Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Troublemakers (Part 2)

Carlos Perez is a local television and radio host (but not a real big media personality like Armando Perez-Roura or Tomas Garcia-Fuste). He has his own TV show on TeleMiami (small local station) called Carlos Perez Pregunta. He regularly has important local politicians or government officials on. Once he had an entire show with our three favorite US Representatives: Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Mario and Lincoln Diaz-Balart. (Only a few shows are able to get these three together at once.)

According to NewsMax (item 6), Carlos Perez had the "No.1 TeleMiami program" and once interviewed Newsmax's Christopher Ruddy in 2003. Also, Carlos Perez is considered an important part of local radio that presents "la realidad Cubana" (Cuban reality).

Saturdays at 4pm, Carlos Perez has his own 1-hour radio program on Radio Mambi. He gets into local topics and also Cuban issues. This past Saturday, after speaking with the founder of the Cuban Committee of Human Rights, Ricardo Bofill, Perez began a discussion on what he called the "racial problem" in the US:

"[I want to talk about] a problem that troubles me greatly, which is the racial problem here in the United States. What is happening with African-Americans here in our society? I firmly believe that African-Americans are creating a problem where they are not advancing in our society in the most suitable fashion."

I agree that we should be concerned about problems within the African-American community, as we should be concerned about all communities in our interwoven society. But, Carlos Perez (like many other people) believes part of the problem is more deeply rooted.

(Listen to MP3 in Spanish):

"Are there genetic differences between whites and blacks? Absolutely not, there are no differences whatsoever. Are there cultural differences? Yes. This is one of the basic problems with the differences between blacks and whites.

"You see, African-Americans logically come from Africa where there was a complete tribal culture, [and only recently] seeing one hundred or three hundred years living in non-tribal states and nations where there are governing organizations, or kingdoms, or democracies. And this is important because this forms some kind of unconscious foundations in Man. This is very important."

According to Carlos Perez, part of the "racial problem" African-Americans have in trying to advance in our society is due to the fact that their "culture" (and not the American culture) is still rooted in some kind of primitive, African foundation. (Sounds familiar to the rhetoric of white supremacists.) Perez later notes the "destructive culture" of rap.

If this isn't bigoted then I don't know what is.

Another part of Carlos Perez' argument is also centered around the fact that a great number of African-Americans make up the national prison population (He erroneously states that about 70-75% of Blacks make up the prison population, when its about 60% of Blacks and Latinos that do). In fact, the greater number of Blacks in prison, compared to any other racial group, reveals what Human Rights Watch in 2000 called the "racially unjust 'drug gulag'" where "penal sanctions to combat drug abuse has imposed inordinately high costs" on the African-American community, despite data indicating Whites are more likely to use and sell illicit drugs.

Carlos Perez is obviously ignorant of many things concerning the "racial problem" in the US, as are many other people. Currently, based on extensive academic research over the recent years, it is an uncontroversial fact that African-Americans (especially young Black males) still carry a heavy racial burden in the United States, mostly due to the US penal system.

Bruce Western (author of Punishment and Inequality in America) has produced perhaps the best recent data and analysis of the inequality that still surrounds incarceration in the US, arguing that since the increased incarcerations of the 90's "the penal system deepened inequality by further diminishing the life chances of the disadvantaged" striking hardest on young Black males.

Devah Pager (author of Marked: Race, Crime and Finding Work in an Era of Mass Incarceration) adds to this inequality by highlighting the high recidivism rate where ex-felons are still stigmatized by society and how "the mark of a criminal record shapes and constrains subsequent employment opportunities."

Also, all this recent literature has become very important to those who truly wish to address issues of poverty, such as the National Poverty Center of the University of Michigan, who believe that such findings reveal how penal sanctions are contributing to several other negative correlates that afflict families and whole communities.

Is it really a primitive "tribal culture" at the "unconscious foundations" of African-Americans that makes up the "racial problem" in the US? Or, is it our unequal society and continued racial prejudice that is at the root of the problem? Given the recent crime crackdown (called Operation Gangbusters) in Miami's Little Haiti, it's difficult to argue that putting more than 150 residents behind bars (most of them young Black males) will really solve our "racial problem."

[Part 3]

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