By Tim Wigmore at The Telegraph:
How would Martin Luther King feel if he were still alive today? Barack Obama may be President, but for millions of black Americans life is shockingly deprived: a black man today is more likely to be imprisoned than in apartheid South Africa.
The mass imprisonment of black people in America today has been described as “The New Jim Crow”. Blacks account for 13 per cent of drug users, but 37 per cent of defendants. They receive sentences that are 20 per cent longer than white men for identical crimes. And, while there is little medical difference in the effects of crack and powder cocaine, crack, traditionally associated with black people, has a federal penalty 18 times greater. So it’s little surprise that one in every three black men go to prison over their lifetimes. And punishment doesn’t end at the prison gates, as former felons lose access to housing and other benefits of citizenship upon their release.
Voting is often one of them. Bans on felons voting affect black people disproportionately and in 11 states over 10 per cent of the black population can’t vote. All this is made worse by the process of gerrymandering, which bunches black voters together in safe districts.
If Obama’s election was the American Dream coming alive, it remains dormant for millions of black people. The median wealth of white households is 20 times greater than that of black families, a difference three times greater than in 1995. And it would be wrong to blame this all on the economic crisis. When a quarter of black familes having at least one parent locked up it’s hardly surprising if saving becomes neglected. It’s not the collapse of the banks that robbed black America so much as the War on Drugs.
The struggle for progress was never going to be easy – but even Martin Luther King would not have thought that, 50 years after his speech, life for black people would actually be getting worse.