Monday, April 5, 2010

I’m Not a Man… Until I’m Free

I’m Not a Man… Until I’m Free

I often wonder if my messages are being clouded by the reality that some of my audience now has this preconceived notion that I’m just plain angry, thus spewing unfounded rhetoric of nonsensical ramblings that I consider of the utmost importance for the future of our people…

And when I say
OUR people, I’m speaking about the most undeserved humanity has to offer.

Yes, I write for Urban Latino Magazine. But the issues I literately conquer each week are issues that affect those I see as voiceless, those whose lack of education has not afforded them the intellect to voice their frustrations in forums like these.

I’m speaking to Blacks, Latinos and even lower class Caucasians who have fallen from middle-class to lower-class in the midst of the devastating economic recession that has more of us unable to afford to be treated with dignity by a justice system whose verdicts only fall in favor of those with deep pockets.

I’m speaking to those who have given up and allowed the system to brainwash them so-much-so that they have accepted without question their destinies of life in and out of privatized penitentiaries or maybe the lesser cruel outcome of death at the hands of their neighbors.

How brain dead does one have to be to willingly and without fight accept that type of a fate?

How much of a punk does one have to be to sit idly by and watch their communities plunge into the deepest pits of despair and desolation without ever lifting as much as a faint cry in angst?

So yes, I’m angry… I’m downright pissed off…

But I’m even more confused at how those so willing to fight one another over dirty
looks and fictitious families disguised as gangs remain too afraid to stand up and fight for a positive shift in the socioeconomic conditions of their families, their neighbors and their communities.

Honestly, I’m damn ashamed of my generation’s lack of interest in improving the civil rights of our people.

And just one day after the 42nd Anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., I’m mortified that all “we as a people” have managed to do is dishonor his legacy, his life’s work and his untimely death.

For those not paying attention, the racism of Dr. King’s day has been replaced with the modern day form of slavery – that being classism.

The chains of our African American ancestors have been replaced with the silver bracelets (handcuffs) of police departments across the count
ry who continues to lock us up and throw away the key at an alarming rate, locking minorities, we 3rd class citizens, into a repeated cycle of poverty laced bondage.

Welcome to the new Jim Crow Era.

For those of you unfamiliar with the Jim Crow Laws in existence between 1876 and 1965 – not that long ago – it was basically the segregation of Whites and Blacks.

It was quite frankly, “Don’t put your black lips on my water fountain…” “Don’t put your black ass on my toilet in the restroom,” and “Get your black feet off the sidewalk when a white person
walks by.”

Does that upset anyone? Do I have your attention? Are you as pissed off as I am right about now?

Today, those same laws would certainly and without question apply to Latinos and any other non-white nationalities in this country.

My question is would we stand for it?

And my personal and humble opinion is unequivocally “YES!” of course we would.

Because we have a modern day form of those laws in existence as you read this blog. And we’re too preoccupied with ourselves to care that many around us are being subject to these types of gross injustices.

With the introduction of Author Michelle Alexander’s new book titled,
The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, we can no longer ignore the factual evidence now being placed in front of us.

There is a quote in Alexander’s book from President Richard Nixon’s White House Chief of Staff, H.R. Haldeman, which reads,
“The whole problem is really the blacks. The key is to devise a system that recognizes this while not appearing to.”

Please go back and read that quote again and let it marinate for a minute…

Can you imagine the President of the United States being told blacks are the problem, we need
a system that controls them, but we can’t appear to be controlling them?

Since that time we have gone from 300,000 people in prison to 2.3 million in prison, with an additional 5 million on probation or parole.

Does this sound like the control of blacks and Latinos to anyone?

It’s high time we realize that these systems were put in place over forty years ago to control the progression, or lack thereof, of African Americans and eventually other minority populaces, primarily Latinos, who also inhabit inner-city communities across the country.

And it’s about damn time we begin as a collective to get serious about breaking this chains and cycles of oppression.
According to the National Urban Leagues, “State of Black America Report,” Black men and women earn 62 cents on the dollar earned by whites; Less than half of black and Hispanic families own homes and 40 million people are living under the poverty line in this country, this being based on pre-recession data. Conditions are much worse today.

And here we are locked into a system that prefers to spend $45 thousand dollars a year to confine a 19-year-old, non-violent criminal, than to use that money for programs designed to actually treat, rehabilitate and educat
e that same 19-year-old.

Bryan Stevenson stated on the
Bill Moyer Journal, imagine “What kind of America we can create if we invest in deconstructing the systems that have created poverty, reinvesting in jobs, reinvesting in a kind of politics of hope. We talk about it, but we don’t make it real unless we deal with the most hopeless, marginalized, subordinated communities in our society.”

Mr. Stevenson is one who is trying to carry on the war waged against the system so many decades ago by Dr. King.

As I hear the sirens screaming outside my window I recall Dr. King’s speech when he powerfully said, “I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the promise land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promise land! And I’m so happy, tonight. I’m not worried about anything. I’m not fearing any ma

The next day Dr. Martin Luther King was murdered.

I just wish some of you would rid yourself of that fear of man, that fear of the system… and journey with me to the summit of that same mountain Dr. King was climbing.

It’s time we remove these chains and walk as free men in our communities!

Ivan Sanchez is the author of
Next Stop: Growing up Wild-Style in the Bronx (Touchstone – Simon & Schuster, 2008). The book is the first memoir released by a major publishing house written by a Puerto Rican from the Bronx. Sanchez is also the co-author of It’s Just Begun: The Epic Journey of DJ Disco Wiz, Hip Hop’s First Latino DJ (powerHouse, 2009). He was awarded the National Novel honors for his first fiction offering and is currently working on several new books about NY Latinos. He is also the co-host of Rebel Radio on Urban Latino Radio.


  1. I believe people are a bit complacent... or just afraid.

  2. While I would agree there is still a terrible disparity in both wealth and opportunity between different races and, now, different income levels I think what we may see in the future is less about race and more about class struggle. As the resources of this planet become strained, those who "have" will retreat to their enclaves of privilege. They will bar the gates by raising taxes, cutting pay, and eliminating benefits. They will complain that they shouldn't have to educate the poor or pay for their health care, even if the poor have been paying into the system for decades via insurance and taxes. They will also raise tuition to increase the slope of upward mobility. The last decade has been insane as those in control seem to be trying to take us back to an almost feudal system.
    Playing devils advocate, however, it does sicken me to see so many violent criminals released simply because the jails are overcrowded. There's at east one police chase, robbery, or killing a day down here in Miami where someone with a lengthy criminal record was allowed out because of overcrowding only to harm another innocent victim.
    I've always viewed these two scenarios as a question of opportunity. I'd like to think that, given the opportunity, a person can work hard for their pay and move up the ladder; to be treated fairly. This isn't always so. I'd also like to think that, given the opportunity, a street thug would take a good paying job with a promising future over a life of crime. There is no excuse to chose crime, but one can understand the reasoning a person would use to chose the wrong path, particularly when the right path is obscured, blocked, or cut off entirely.
    Sadly, there used to be a few among our leaders that once cared about trying to create opportunity, whether it was by promoting job growth, promoting education, or providing assistance when needed. Now many of those voices are gone - replaced by people who would cut for the sake of cost saving or to gain political points. What they don't understand (or don't care about as everyone thinks short-term these days) is that the cost must be borne by society one way or another. Denying someone a job or an education will only put them on the public assistance line where society will pay for them anyway; whether it's unemployment benefits or paying for their defense lawyer and prison stay. Help them get an education and the opportunity for a good job and they pay into society - as everyone should.
    Excellent article. You're right. More people need to care.