Friday, February 29, 2008

Tarnishing the American dream

Yestereday, the Associated Press (AP) reported that for the first time in history, more than 1 in every 100 American adults is in jail or prison. Statistics show that 1 in 30 men between the ages of 20 - 34 are incarcerated while the figure for black males in that same age group is 1 in 9.

What should one conclude from such figures? For me it is a stark reminder of the socio-economic inequities that exist and the adverse consequences that impact us all. Aside from the financial burden which finally has forced many conservatives to reevaluate this problem, what has been the cost in terms of ruined lives and lost opportunities for individuals and families? When one reads that more than 2.3 million people are in jail or prison and that minorities are so disproportionately affected does this mean that racism abounds? Does this mean that opportunities and chances to participate in the American dream are only accessible if you are white and make a certain amount of money?

I don't have answers, but I believe these issues are symptomatic of larger problems. When more than 2.3 million lives are spent behind bars that impacts millions more (mothers, fathers, sons and daughters, etc). Forgetting about these people will not make the problem go away and does not make America a better place to live. We are free but we are also compassionate - we need to identify ways to make more opportunities available to everyone; we need to reach out beyond our own neighborhoods to build bridges rather than errecting barriers; we need to realize that we are all conncected and while our indvidual fortunes / misfortunes might only affect us and our families - collectively they affect us all.

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