concealed persistent racial inequality in political engagement, wage growth, educational attainment and other areas.

On the day Barack Obama was inaugurated in 2009, Pettit said, “there was hope that perhaps the U.S. was becoming a post-racial society.” But it wasn’t true then, and it’s not true now with his re-election. The gap between Blacks and whites remains wide in employment, income, wealth, and health. The unemployment rate and the employment-to-population ratio reported by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics are based on a survey of households - people “who are not inmates of institutions (for example, penal and mental facilities and homes for the aged) and who are not on active duty in the Armed Forces.”

The reported figures are bad enough. The employment/population ratio for Black males aged 16-24 was 33 percent in August, vs. 52 percent for white males of the same age group. But the Black number is skewed upward by the exclusion of jail and prison inmates. The white number is also skewed upward, but less so because a smaller share of young white males are incarcerated. We’ve developed a distorted idea of how young, Black men are faring says Pettit.

By excluding incarcerated Americans, the 2008 Current Population Survey: Underestimated racial inequality in the high school dropout rate by 75 percent; overstated the employment rate of young, Black male dropouts as 42 percent, while the employment rate is 26 percent when inmates are included; and overestimated overall Black voter turnout by 13 percent and turnout among young, Black male dropouts by 64.2 percent.

“By systematically excluding inmates and former inmates from key data, we’ve clouded our understanding of the American political, economic and social condition,” says Pettit. “I hope that by bringing the mass of incarcerated people into public view, the book will give the public, social scientists and policymakers a more complete picture of our contemporary reality—and influence public policy debates accordingly.”

A crucial complement to The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander which argued that mass incarceration replaced segregation as a system of social control the book’s findings have implications for the upcoming election and beyond. They call into question what strides African Americans have made in recent decades and during President Obama’s time in office and assumptions about Black voter engagement. They also raise questions about which types of policies would best address entrenched social and economic problems.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Mentacide: Making Slave Mentalities And Its Enduring Impact

by Kenray Sunyaru

As a conscious Black man it is tragic when I look around at the behavior of Black people at home, in the neighborhood, in the communities, at work, etc. It is tragic when I hear daily young Blacks calling each other niggas. It is tragic when ninety percent of Black women I see have wigs on to have hair like white women, or to have ‘so-called good hair’ on top of their heads.

It is tragic when I see Blacks in majority Black cities in Michigan accept living under State controlled colonial emergency management stripped of basic democratic rights; living in ‘urban plantations’ under the ‘whip of state manager overseers’. This 2012 reality of ‘niggas, wigs, and accepting urban plantations’ reflect the enduring legacy of the slave mentality.

According to historian Kenneth Stampp the slave master’s methods for ‘seasoning’ - making slaves out of captured Africans was to strip them of their historical memory, identity, and culture; to develop slave mentalities from birth to the grave that included six interdependent elements: (1) The establishment of strict discipline over the captive African population in the United States; (2) The development within African people personal inferiority in relation to skin color, facial and bodily features; (3) The development of raw fear and awe in the power of the master; (4) The establishment within the enslaved African’s psyche a sense of affiliation with the master’s welfare; (5) The creation of a willingness among African captives and their descendants to accept the slaveholder’s standards of conduct as their own; and (6) The development within the captive people total dependence upon those persons who claimed to be their masters.

It is tragic when I look around in Black communities and we own almost no businesses; non-Blacks economically dominate us; they view us as urban plantation consumer slaves and sell us wigs and everything else! Unfortunately, after the first and second generations of African captives were denied practice of their traditional culture – lack of cultural continuity their descendants today became more vulnerable to institutionalize white supremacy methods of cultural domination.

Thus, lacking knowledge of their African past and our historical struggle for self-determination, Blacks in the post-civil rights era have en masse been ‘De-Africanized’, reduced in America today to a maligned, confused, dependent, and exploited people. Unless we counter and overcome this deep seated slave mentality through a struggle as Martin Luther King said for ‘psychological freedom’ we will continue to become a more tragic people.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Love to Hate Black Man Syndrome

by Kenray Sunyaru

The topic of this article was drawn from two sources: first, about a month ago a 7 year-old Black boy in Detroit committed suicide – he hung himself. One report from a white ‘gay-rights’ source said the little boy killed himself because he was constantly teased and bullied by boys because he was the only boy in the home of 8 females. The ‘gay-rights’ group attempted to paint their agenda on the Black boy’s death – he was depressed due to being viewed as a ‘sissy’, took his own life to end the torment.

However, according to the boy’s Mother, she had told her pastor that her son had been depressed due to her recent separation from his Father. To the ‘gay-rights’ group, why would a Black boy become despondent over being separated from his Father, a Black man – what child could love and miss a ‘no-good’ Black man.

