Author Archives: Jeremy

A New System of Jim Crow?

“Jarvious Cotton cannot vote. Like his father, grandfather, great-grandfather and great-great grandfather, he has been denied the right to participate in our electoral democracy. Cotton’s family tree tells the story of several generations of black men who were born in the United States but who were denied the most basic freedom that democracy promises-the freedom to vote for those who will make the rules and laws that govern one’s life. Cotton’s great-great grandfather could not vote as a slave. His great-grandfather was beaten to death by the Ku Klux Klan for attempting to vote. His grandfather was prevented from voting by Klan intimidation. His father was barred from voting by poll taxes and literacy tests. Today, Jarvious Cotton cannot vote because he, like many black men in the United States, has been labeled a felon and is currently on parole.” (The New Jim Crow, Michelle Alexander)

The story of Jarvious Cotton’s family tells more then simply generations of black men being unable to vote in the United States. It tells the history of a group of people in the United States of America who have been legally discriminated against for over 300 years. From slavery to Jim Crow to now mass incarceration, the United States has maintained a system of social. Today, the criminal justice system in this country has come to operate as a system of social control analogous to Jim Crow.

Today our criminal justice system has come to operate as a system of laws, policies, and customs that operate to create and maintain a second-class status of a group defined largely by race. However, for many people this idea is hard to swallow. It seems impossible that there could be a system in place today that operates in the same way that slavery or Jim Crow did during their respective times. Furthermore, it is hard for people to take to the idea that today’s system was created and maintained under the guise of a War on Drugs, a war that was promoted and supported under the false premise of a drug epidemic in this country. However, in order to truly understand the comparison between slavery, Jim Crow, and mass incarceration, it is important to understand the reality of our criminal justice system, and the political culture that allowed it to come about.

When President Nixon came into office, he brought with him an ideology and strategy, which later came to be known as the Southern Strategy.

However, this “War” came truly into being with President Reagan. Reagan announced his administration’s own “War on Drugs” in October 1982. At the time he declared this new war, less then 2 percent of the American public viewed drugs as the most important issue facing the nation. (Alexander) However, that was not a deterrent for Reagan, who was more concerned with public opinion surrounding race. Due to this new focus there were immediate policy changes that Reagan began to implement.

It is important to note that this declaration of war was made not only in direct conflict with how the public felt, but also the reality of drug use in the United States. In 1982, when the drug war began, the recreational use of illegal drugs was in decline. Surveys conducted by the National Institute on Drug Abuse showed significant drops in drug usage over long periods for a wide range of age groups.

Almost immediately after the War on Drugs was declared, there were clear impacts on employment as well as incarceration rates among black men in the United States. When it came to unemployment, it was clear that the combination of previous inequality, partnered with the War on Drugs led to dramatic consequences. In 1970, more than 70 percent of all blacks working in metropolitan areas held blue-collar jobs. Yet by 1987, when the drug war hit high gear, the industrial employment of black men had plummeted to 28 percent. (Alexander)

The other impact of the Drug War was an increase in incarceration rates in this country in a way that had never been seen before. The incarceration rates have exploded in the United States, to the point, where as of 2009, 1 in every 31 adults in under some form of correction control. This explosion in the prison population is directly linked to the war on drugs. Drug convictions account for nearly two-thirds of the rise in the federal prison population, and more then half of the state population since 1982. Today, a half million people are in prison or jail for a drug offense, compared to an estimated 41,000 in 1980—an increase of 1,100 percent.

It is also important to note, that these drug arrests are not for trafficking or large distribution. In 2005, for example, four out of five drug arrests were for possession…and furthermore marijuana possession accounted for nearly 80 percent of the growth in drug arrests in the 1990’s. When it comes to the racial makeup of the prison population today, and specifically when talking about drug arrests, the numbers are even more astounding.

