Violence is deeply rooted in American culture. We all know how this country began... forcibly taking land from Native Americans, dragging Africans over here in chains, building a country on the back of the poor and the unprotected. But where are we headed? That’s the question. After the death of Dr. King and Robert F. Kennedy, the United States passed reforms on the sale of guns. Yet after 26 children and teachers were gunned down in Newton, Connecticut, Congress failed to enact a single additional regulation on high-powered weaponry.
Sankofa.org is committed to creative, diligent, effective work to root out systemic violence and help build a culture that supports a more humane and decent world.
In the United States, the numbers of non-violent crimes such as burglary or theft are comparable or lower than in other industrialized countries. Where we go so terribly wrong is in violent crime. America has the highest homicide rate in the world. Most homicides are a result of arguments rather than break-ins or muggings. And guess what? No surprise. Guns are a major factor. We are a country awash in firearms and gun deaths in the United States are twice as high among African Americans as whites.
If you want to know more about gun violence in America, click here.
Domestic Violence is the leading cause of injury in low-income women. National statistics show that every nine seconds a woman is assaulted or beaten. A staggering 22 million women have been victimized by sexual violence. For more information and resources, click here.
Many Americans believe they live in a country built on fairness and equality. Yet we incarcerate more of our citizens than China. This reflects back on who we are as a nation. Mass incarceration in this country is not only unsustainable but insures that we will increase, not diminish, the social alienation that leads young people into the criminal justice system.
America spends $70 billion annually to imprison, detain and parole its citizens while our school budgets are being cut.
The United States is the only country in the world where children as young as thirteen years old have been sentenced to life imprisonment without parole.
What’s wrong with this picture?
For the past four decades the United States has outpaced the rest of the world in the construction of prisons.
Since the early 1970’s, the nation’s prison population has quadrupled to 2.2 million. One in every 100 Americans is in prison.
And what are the consequences of mass incarceration? A class of citizens that can’t get jobs or re-enter society. Broken families.
From 1980 to 2000, the number of children with fathers in prison rose from 350,000 to 2.1 million. And that only leads to more youth and minors entering the prison system.
The US currently incarcerates more youth than any other country in the world. Each year some 500,000 youth enter detention centers. This doesn’t count the nearly 40% of young people tried as adults.
How did this happen? How did the United States end up using the prison system as a way to store its underclass and ignore societal inequities? Punitive drug laws have been a major contributing factor. Politicians don’t want to look soft on crime.
But people across a wide spectrum are sitting up and taking notice. Recent studies and reports are showing that, along with the moral cost, the economic cost to America is too high. A staggering quarter billion dollars is spent annually on prisons and the accompanying police, judicial and legal services.
We at Sankofa.org do not view the for-profit prison system as the answer to our country’s problems. Moreover, we believe in and work tirelessly for the adoption of restorative justice initiatives, a process that helps offenders take responsibility for their actions and offers the best chance at rehabilitation.
Want proof about how racism factors into our criminal justice system… and more? Click here.
Dr. King once said “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere” and that includes economic injustice.
At Sankofa.org, we believe that meaningful reforms like a livable minimum wage, policies that restore the ability of workers to bargain collectively and a tax code that no longer offers obscene benefits to the incalculably rich are a basic start.
In America, the rich are getting richer, while the middle class and poor struggle. The top 20% of the world’s population has more than 80% of the world’s income, while the poorest 20% have less than 1% of the global income.
Why does this matter? Isabel Ortiz, Associate Director of Policy and Practice at UNICEF, said “there is a strong link between high income inequality and social unrest and economic instability.”
The Washington Center for Equitable Growth said in a recent paper that “countries with less disparity and a larger middle class boast stronger and more stable growth.”
But there is also the human factor. Think of the brilliant minds… the politicians, inventors, scientists, community activists, and entrepreneurs lost to poverty. What are we all losing as a species by wasting the talents of so many?
For decades now the United States has been rapidly splitting into two distinct societies: a tiny, vastly wealthy and politically powerful overclass and a large majority who must divide up the increasingly small portion left behind.
How did this happen? Years of wage stagnation, anti-labor policies, financial deregulation and a tax code that funnels wealth upward have brought us to where we are today, a country where an unprecedented number of people are locked out of opportunity.
Want to know more? Click here to see one man’s simple but powerful video on income inequality.
Immigration reform means that people who are already working and contributing here are allowed to do so legally. It means humanity takes precedence over ideology, suspicion and fear.
Most Americans favor immigration reform. Despite what anti-immigration activists say, undocumented workers contribute more to the economy than they cost.
Immigration reform is a civil rights issue. There are currently more than ten million undocumented immigrants living in the United States. Where are they? They’re living in the shadows – vulnerable to labor exploitation, deportation and family separation.
Many American citizens benefit from this cheap labor pool of powerless, undocumented people. They serve our food, clean our homes, care for our children, and construct offices and houses.
Want to see a how a group of migrant farmer workers fight back? Click here.
And contrary to the myth that the undocumented hurt the economy, studies show they improve productivity on job sites and increase wages up to 10% for skilled workers. Moreover, the undocumented reinvest much of what they make in this country.
We currently have two separate and unequal economies– one for citizens, another that relies heavily upon undocumented labor. The latter, at least 5% of the labor market, contribute to productivity and profit, yet have no path to citizenship. Congressional inability to agree upon reforms or pass the Dream Act means that those who came here as children, grew up in the United States and have known no other country remain locked in the periphery, unable to fully contribute their talents to the place they call home.
Listen to Aloe Blacc’s Wake Me Up here.
So what’s really the problem? Politics. Want to see how some Politicians try to win over the Latino vote through appearing to support immigration reform while maintaining their anti-immigration base? Click here.