We’ve seen black people come together time and time again on election days nationwide to elect the Democratic candidate. We’ve spent countless local, state and national elections hoping that the candidate will keep people of color in mind when implementing new policies.
Most recently, black women (per usual) showed up and showed out at the Alabama polls in December 2017 to elect Democratic candidate Doug Jones to Alabama’s state Senate. Jones won 93% of the black male vote and 98% of the black female vote in a necessary attempt to beat bigoted, misogynistic and racist Republican candidate Roy Moore.
That night, black women won the election for Jones. But what has happened in the past two months since the start of his term? You guessed it. Black people’s vote is once again used and abused. Jones has voted on bills that ultimately further push for the disenfranchisement of black people. He's hurting us, not helping us.
Many black people were apprehensive about voting for Hillary in the 2016 presidential election due to the rise of mass incarceration under her reign as first lady of the United States two decades ago. So I've been wondering when any caucasian Democrat will actually respect the black vote and cater to the needs of the black people who get them into office?
About a month before black people voted Jones in Alabama's state senate, black people voted Larry Krasner as Philadelphia's District Attorney. The night Krasner won, he promised that this election would bring about "transformational change" in the city's criminal justice system and a "fairness for a system that has systemically picked on black and brown people." It looks like he is keeping his word, but before you grab him a folding chair for the cookout, let's talk about it.
What happened in Philadelphia this week is proof that progress can indeed be made as long as we hold our state accountable when it comes to electing officials who care about black people. Shaun King wrote a piece this week that highlighted some unexpected yet incredible news for the black community. Krasner is respecting the black vote by pushing effective policy that will benefit black and brown communities. His “new policies” document was released to the public a week ago. In the document, he lays out the ways in which he will seriously crack down on Pennsylvania's criminal justice system, and end mass incarceration.
During a time when the President of the United States has spoken about wanting “some” drug dealers to be eligible for the death sentence, as well as a time when Philadelphia’s own Meek Mill continues to fight to be released from prison for violating probation after 10 long years — this is huge. This is progress. Since November 2016, it’s seemed that we took a turn for the worse back to1968. But in 2018, on the brink of the 50th anniversaries of both Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s and Robert F. Kennedy’s assassinations, Krasner's efforts seems like appropriate commemoration. A step forward like this honors the legacies of the civil rights giants we lost during such a tumultuous year of this country.
The very first line of Krasner’s five-page document blew my mind. It reads “These policies are an effort to end mass incarceration and bring back balance to sentencing.” That alone sounds like he gets it. It sounds like somebody finally wants freedom and justice for black and brown communities.
The most jarring section that Shaun King also mentioned in his piece, is the paragraph centered around "sentencing". It states that “Philadelphia has been the most incarcerated city in recent years, yet not even safer as a result. Both Pennsylvania and Philadelphia County’s over-incarceration have bankrupted investment in policing, public education, medical treatment of addiction and job training” — which all prevent crime more effectively than money towards corrections ever could. A jaw-dropping fact is that taxpayers currently pay about $60,000 per year for just one incarcerated individual. Therefore, Krasner suggests prosecutors be required to state on record what they believe the cost of a sentence should be and why it’s justified. For example, if they ask that the defendant receive 3 years, they must state why $126,000 that taxpayer would have to put out is fair.
Regarding Meek Mill’s predicament, keeping in mind that he’s been on probation for decade, and his judge showed him absolutely no mercy — Krasner proposed that because criminological studies show that most violations of probation occur within the first 12 months; assuming the defendant is violation free for 12 months, any remaining probation time is excess baggage and would require excess spending.
Krasner writes “Each case, each defendant, and each sentence is unique and requires your careful consideration, which ultimately means be mindful of racism, stop fueling mass incarceration and stop wasting money.
I think there’s a lesson to be learned here. It’s imperative to be woke during local and state elections because having an impact on the election or appointing of officials such as the state district attorney matters. For states who do not elect DA’s, it’s important to find out ways you as a citizen can still have an impact on the decision of who is chosen to assume such a position. Krasner has shown that he is not taking his position lightly and vowing to work on behalf of black and brown people. Well, because #blacklivesmatter.
Before we consider solidifying Krasner's cookout invite, it’s definitely vital to stay on top of these proposed policy changes and to ensure that he follows through. We need to be holding officials to this standard Krasner has set. Many take our vote and run with it. Literally. We must hold any and all officials who have power over policy accountable, and ensure that they are doing what is best for us.