The other source of my speech was a conversation I had with 2 young Black women who were in a ‘same-sex’ relationship. I struck up a conversation with them and asked why a growing number of young Black ladies are in same-sex relationships. One responded by saying, ‘Black men are no good, they’re dogs, and sperm donors’.

My response was, ‘if Black men are so bad why are you dealing with a woman who looks just like a man? If you despise Black men so much why don’t you deal with a woman who looks like a woman? ‘ Looking confused, the young lady could not give me an answer. What she was ‘clear on’ is that Black men are ‘no good’ and that she prefers to be with a symbolic woman-man.

With racism significantly hampering their lives and living under the hardships of a white financial emergency manager, these 2 young Black ladies can only focus in on blaming Black men. These 2 sources of my speech this evening represent the ‘love to hate Black men syndrome’ that originated on slave plantations – devised by white male plantation owners.

To destroy Black men through character assassination by scapegoating; singling out Black men by projecting them with debasing and distorted images of ‘Blame’ that would lead to them being despised by whites as well as Blacks. Scapegoating Black men was a means of distraction by which white men through transference, transferred their evilness on to Black men.

Historically take sex for example, white men raped hundreds of thousands of Black women. Then white men would project that Black men wanted to rape white women, they created a false hysteria where white women lied on thousands of Black men whom they said tried to rape them resulting in the barbaric lynching of Black men. This scape-goating, transference, and projection continue to this day.

Let us take a more recent look at sex scandals, ex-president Bill Clinton – a white man committed adultery with Monica Lewinsky in the White House and lied about the affair. Clinton was never impeached nor faced jail time and his affair has been primarily overlooked. Now contrast Bill Clinton with a Black man, ex-mayor of Detroit Kwame Kilpatrick. The white controlled media portrayed Kwame 24/7 as the vilest, immoral, and most corrupt politician on the face of the earth; although Kwame’s actions were no different from Bill Clinton’s. Today Bill Clinton is one of America’s most popular presidents ever, especially among Blacks.

While Black men continue to be portrayed as hypersexual and immoral, it is white men who are the main sexual deviants. Look at all the white male catholic priests who are pedophiles; look at Jerry Sandusky at Penn State. Regarding crime, the white news media constantly focuses on Black male crime – Black men stealing and robbing, yet white men, white-collar criminals, can embezzle and steal billions of dollars on Wall Street, throw this economy into its worst economic depression ever. But they have been forgiven, these CEO’s of banks and investment firms continue to get money from the federal government; still getting multi-million dollar annual bonuses.

Take a look at murders, the main focus is on Black male killers who are constantly ‘demonized’, yet it is white men who commit most of your mass murders in the workplace, colleges, and restaurants. Look at the recent white male mass murderer James Holmes who killed 12 and wounded 59 in Aurora, Colorado.

Immediately after Holmes mass murder, this cold-blooded white male killing machine was portrayed by the white corporate controlled media from a psycho-therapeutic perspective. The media discourse has gone to great lengths to ‘humanize’ and rationalize Holmes’s actions, describing him in sympathetic terms. Then you had Wade Michael Page the avowed white supremacist killer in Wisconsin who murdered 6 Sikhs. Whether it’s George Bush, Jr. lying about Weapons of Mass Destruction, the lie that justified the war against Iraq, or white male mass murderers like Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols terrorist bombers who killed 168 people and injured over 800 in Oklahoma City white men can do no wrong even when they do wrong!

No matter how many horrendous murders and tremendous wrongdoings white men commit, it is eventually forgiven and overlooked. They get the love and have caused the most hate because their hate is overshadowed by the love to hate Black man syndrome propaganda they’ve created.

Saturday, August 11, 2012


by Kenray Sunyaru

From 1987 thru 2008, I was a volunteer teacher at the Michigan Department of Corrections. Over this 20-plus year period teaching fatherhood and male responsibility. Often some Black males attending my classes would comment to me that I could not relate to the stressors and challenges of them being incarcerated.

I would immediately respond to them by saying that I face more daily stressors than they did; that they did not have to worry about mortgages, rent, or utilities. They did not have to worry about foreclosures, evictions, or homelessness; they did not have to worry about food costs or going without eating, they did not have to worry about not being able to afford health care – because it is provided for them. They did not have to deal with the daily stress of women and children. While incarcerated they did not have to stress about child support payments.

 Indeed, I would highlight to them that Black males not incarcerated faced much more stress than they did. Black men not in prison face daily ‘cost to live’ pressure; the stress of racism, job discrimination, high levels of unemployment, and poverty that drives many Black men into crime and prison. Though I’ve been saying for years that non-incarcerated Black men face more challenges and stress than Black men who are in prison, a recent study substantiates my claim.