The Sentencing Project has done a lot of studies that have exposed the true racial disparity within our prison system. More than 60% of the people in prison are now racial and ethnic minorities. Today, 1 in every 8 black men is in prison or jail every year. These trends have been intensified by the disproportionate impact of the “war on drugs,” in which three-fourths of all persons in prison for drug offenses are people of color. The Sentencing Project also points out how today the national ratio of black to white in the prison system is 5.6 to 1. These statistics are astounding when you look at the population demographic statistics as identified by the U.S. Census Bureau. In the 2010 Census, they found that the US population is 12.6 percent black, while it is 72.4 percent white. Given this percentage, one would expect the ratio of white to black imprisoned in the United States to be more like 6 to 1 white, the exact opposite of what it is.

This once again, while thought to be true by a lot of Americans, couldn’t be further from the truth. The National Survey on Drug Use and Health found that illicit drug use by blacks as compared to whites was pretty much equal. They identified how 9.2 percent of blacks above the age of 12 having used illicit drugs, while 8.1 percent of whites have. Other studies have shown, that particularly among youth, actual drug use happens earlier and with a wider variety with white youth as opposed to black youth.  Another study done by the University of Michigan suggested that at all three grade levels (10,11,12), African-American students have substantially lower rates of drug use then do whites.  So given these statistics, if the incarceration rates were reflective of drug use as well as the population, then African-Americans would make up less then 15% of drug arrests and inmates. However, since African-Americans in some states make up 80-90% of drug arrests, it is clear that the system in instead motivated by racial prejudice.

The final portion to the creation of a system of social control is the policies in place that allow for the legalized discrimination of people who posses criminal records. Across the country, people with criminal records are discriminated against when it comes to housing, employment, voting, job licenses as well as preventing them in some cases from utilizing federal benefits. By forcing a certain group of people out of the job market, and discriminating against them in all aspects of life, it is creating a system of control very similar to Jim Crow Laws. Furthermore, it is forcing poor, urban black men and women into the drug market, because in many cases it is the only way to make a real living.

Summer in a nutshell

I was sitting here trying to come up with a deep, thougtful topic to write about. I was debating whether to write about politics, about the legal system, about the impact of diversity on college campuses, etc. I know I will end up writing about all of these different topics throughout the summer, because I am passionate about all of them, but while thinking about what to write about I came to another conclusion as well. It summer time. Summer is a time to relax, enjoy the Colorado weather, play tennis or soccer, basically just unwind.

There is plenty of time throughout the rest of the summer to get back to talking about controversial and interesting issues, but this week I am going to talk about how I have been able to relax this summer.

One of the main contributing factors to this summer being so relaxing is the fact that so many of my friends/co-seniors are around. Since we all just started our leases on our senior off-campus houses, a lot of us sought out jobs in the springs, or for CC, as opposed to going back home. We have been barbecuing, playing basketball, playing tennis, going to the movies, etc. We have been doing things that we don’t often get a chance to do during the year, because of all of our different involvenments in different activities, so getting a chance to all come together and play basketball has been really awesome and refreshing.

We have just recently decided to start a summer tennis league, which while sounding official, is really just a bunch of us wanting to hit around, and occasionally playing a serious game or two.

Another thing that I have noticed about the summer is that it gives you a chance to get to know people outside of the craziness of the block plan. I have started to make a lot of new friends both in my grade and outside of it based on the fact that we have gotten the opportunity to hang out and actually spend time together. The reality is that a lot of run in different circles throughout the year, so to have the opportunity to actually get to know them has been really great.

Because I don’t want to start rambling any more then I already have I will wrap it up by saying that this summer has already gotten off to an amazing start, and I know it is going to be a summer to remember in a lot of different ways. Colorado summers are amazing…

Next week I will be taking a stab at the criminal justice system in the United States, and how it has become a system riddled with racial prejudice, injustice, and disparity.

CC has a Baseball Team?

The Story of Four Kids Motivated by the Love of the Game

The 2011 season for the Colorado College Club Baseball team was a roller coaster ride that will never be forgotten. We came into the season with 6 returning players, and hope that we would get enough support from the incoming freshman class. We no graduating seniors, we knew this was going to be a rebuilding year, and the season started out as such. However, before we get to that point it is worth noting how this team came to being, Four years ago a group of motivated sophomores decided it was no longer okay for CC not to have a baseball team. They set out in the hopes of creating a club team, thereby bringing a baseball team to the school for the first time since Title 9 was passed.

