Thursday, December 19, 2013

Obama’s Phony Commutations

My Black Agenda Report colleague Glen Ford pointed out that Barack Obama is not the lesser of two evils. He is the more effective evil and all of his nefarious skills were seen clearly today with an important announcement. The president made a decision which is right and proper and that will be applauded by anyone who believes in justice. Unfortunately a grave injustice was recently done with Obama’s help and hardly anyone knows about that.

There is good news for eight fortunate people. The president will commute their drug conviction sentences which were determined by terribly draconian crack cocaine laws. Thanks to presidents Reagan, Bush and Clinton, 5,000 people languish in prisons across the country because the mass incarceration, prison industrial complex was brought to its fullest fruition on their collective watch.

The crack cocaine “epidemic” was a trope used to whip the public into a frenzy of fear. The media and politicians used justifiable concerns about drug trafficking to turn the United States into a gulag for black people.

Judges were stripped of discretionary authority and mandatory minimum sentences for crack cocaine were meted out at a ratio of 100:1. Possession of 5 grams of crack was treated like 500 grams of powdered cocaine.

We were told that only “kingpins” would do serious time but every black person was turned into a kingpin and all did serious time. After years of protest and lawsuits Obama signed the Fair Sentencing Act in 2010 which lessened the ratio to 18:1. 

But an important question remained about those sentenced under the older guidelines. Would they be able to request resentencing based on the new rules? On December 3, 2013 the Sixth Court of Appeals answered in the negative.

Organizations like the NAACP Legal Defense Fund immediately protested but didn’t bother to point out that president Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder also opposed making the new guidelines retroactive.  Another BAR colleague, Bruce Dixon, asks an important question. “Are establishment black  ‘civil rights’ organizations like the NAACP, the National Action Network and the NAACP Legal Defense Fund really opposed to mass incarceration and the prison state?”

“They claim to oppose mass incarceration and the prison state, although they've only just learned the phrase ‘mass incarceration’ and cannot fix their lips to say ‘prison state.’

But since their first priority is boosting the political fortunes and careers of their peers in the black political elite, who we affectionately call our black misleadership class, they are unable to call the devil in charge of mass incarceration by his name, if that devil has a black face.”

I have not read about Obama and Holder’s duplicity outside of the pages of the Black Agenda Report. The New York Times article I linked to doesn’t mention it, and neither do the rest of the corporate media. Obamabots are dancing for joy but most probably have no idea that Barack Obama could have begun the process of releasing 5,000 people unjustly incarcerated. Sadly, even if they did know they would still be in love with their idol.

Obama had an opportunity to fight for the rights of 5,000 people, but instead fought against them, and then makes a big splash about doing the right thing for just eight individuals. Well played.

I am happy for these few people who will soon be going home but I haven’t forgotten about the rest. I also haven’t forgotten that the first black president and first black attorney general chose to keep them behind bars.