Trickle Down Crime: Debunking the myths that crime is inherent in blackness and browness
It has been a long standing myth that trickle down economics was a sound economic “theory” that would lead to the economic prosperity of the nation. This “theory” manifests itself in policies designed to create more favorable conditions and monetary incentives for the wealthy in hopes that these “job creators” will, through their business “ingenuity”, naturally uplift the economic well being of those in more challenging socio-economic conditions. I don’t think I need to spend any time disputing the validity of this laughable economic theory so I won’t. Instead I would like to change economics to crime and assert that it is not money that will trickle down from the top to the bottom but it is actually crime that does so. When those at the top commit crimes or create conditions where their exploitation of the poor, and working class have become normalized and in-effect non-criminal they will then create the conditions in which crime will be equally normalized in the most impoverished communities.
I recently had a meeting with the State Attorney of Broward County and we discussed crime and punishment and how it is applied disproportionately to the black community. After this riveting (draining and mind numbing at times) conversation I was pulled aside by one of the State Attorney’s employees before I left. He brought up to me how we are able to have this conversation in this room but if he were to bring up these same topics to a homeowners association, for example, they would think it absurd to discuss the protection of criminals as victim rights should trump all. I don’t think he realized he opened the door for a conversation he was ill equipped to have. I responded that yes he is right homeowners would express their concern for their property and that in itself is a further indictment on the criminal (in)justice system. The fact that the system is designed to protect the interest of property owners rather than humanity as a whole is evident in the juxtaposition made between a social justice/human rights group advocating for reforms and changes to the system in which we actually consider the humanity of “criminalized” communities (this is a drastic oversimplification of what we are seeking) and those property interest groups advocating for stricter punishments at the same time. Also it is very important for us to keep in mind the conditions that create crime and all of them have their links to poverty and lack of access to resources necessary to empower yourself within the current community. This is essential in the understanding of crime. The communities with the lowest crime rates aren’t those with the most policing, most overzealous prosecutors, and longest sentences. They are those with the greatest access to resources and income.
Have you ever looked at someone and been able to tell that what you just said just really fucked up everything else they were about to say to you and really have no idea where to go from here? Well that is the exact look he had on his face when I said this. Needless to say the conversation ended very shortly after that.
Reflecting on this conversation allowed me to revisit some ideas that I had mulled over previously about crime by these “wealthy landowners” who advocate for “tough on crime” legislation are actually what creates the crime they seek to end.
Let’s start with a list of the unpunished crime of the wealthy, just in recent years:
- Subprime mortgages leading to the collapse of 2008. Unfairly targeted black and hispanic families. Disproportionately impacts the wealth of black and brown communities. Only one person arrested for these atrocities.
- HSBC admits to laundering $679.4 billion in drug money. Agrees to pay $1.9 billion in fines to the US and receives immunity from all criminal charges.
- Bank of America, JP Morgan, and Western Union have all been accused of similar practices.
- Flint Water crisis. See below for descriptions. So far 6 people have been charged. The water in Flint is still contaminated. The residents of Flint still have not been given a means to leave the city or sustainable access to an alternative water supply.
- Donald Trump – various levels of sexual misconduct – 11 separate women. Still our 2016 presidential candidate.
- Hillary Clinton – Allegation of electoral fraud against Bernie Sanders in the primaries. Still our 2016 presidential candidate.
- More than can be named in criminal (in)justice system. Kalief Browder, Jermaine McBean, Rekia Boyd and countless others unjustly targeted and killed by the system.
Now these are just recent and obvious cases put together very quickly. I am sure you all can come up with plenty more that I may have missed (I actually challenge you to do so, jump in those comments). I list them to show not only the frequency, but their massive impact over hundreds of thousands to millions to billions of people. Then compared to the amount of punishment received by those involved. Now going back to an earlier assertion people commit crime in situations of poverty and lack of access to resources needed to better their situation. All these crimes are massive and overarching acts that both eliminate wealth and/or limit access to resources to change their conditions. For example the two presidential candidates crimes (though one a bit more directly and obviously reprehensible) both dishearten marginalized people from the belief that the political process will yield any change which is a common thought spread amongst poor and working class people. If you vote you can change the system. Yet when the people you are voting for have shown little regard for respecting people and their choices it makes it removes access to that mechanism to uplift you. In Flint the access to water is denied which is essential for human survival. Without access to that essential human need how can one worry about education, wealth attainment, etc..
So now when you have these crimes at the top you create conditions for working class and poor folk that their work is now erased by irresponsible governance and corporate greed. Yet these people still have their basic needs to be met. Beyond having their needs being met there is a resentment created amongst working class and poor people that facilitates their disillusionment with the “American Dream” of work hard and keep your head down and you can make it out of the despair. That coupled with the communities being flooded with alternative and illegal means in which to make money through selling drugs (facilitated by money laundering banks receiving no more than a monetary fine as well as, at the very least, some government blind eyes turned), prostitution, and theft. The picture begins to become much more clear as to why crime exists in our society when the broader picture is taken into account.
I want to make note that I have taken this picture only from 500 feet but if you go up to 5000 feet and start accounting for historic oppression between immigration practice of importing and deporting cheap labor, union busting, and denial or worker rights as well as they even more atrocious genocide, slavery, indentured servitude, Jim Crow and decades worth of mass incarceration termed as the New Jim Crow by the brilliant Michelle Alexander the picture will begin to take an even clearer form as to why crime exists the way it does.
I think a very important note here is that though incarceration rates try to tell a drastically different story according to the bureau of justice statistics that violence and violent crime rates are very statistically similar when compared in similar economic and social conditions (click here for full report). Marijuana use and distribution by race is roughly equal yet incarceration rates are drastically higher for black people (click here for brief article by washington post, click here for full report by ACLU). The idea that criminality exist in certain type of people, particularly black and brown people has been nothing more than a marketing campaign pushed forward by political parties to demonize people of color and allow for the “tough on crime” legislations and campaign strategies to catapult political careers on the backs of people who have been victimized by that same political system time and again while simultaneously trying to convince us not to worry because eventually the money will trickle down if we keep working hard and paying our taxes.
It is obvious to me that the money was never intended to trickle down, but they knew full and well that the crime would as they continued to create greater disparities in wealth and increasingly less access to resources for poor and working class people to improve their conditions. So as the crime trickled down they just threw us in cages hoping we would continue to ask for their protection and safety from the conditions they created.
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