Should the Civil Rights Movement Move On?
Richard Thompson Ford opined in last Sunday’s Boston Globe (5/17/09) that the civil rights movement should move on from the strategies of the Jim Crow era. I agree with him (in part) because some of the problems he proposes to address, e.g., incarceration of black males, under-performance in school, unacceptable articulatory skills, etc., require new strategies, but they are not entirely new. They are vestigial elements of the Jim Crow era that "integration" didn’t fix. Perhaps it is time to resuscitate community involvement like that which emptied the segregated buses in Montgomery in 1956 and registered millions in the get-out-the-vote effort for candidate Barack Obama in 2008.
My view is that the prison systems should be forced to use some of the BILLIONS of dollars in their budgets to teach marketable skills to willing/motivated/deserving inmates who will soon return to society. I don’t believe that earning a GED or qualifying to be a licensed barber or a certified cook are beyond the talents of willing/motivated/deserving inmates.
The following letter expresses my views on this topic. It was published in the Sunday Boston Globe (5/24/09):
CIVIL RIGHTS: A WORK IN PROGRESS
May 24, 2009
RE "THE end of civil rights" (Ideas): There is merit in Richard Thompson Ford’s assertion that the civil rights struggle has moved, or should move, from lunch counters, public conveyance, housing, and employment to the criminal justice system, socioeconomic isolation, and all that propagates therefrom. Let’s begin with the criminal justice system, where legions of black males are ensnared. Perhaps it is time to reconfigure the "corrections" components of these so-called houses of correction. Inmates are housed, but seldom corrected.
In these straitened economic times, many prison officials will cry poor-mouth, but the money is there. Last year California spent more than $10 billion on its prisons. If only 2 percent, or $200 million, were spent on corrections, such as education and skills building, these people might return to their neighborhoods more functional than when they left.
Of course, the current corrections components might have to be ripped out root and vine, and replaced by outside consortiums. Even if the outsiders fail, things couldn’t get much worse than they are now.
David L. Evans