Mass Incarceration and the Myth of Black Progress
By Becky Pettit
“Invisible Men provides a vital reality check for social researchers, lawmakers, and anyone who cares about racial equality. The book shows that more than a half century after the first civil rights legislation, the dismal fact of mass incarceration inflicts widespread and enduring damage by undermining the fair allocation of public resources and political representation, by depriving the children of inmates of their parents’ economic and emotional participation, and, ultimately, by concealing African American disadvantage from public view”
- Russell Sage Foundation
A few books for those of us who want a democratic capitalist society, and are maybe a little lost on what is going on, or where to start. These books in my humble opinion will give you a place to start, and tools to act. Not a socialist revolution, but a return to America values of integrity and fairness. I list an order, but if any of them interest you, just pick one up and start reading.
First read “The Spirit Level” By Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett, this will provide an overview of how income inequality is bad for all of us, not just the poor. You may think you already know this, but I guarantee, many of you will be surprised.
Then I suggest “American Society How It Really Works” by Erik O. Wright and Joel Rogers. In this book they outline how things have gotten so off track, where we are versus where we might think we are.
In terms of changes that can/should and are currently being made I would suggest these two books:
“America Beyond Capitalism: Reclaiming our Wealth, Our Liberty, and Our Democracy” by Gar Alperovitz The title is a little misleading since most of the things that he talks about already exist in our current society, it’s a matter of using these institutions more - credit unions, co-ops etc.
“Class War?: What Americans Really Think about Economic Inequality” by Benjamin Page. If you think the left and the majority of the middle and right can’t agree on issues regarding poverty, inequality, education and a host of other things, think again. The politicians are the ones who are in disagreement. This book uses survey data to show how close we all actually are in terms of many major issues, including universal health care.
As a post-script, I’m currently reading two books that seem very promising:
“Who Rules America? Challenges to Corporate and Class Dominance” by William Domhoff and
“The Price of Civilization: Reawakening American Virtue and Prosperity” by Jeffrey D. Sachs
Domhoff is a classic, this book is the 6th edition and Jeffrey Sachs looks good, I’ve just started.
…my favorite movie was ruined by the impossible scene of Han Solo walking on Jabba’s tail. Go ahead and buy the Blu-Ray “complete saga” (in my opinion there is only the trilogy of IV-VI), and watch your CGI Yoda, and CGI rocks that magically disappear, etc., I will be keeping my VCR (yup, still have one of those), in order to watch the trilogy as it was actually released starting in 1977. Sure the sound is not as good and it doesn’t take advantage of my HD flat screen, but it will preserve my childhood, my sense of wonder and my firm belief that just because you can go back and change the past, it doesn’t mean you should.
*cue John Williams theme music* :o)
(Long sentences are intentional, homage to the horrible script that I love. If you’re confused, ask a Star Wars fan)
Bob Herbert’s last column today was great. He delivers facts that should make us cry about the increasing ridiculousness of income inequality in the United States, but leaves out some of the most important effects of income inequality, in my very, very humble opinion.
Why did he leave out all of the effects of income inequality? Probably because of space, so here are just a few:
1. Breakdown of social life. Yup our level of trust in others is at an all time low. And why do we care about that? - trust leads to cooperation, giving, and if we trust others - we actually live longer.
2. Women - the higher the inequality, the lower level of status women have.
3. The higher the inequality the worse our mental health, the higher our drug use.
4. The higher the income inequality our life expectancy is shorter.
5. The higher the income inequality - the more chronic stress we have, and stress for those of you living under a rock the past decade or three - causes impaired memory, elevated blood pressure, lower proper immune response, higher risk of infertility and higher risk of obesity.
6. Higher the income inequality also correlates to more crime, more imprisonment and higher homicide rates.
Yup - this list is not exhaustive I just typed it in 5 minutes after reading Bob’s great article, but it is all backed by scientific data. Income inequality is threatening to destroy our country and the majority of Americans (both GOP and Dems) feel that income inequality is too high in this country and that something should be done to lessen it.
So let’s do something about it! There are many ways within a capitalist market economy that we (the people) can demand more income equality AND still remain competitive in a global market. I PROMISE.
For more information regarding this list and many other disturbing, and surprisingly hopeful insights go read:
The Spirit Level by Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett AND
American Society: How it Really Works by Erik Olin Wright and Joel Rogers
Exploring which context matters in the study of health inequities and their mitigation
Nancy Edwards1,2 & Erica Di Ruggiero2 1Faculty of Health Sciences, School of Nursing, Department of Epidemiology and Community Medicine, University of Ottawa, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, and 2Institute of Population and Public Health, Canadian Institutes for Health Research, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
Scandinavian Journal of Public Health, March 2011; 39(Suppl 6): 43–49
Available online at: http://bit.ly/ie56zN
Aim: This commentary argues that contextual influences on health inequities need to be more thoroughly interrogated in future studies of population health interventions.
Methods: Case examples were chosen to illustrate several aspects of context: its historical, global, and dynamic nature; its multidimensional character; and its macro- and micro-level influences. These criteria were selected based on findings from an extensive literature review undertaken for the Public Health Agency of Canada and from two invitational symposia on multiple intervention programmes, one with a focus on equity, the other with a focus on context.
Findings: Contextual influences are pervasive yet specific, and diffuse yet structurally embedded. Historical contexts that have produced inequities have contemporary influences. The global forces of context cross jurisdictional boundaries. A complex set of social actors intersect with socio-political structures to dynamically co-create contextual influences.
Conclusions: These contextual influences raise critical challenges for the field of population health intervention research. These challenges must be addressed if we are going to succeed in the calls for action to reduce health inequities. Implications for future public health research and research-funding agencies must be carefully considered.