Uncle Luke, the man whose booty-shaking madness once made the U.S. Supreme Court stand up for free speech, gets as nasty as he wants to be for Miami New Times. This week, Luke explains how the criminal justice system destroys young black men in Miami-Dade County.
A couple of major news organizations, CBS and Sports Illustrated, recently concluded a six-month investigation unearthing the criminal backgrounds of thousands of Division I college football players. The point was to show these programs do a lousy job discovering skeletons in kids' closets. Among the players the report cited is a young man I used to coach at Miami Central Senior High School. His name is Antwan Darling, and he's now a freshman at the University of Cincinnati.
Had the reporters done some research, they would have found he was never arrested in 2006 for firing a gun. They got that wrong. The report also made hay about Darling going to an intervention program on a burglary charge. Again, had the CBS/Sports Illustrated folks done some digging, they would have found police did not turn up his fingerprints at the crime scene and that the footprint inside the home was a size 7. Darling wears 11. The only reason he opted for the intervention program was to put the whole mess behind him. If he had fought the charges, he would have been under house arrest and would not have been able to travel. If he had waited the six months to go to trial, the school would have rescinded its scholarship offer. He took the plea deal so he could go to the University of Cincinnati.
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I spoke last week with his mother, who is a full-time postal worker. She was very upset about the tone of this so-called exposé. It is easy to go out and publicize how many times a player got arrested to make the case he doesn't deserve a scholarship. After all, the sensationalism will get people to read the magazine or tune into the network's news programs.
But you don't read about that in the CBS/Sports Illustrated piece. The problem is the criminal justice system's approach to young African-American males, who are seen as money-making commodities. The system ropes off blacks and locks them up to make money for the corrections and justice systems. It also takes away their rights to work and vote.
The judicial process is set up to disenfranchise African-Americans, a majority of whom can't afford their own lawyer and then take guilty pleas to get on with their lives. One result is that ghettos look like Beirut. Another is that individuals with arrest records have a hard time getting legitimate jobs in corporate America.
Inner-city crime is a way for the government to make money. How else will places like Miami qualify for federal funding to beef up police forces? They need a parade of criminals to send to jail. It is a vicious circle that we need to stop rather than sensationalize for ratings and readership.