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J. PHARAOH DOSS

In 1967 Harold Cruse published a book called, “The Crisis of the Negro Intellectual.” Cruse claimed Black thinkers lacked the appetite for “the serious work” necessary to advocate for effective change. “The serious work” began with correctly identifying the problem. I always thought Cruse’s assessment was harsh, but I’m constantly reminded of Cruse’s claim whenever I hear “serious” arguments made by certain “Black thinkers.”

A while back, a Black radio host interviewed a Black public intellectual. The interview turned into a debate over the causes of disparities. The host asked the intellectual to explain the high rate of Blacks in prison, and the intellectual stated, “95 percent of Blacks in prison are not there because they committed a crime. They are there because they could not afford adequate representation.”

This answer doesn’t attempt to identify the problem correctly, and the statement refutes itself when it’s viewed by the remaining five percent. If 95 percent of Black prisoners didn’t commit a crime, then it logically follows that the remaining five percent did, and if 95 percent couldn’t afford legal counsel, then it also logically follows that the remaining five percent could. So, if the remaining five percent committed crimes and could afford counsel, why are they in prison if it were just a matter of adequate representation?

The only answer is guilt.

But when the host implied that the 95 percent had to be charged with something, the intellectual shouted, “False charges. The only crime they committed was being Black.”

There was another debate between a Black journalist and a Black Harvard professor. Here the discussion was about the “school-to-prison pipeline.” The professor claimed high prison incarceration rates were a domino effect that began with Black students being suspended from elementary schools at higher rates than White students. The professor stated the data showed teachers and administrators are subject to implicit bias and stereotyping, making that form of discipline unequal.

But the journalist asked the professor, why were his sympathies with the students that acted out instead of with the students that were in school to learn?

The professor replied, “It’s not about sympathy. It’s about the root cause, structural racism.” (He was referring to underfunded school districts and inexperienced staff.) But the students that didn’t act out face these structural problems, too, but the professor’s priority wasn’t fostering the best educational environment for the most deserving students, it was fighting racism by equalizing the Black suspension rate with Whites.

But that type of equality benefits whom?

Recently, I read, “Pennsylvania is considering the implementation of a computer program designed to predict future criminality, thereby determining what type of sentence a judge should impose…If the model forecasts that the person has a high likelihood of committing a crime sometime in the future, that person will be placed in the high-risk category and therefore will receive a much harsher sentence for his/her present crime.”

The first rebuttal should be that a sentence is punishment for what the accused was convicted of or pled guilty to, and no punishment should be added for a future crime that was never committed.

But the responses were: It’s racist and classist, too, because Blacks are routinely stopped and frisked while Whites are not, due to racism, which leads to more convictions of Blacks, and, it’s a racist version of the 2002 movie “Minority Report” starring Tom Cruise.

This rhetoric reminds me of Harold Cruse’s claim, and I’m forced to ask myself if it’s the struggle that continues or the crisis?

(J. Pharaoh Doss is a contributor to the New Pittsburgh Courier.)

 

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