Over the last few days, I have seen a lot of commentary about the nature of black communities in the US. Many of these comments are about how it is the black community’s responsibility to clean up their own problems. These comments blame the black community for the crime and poverty they experience and say that it is their sole responsibility to fix these problems. This is a bunch of crap.
The problems they experience are primarily the result of US law and criminal policy. The problems these communities face are the result of politicians who have held racist opinions and agendas for decades.
Let’s start with the biggest problem, the War on Drugs. Nearly every law and policy that has sprung from this ill fated war has a disproportionate impact on black communities. The excessive jail time those convicted of even the smallest possession infraction puts young people out of the education and workforce for years or decades. We lock up 20-something young men for 5-20 years, taking away their opportunity to build viable and employable job skills and education. We kick them out of prison at the end of their terms with no social support structure to help them readjust to life outside prison walls.
On top of this problem, we enact laws that prevent convicted felons from being employed in many decent jobs. Many of these people are forced to take low wage jobs, and often under the table jobs, just to make even a modicum of a living. With such low job prospects is it really any wonder why they might consider a return to a life of crime where the money is better than the legal options available to them?
Then we have the fact that too many jobs require licenses to even begin working. These licenses are often completely out of reach for anyone with a felony background. For those without such a background, the time and cost of gaining such licenses is often out of reach. These licenses mean that those in poor communities often cannot seek employment options that would actually provide them a real living wage because they cannot afford to take the time and spend the money necessary to get them. Then we have strict zoning laws that make the cost of starting a new business even higher. Instead of allowing entrepreneurs the chance to build their business out of their homes, we instead force them to spend money they likely don’t have on rent for commercial business space.
Next up, we have our terrible public education system. This system is designed, not to educate our children, but to enrich a handful of administrators and build up a bureaucracy that keeps bad teachers in jobs and pays wages low enough to keep good teachers away. Instead of instituting policy changes that will bring real education to our poor communities, those in government do everything in their power to keep our terrible system in place. Is it any wonder why the kids in these terrible schools can’t get the education needed to build a better life?
With all this in mind, many people in power demand that these poor minority communities fix their own problems. They say “You should vote to enact change” but then weaken their voting power through political tricks. Gerrymandering is the process of drawing legislative districts strategically. They draw these lines not to give communities proper representation, but to give those people already elected the best chance to be reelected. District lines are often drawn in such a way that they break up minority populations and split them into smaller parts of populations more favorable to incumbent politicians. This means that the people who live in these communities can’t band together to enact change because we artificially break them apart.
Despite knowing full well of all these problems, the Republicans and Democrats in power have no interest in fixing them. The fact that these problems exist means that Republicans and Democrats can continue to hold onto power. Republicans know that with drug laws and felony backgrounds, the financial power of minority communities will never reach a point where they can influence people in power. They can enact stricter drug and crime laws to keep more and more people out of the work force and keep them in poverty. Democrats know that by expanding welfare systems, they can claim to be helping these communities but in fact are simply building up a dependency on the government for their continued survival.
If we really want to be rid of the criminal elements in these communities and to bring these people out of poverty, then we need to get rid of these laws, regulations and policies the entrench poverty and crime in these areas. We need to end the drug war and stop locking people in prison for victimless crimes. We need to put an end to all mandatory minimums. We need to end laws that prevent people with criminal backgrounds from getting good jobs or starting their own businesses. We need to bring about real education reform in the form of competition in education. Let these people choose the school they want to send their children to. We need to end licensing schemes that do nothing but lockout these people from gainful employment. We need to end gerrymandering and other election laws that weaken the voting power of these communities. If we removed these barriers to improving the lives of our poorer communities, they will require fewer welfare programs and can actually build and improve their own lives and communities.
That is what I want to do as your elected Congressman. I want to get government out of your way and give you the freedom to live your own lives how you see fit. If these changes are made, you will have fewer interactions with police, less crime in your communities, and better economic and civic options open to you.