Scary Policy Ideas that Threaten Black Lives

Zaneta J Smith
Oct 28, 2018 · 3 min read
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Thinking back on the past, I shiver in awe of how scary it must have been to be Black in America. I cringe at the thought that segregation was legal, dating people of other races was illegal, and black women voting was not legal until 1920. The thought that a policy was proposed, passed, and signed into law to suppress a race of people is mind-boggling. Even more heartbreaking is the continued scary policies that threaten black lives today.

Mass Incarceration.

The 13th amendment abolished slavery and involuntary servitude except as punishment for a crime. Still true today, the amendment makes it so that people who are behind bars can make my clothes, pick my potatoes, craft the wood bench I am currently sitting on…for pennies to the dollar. And that is okay. And when I say it is okay, I mean that the world is not outraged and fighting tooth and nail to change the system. A system that has resulted in the U.S. being home to 25% of the world’s prisoners. The WORLD. Just a few folks, organizations and families of those incarcerated attempt to keep these issues at the center of our minds.

Re-entry from incarceration.

Go figure that the criminalization of drugs in the Black community sent many men and women to jail and prison. Families were broken. Trauma continued. In addition, jails and prisons (in California especially) became so overcrowded that Proposition 47 was enacted in 2014 to change certain low level crimes from felonies to misdemeanors. This resulted in the release of thousands of individuals into the community with an initial limited whole person reintegration plan. This also resulted in monies shifting from prison spending to spending on community-based treatment and prevention.

I am a Social Worker by profession that has worked in re-entry in South Los Angeles for 6 years. I have seen the money shift from prison spending to communities and that equating to organizations counting heads for dollars. I have watched agencies become so obsessed with numbers that they missed simply saying hello or acknowledging a person’s humanity. Unfortunately, I have witnessed staff members forgetting that a formerly incarcerated individual is no longer incarcerated and paid their dues to society; whether they were rightly or wrongly convicted.

Policies can be scary and threaten black lives.

I stay flabbergasted by the concept of apartheid in South Africa. The fact that a set of laws segregated communities of people, stripped persons of their ownership of natural resources, and developed multiple ethnic systems to further threaten African lives.

It is unacceptable that I can go on and on about policies current and in process that threaten black lives. For instance, our Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, Ben Carson, researching raising rents for tenants on federal assistance along with his belief that poverty is a state of mind. We can also take into consideration our Attorney General Jeff Sessions wanting to increase length of sentencing for those with federal crimes. In addition, the Department of Justice discouraging the use of affirmative action policies at colleges and universities.

I would like to hide under my covers and wait for things to get better. The truth is my life is threatened by policy makers because of the color of my skin and I am unable to hide from that. That’s depressing, unacceptable, and thankfully, pushes me to action. What about you?

Our Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, Ben Carson has researched raising rents for tenants on federal assistance saying that poverty is a state of mind. His ability and power to enact such policies can be harmful for communities.

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