According to a recent report by the University of North Carolina, authored by Dr. David Rosen; found that Black men live longer in prison than Black men who are not in prison. Indeed, the report reveals the survival rate of Black males is actually improved by prison. The report cites that Black men who are in prison are less likely to die of diabetes, alcohol and drug related causes, airway diseases, accidents, suicide, and murder – that Black men not in prison.

One of the major findings of the report was health care, Black men in prison have health coverage while most Black men not in prison don’t have health coverage. Because of having no health care coverage, Black men outside of prison don’t seek it when they really need it; Black men outside of prison generally see a doctor in the emergency room when their health problems become acute.

From my perspective of why Black men in prison live longer than Black men outside of prison is they are healthier as they engage in much more daily physical activity, they run, walk, and exercise. Though Black men outside of prison are under much more psycho-socioeconomic stress; they rarely run, walk, or exercise – moreover they have poor diets, smoke, drink, and use drugs. It’s a shame that it takes imprisonment for Black men to take up healthy habits. Look at all the weight Kwame Kilpatrick ex mayor of Detroit has lost while he was in prison, he looks good – healthier!

The University of North Carolina report found that Black men are the only group in America that live longer in prison. For me the report’s findings are grim, but not surprising as I mentioned in the beginning of my speech. Not only does racism keep us broke, it causes Black men to be sick.

Regarding ‘sick finances’ and no jobs, Black men’s current unemployment rate is close to 20 percent. There are over 1.4 million Black men currently out of work nationally. Sadly, as more and more Black men are being incarcerated, they will live longer and receive health care. According to Ohio State law Professor Michelle Alexander: “There are more Black men now in prison or jail, on probation or parole, than were enslaved in 1850, before the Civil War began”.

To say Black men live longer and healthier in prison is ‘sick’ to say. Black men, we need a healing - internal reparation movement.


by Kenray Sunyaru

Over the years I’ve understood that any time there is a series of racist murders and attacks against Black people, the white controlled – corporate media will single out one white-racist murder like the Trayvon Martin case in Florida. Along now with the arrest and second-degree murder charge against George Zimmerman, Trayvon’s murderer - blow this case up with constant 24/7 coverage to isolate and over-shadow that there have been several recent racist murders of Black men.

This media ‘hype’ is done so Blacks won’t see the bigger picture of the upsurge in white-racist violence against Black people, specifically targeting Black men. Two recent murders of Black men come to my mind, last week in Tulsa, Oklahoma, 2 white supremacists shot 5 Black men and murdered 3 of them. On March 29th, an unarmed 19 year-old Black man was murdered by Pasadena, California police.

Since the beginning of the year – January 2012, besides the cases I’ve mentioned; 28 Black people, 27 men and 1 female, have been murdered by police official’s security guards, and self-appointed law enforcement. Of the 28 Black people killed 18 were unarmed, 2 had guns, and 8 were alleged to have non-lethal weapons. Of the 28 Black people killed, 11 were innocent of any illegal behavior or behavior that involved a threat to anyone – 7 were emotionally disturbed, displaying strange behavior.

 Have we forgotten about the racist serial murder of Black men in this state, in Flint 18 months ago, where 13 were brutally stabbed to death? Indeed, the white propaganda media wants Blacks to simply focus on the murder of Trayvon Martin while many other Black male victims of racist murders go uncovered – no media attention. Racist murders of Black men go uncovered because normally the media keeps us focusing on ‘Black on Black’ male violence. In other words, don’t focus on, or worry about, white on Black violence.

Every year many Black men are killed by white – racist violence. Every year since the enslavement of Black people here in 1619, hundreds of thousands of Black men have been murdered by white racist violence over this 400-year period. To paraphrase Malcolm X: “Never be shocked when white men kill Black men, as long as they have been killing Black men they are experts at it.” As Black people what we don’t realize is that the rise of Black-on-Black male violence in a major way began in the 1970s and has been consistent through today.

But what we don’t consider as Black people is that much of this Black-on-Black male violence has been manufactured, engineered, and fostered by the politics of white male supremacy. It was the politics of white male supremacy that flooded heroin in Black communities in the 1970s. It was the politics of white male supremacy that flooded crack-cocaine in Black communities in the 1980s.

It was the politics of white male supremacy – the FBI – that destroyed Black organizations like the Black Panthers and others; killing and jailing them; clearing the landscape that left a void for the emergence of defacto Black gangs and drug wars. The murder of Black men is sending out a clear message, get armed and be vigilant of white male supremacy. This upcoming presidential election, Obama and Romney, is going to escalate racist tensions and violence.

Black men get prepared, if you ain’t, get ready, as Malcolm X said: “The only justice – equality in racist murders is ‘even stevens’ when there are funerals on both sides.”