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Opinion / Book Reviews

New book reveals how American schools and prisons conspire to disenfranchise black Americans

04 Feb 2015 at 06:56hrs | Views
Photo of Michael Holzman, Cover of The Chains of Black America
The Chains of Black America: The Hammer of the Police, The Anvil of the Schools by Michael Holzman, is a description of how two great institutions of American government - the education and criminal justice systems - often hinder, rather than enable, the achievement of equal opportunities for the descendants of enslaved Africans.
 
The book is about the caste status of African Americans, rather than about "people of color," or impoverished Americans, because of the specific history of African Americans and the way in which their oppression affects others. It is perhaps not too much to say that until descent from enslaved Africans is no longer a cause for lack of equality of opportunity, the United States will never be a just society.
 
"The unbelievable facts about what is happening to Black people in America through the criminal justice system and the education system, as revealed in The Chains of Black America, will first make you want to cry out with pain," says Phillip Jackson, Executive Director of The Black Star Project, USA. "Then those same facts will make you angry enough to do something!"
 
Each chapter, beginning with the national survey in Chapter One, includes demographic, health, income, wealth, and economic-mobility data, followed by sections on the criminal justice and education systems and concludes with attempts to model a more equitable society. This modeling is extended nationally in a final chapter. In addition to the national overview in Chapter One, there are chapters on eight cities: Chicago, Cleveland, Memphis, Milwaukee, New Orleans, New York City, Philadelphia, and Rochester (New York).
 
Each of these cities has a significant, highly segregated, African American population with incarceration rates that are many times higher than those of White, non-Hispanics, and educational outcomes that are much less favorable for African American students than for White, non-Hispanic, students.  These conditions prevail in many other cities, such as Minneapolis, Buffalo, Montgomery and Miami, but eight cities exemplify how caste is enforced in America.
 
(Michael Holzman is the author of numerous books, reports, op-eds, and blogs. He is the originator of the Schott Foundation's series of reports on Public Education and Black Males and the author of The Black Poverty Cycle and How to End it as well as Minority Students and Public Education. Holzman has been an advisor to the Heinz Endowments, the Panasonic Foundation and The Rockefeller Foundation, among others, and has worked to reform education in school districts from Seattle to Miami.)


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