For American Minorities, The American Dream Has Been Locked Up
We are living in a time when deep philosophical thought is absent in the media landscape. No media outlets want to talk about what happened to the American Dream. We are living in a time when corporations are making record profits while governments are cutting budgets to assist the poor. Has the “American Dream” been hijacked by the capitalist?
In American politics today, the reality reveals that our governance is addicted to big money and big business. The result of this has left poor, elderly and the middle-class citizens wondering what happened to the ” American Dream.” This lust for money by both the Democratic Party and the Republican Party has left many Americans disillusioned with politics, and what has transpired is voter apathy. In fairness, the Democratic Party and President Obama have tried to address these issues in Obama’s latest 2016 Democratic budget. However, most experts advocating for the poor and working people of our country say it does not go far enough. Republican’s and their pundits like to call Obama a Marxist, Socialist and Communist. These accusations are ridiculous. The Obama administration has been a great friend to large companies resulting in profits never seen before in American business history.
Under Obama, corporate profits have skyrocketed, but the sad reality is that wages have stayed the same, or even fallen, in some regions of the country. Not until Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Bernie Sanders (D-VT) began to point out this growing inequality was this issue addressed. Corporate media surely did not. The increasing issues of racism and inequality in America are hardly touched on in American discourse today. Moreover, the growing injustice being leveled on minority citizens by law enforcement in America has become an epidemic.
Racism And Inequality Are Revealed In Our Criminal Justice System
The “American Dream” has become a nightmare of racism and inequality. This fact is made clear by the demographics in our criminal justice system. The racial composition of America’s prison population is very different than our people at large. Yes, people are becoming more aware of the rising inequality in America. However, the racial inequality in our criminal justice system gets ignored. The reason for this is it does not affect most people. In 2010, 1.6 million Americans were incarcerated in American jails. This factoid breaks down to out of every 100k people, 497 were in prison. These numbers may be obscure to most Americans, but when you break them down by race, the racial inequality becomes shocking.
Whites make up 64 percent of America’s population. Whites make up 31 percent of the prison population. Blacks make up 14 percent of America’s population but make up 36 percent of the jail population. Sixteen percent of Americans are Hispanic. However, Hispanics make up 24 percent of the prison population.
These numbers are causing an adverse effect in these minority communities. If you are young, black and male, 1 out of 4 are locked up in jail. What this means is if you are a young black man you are more apt to go to jail than get married or go to college. What happens in the black community is that sons are missing from the family, and fathers from their often infant sons and daughters. Young black women are left as single moms having to work low-wage jobs. The “American Dream” is nowhere in sight.
What can be done? First, we must address the root of the problem: the criminal justice system itself. We must address the way enforcement, legislation and prosecution are implemented, and more. In many cases, it is not overt racism by individual actors. There are integrity-rich officers, lawyers and judges who are trying to be fair. But, economics can explain unequal enforcement. The political and bureaucratic structure of the criminal justice system creates perverse incentives. A prime example would be the drug laws in America.
On the surface, drugs laws were written to be colorblind. People with different levels of wealth have various reasons to engage or not engage in drug activity. Various groups consume different drugs at different rates. These groups are represented by very different political factions. Thus, they are incarcerated at very different rates. It’s called the relativity of crime. Crime is socially constructed. Acts that are considered illegal in one part of the country are not illegal in others — acts like gambling and more recently smoking pot. What has resulted is actions by individuals have become deviant only when it’s been socially defined as deviant.
It is real simple, if you have ten police cars and you put seven in the black community and three in the white community, it only makes sense that blacks will be arrested more than whites. With a society that downgrades a person with a criminal record, these arrests have broad implications on a person’s life. It affects their ability to find good jobs, live in better communities and lessens their ability to actuate the ” American Dream.”