Led by Matt Kerns, Eddie Spears and Tristan Kanipe and Brad Dixon, a baseball team was formed, and placed into the NCBA (National Club Baseball Association) Division II league. While the first two years were rough, both ending with CC possessing a losing record, the 3rd year proved to be different. Last year for the first time in the programs history, CC finished with a winning record, and even more impressively won the series against division and city rival UCCS, who had dropped down from DI club that year. It was awesome to be able to celebrate a winning record with the seniors who had created the team, because for them it justified all the hard work they had to put into it. However, as happy as it was to celebrate the accomplishment, the harsh reality set in that this core of the team, our four seniors were graduating and moving on to bigger and better things. What was remaining was four sophomores and two freshman, and a whole lot of confusion.

The Team in 2010

With Matt Valeta and I both studying abroad in the fall this year, the day to day operations of preparing for the spring season was left to Russ Pagan, Chuck Lovering and Sam Brody. These three sat in on activities fair, met with prospective students, etc. and managed the team, while a lot paperwork and necessary busy work for the season was done abroad by Matt and I. We both came back excited about the possibility and praying for enough freshmen to continue this club. What we found was a whole host of new faces ready to step in and fill some of the roles that had left to go work in Washington. Reuben Mitrani, Jayson Post, Jesse Paul, Bradley Bachman and Stephan Gayle joined us as freshman, Will Allenbach transferred in from Tulane as a sophomore, and Chris Lowenstein joined the team as a junior. All of these additions gave us hope for the season to come. However, we also realized which such a young team, that there was going to be a lot of road bumps and learning experiences.

The season started out rough, with the rust of the team being the most apparent aspect of the team. This culminated in a 8-2 lead being blown in the 7th(final) inning against Western State. Lots of errors led to bad losses, and about halfway through the season we got together as a team and decided we had had enough. We started playing better, and took two of three from Fort Lewis, and played better against UCCS and Western. I injured my ankle over spring break, and took on the coaching role during two of our biggest series. However, the season ended on a positive note, with us ending the season on a 3 game winning streak, finishing with a 2 game sweep of Fort Lewis. With the season coming to a close, one thing stood out to my co-captains and I; we weren’t graduating anyone. We plan on returning at least 13, with hope for 5-6 freshman, and a couple current students joining on. However, while our regular season was over, one of the most inspiring moments of the season was yet to come.

Earlier in the season the coach from DU had let the league know that a player on their team had passed away from a skiing accident. While we as a team were unavailable to attend the memorial, the coach Jared Floyd proposed a memorial game between DU and CC in honor of Joe Lubar. We thought it was an incredible idea, and said we would love to participate. Son on the second Sunday of 8th block we drove down to Denver not quite sure what to expect. What we encountered was an incredible afternoon full of events that made us completely forget the fact that it was over 90 degrees out. The day started with the announcement of both teams, and both of us lining up on the field, followed by the Lubar family coming out to the pitchers mound. Then an accapella group from DU performed “And So It Goes” by Billy Joel, which brought tears to the eyes of many. Afterwards a music student at DU came and sang an incredible rendition of the national anthem. After that DU retired the jerseys of Joe Lubar, and presented the framed jerseys to the family. We then presented an engraved bat on behalf of CC and the club baseball team.

Finally the younger brother came out and threw the first pitch, which began the game. The feeling that overcame both teams was that this game was not about beating their rival, but instead something much bigger. Both teams were cheering for one another, and simply enjoying the 9 inning game that insued. Both teams were able to use all their players, and over 100 fans were in attendance, including families from the Colorado College team. Overall it was one of those experiences that moves you, and you walk away from knowing you took part in something special. The coach and I talked after the game about making this a yearly tradition, and it may be that it would come to CC next year, which is something that CC should look forward too if given that opportunity.