#75 - Only in February by First Guest Writer Raymond Harbert

Today is Juneteenth. I asked one of my good Black friends, Raymond Harbert, to write any topic so that I can feature his writing. And he did! Thank you for being my first guest writer! Here is his writing. Enjoy! :) The title is ‘Only in February.’

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African Americans or Blacks have a deep history of oppression and distrust of authority figures within the United States. Our culture is appropriated and commercialized as quick as it is created. Remember when you are in Los Angeles or Hollywood, and see a white woman with box-braids, an enormously large posterior, varying color nails, and big lips; that was and still is referred to as ghetto when viewed on a black woman. Even if most of the people using the term have never seen or been to a ghetto or a slum. Within the ghetto are communities of untapped talent and insight that the world chooses to ignore.

How has this gone unknown for so long? Well, it's known that many choose to look in the opposite direction. Take for instance how America treats those who have, versus the have not's and the implementation of Black Codes or Jim Crow laws. Many of these laws revolve around Brown vs. Board and the separate but equal treatment during segregation. Consequently, the Board agreed segregation had a detrimental effect on African American children. African-Americans never ask for special treatment, but fairness as a whole. The Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986 put in place one of the most overtly racist practices black families still are dealing with to this day, including myself. Take for example the 100:1 rule. If a person was found with more than five grams of crack cocaine, they were to serve a mandatory sentence of five years. Meanwhile, the same amount of time was given to those in possession of 500 grams of cocaine, which is a little over one pound. Even more, this wrong was not corrected until 2010 through the Fair Sentencing Act.

If you are unaware, crack cocaine is not hard to create. It cannot however be created without the critical ingredient; powdered cocaine. Crack is preferred in low socio-economic areas due to its low price and availability. A kilo of cocaine may cost an individual in America roughly $20,000-35,000. Once obtained, it can be rocked into crack cocaine to generate four times the profit, in sometimes less than a week. This is extremely profitable when you take into consideration the time period. During the Regan administration, the influx of cocaine soared due to the Iran-Contra affair. The combination of lack of weapons the Contra possessed, in conjunction of the robust amounts of available cocaine, created an instant acceptable form of currency for the nation that spends the most on illegal drugs. Alas, helping to fund the Iran-Contra affair. And where did the product go, you say? Right into some of the poorest socio-economic areas in the United States.

With easier access to illegal drugs, many users and sellers, primarily black and brown, are sent to prison. The need for the prison system in conjunction with how prisons profit from its inhabitants help tell the story of how so many inmates end up right back in prison. Ask yourself, does a felon stand the chance of obtaining high-level employment after an extended jail stay? A felonious offense limits many people from obtaining a post-secondary certificate or degree, due to the fact they cannot receive financial aid from a university or college. Coupled with being instantly disqualified for many part-time and full-time everyday hourly positions, this spiraling cycle inhibits these offenders from working in many high earning companies. This limits the potential to not only to learn, but to earn. Which places a low ceiling on the possibility of not only the offender, but the offender's family as well.

It has been proven that human beings' lack of options will turn them down almost any avenue to secure prosperity. If someone told you you could make 35-40% of $120,000 with little to no experience in a week, many without opportunity would jump at the offer. Hungry kids are hungry kids, and providing for a family is vital. Many African American males take up the offer thinking they will prosper greatly, and succeeded momentarily financially, but inevitably fail their family through death and extended incarceration in the long run.

Without a working parental nucleus and lack of community leaders such as the eradicated Black Panther Party in the mid-'60s, many black and brown children have drifted out of orbit. These children have taken up the responsibility of a missing father or mother. How are they supposed to earn the income of an adult legally? There is an easy correlation between low-income families and illegal drugs. This is especially concerning when there is no one to guide young minds. This exact lack of guidance has left the black community underserved and unrepresented. With no role model or parent, the young mind ends up in the same, or a reasonably similar predicament as their parents. This is where law enforcement comes in.

Policing of these low-income neighborhoods are primarily enforced by those not of the community. They do not understand these people and where they come from. The enforcers are only there to suppress threats, instead of attempting to instill peace and protect; leading to distrust. All of my life I have been told that the police are the good guys, but whenever we see them in our neighborhood, they are arresting, killing, raping, and abusing what we deem to be the good guy/women of our area. This is even before we touch on the influence of the white hate groups on the police departments of our nation. Even worse, these officers are not attempting to understand our community. When black and brown children go to other places, they remember the trauma from seeing white officers abusing power in the name of the law and develop a deep distrust. My first semester of college was the same length of what it takes for someone to become a police officer. I am not ready to manage or lead a study group as a 6-month freshman student. How is someone able to enforce the law accurately and fairly with that same amount of time?

Fifty years of recognized racism will not correct centuries of oppression. Immigration reform is never relevant for a country where almost no one is historically from it. Black history month means nothing when I still have to be black in September, or have to see a confederate flag on the back of someone's truck, but I am the dangerous one. I am an African American male who does not know his history, and many would say I don't know because I have not looked, but should I have to? American history is a core course, while African American studies are only considered relevant during February. I was born a baby many months too soon, lived in the slums of Texas, but graduated high school with honors. I then went to a 4-year university and graduated in 4 years making the Dean's list, I have never been arrested, and am now pursuing an MBA in Silicon Valley. Before this, I am a black father and husband, and still, know that I have less of a chance than my peers for reasons outside of my control. Because I am black. Even more sad is the fact that many reading this would consider this a success story. Instead of tragedy because my reality should be somewhat normal in a first world country. Where is the legislation to prevent this oppression from happening again? Or economic stimulus packages to fix broken neighborhoods and schools? Are we supposed to be happy with those who would misuse "Black Lives Marketing", rather than actually making sure Black Lives Matter? I don't have the answer, but we should all start with "what I have done to help, and what I can do to help," instead of turning a blind eye to an entire race because someone else told you what to think about black people. 

Thanks in Advance, 
-H