This past Tuesday, President Barack Obama spoke at that NAACP National Convention. For me, that was the highlight of the Convention. Unlike some of his past speeches to black audiences, he did not lecture us about personal responsibility. He did not entertain us with singing and other Negro antics. In his speech, President Obama discussed real problems plaguing the black communities, problems such as mass incarceration, sentencing disparities, poverty, unemployment and housing discrimination. Obama talked about hope, redemption and reformation. His speech was substantive, timely, relevant and solutions oriented. Even Obama’s critics on the left will have a hard time criticizing that speech.
The brother talked about how America incarcerates more people than all of Europe combined. Obama explained in stark terms how the black incarceration rate greatly exceeds the white incarceration rate. He explained how African Americans receive much harsher sentence than whites who commit the same crimes.
Not only did Obama discuss the problem, he put forth concrete proposals to address the problem of mass incarceration. He discussed reducing sentences for non-violent drug offenses. He mentioned how he commuted the sentences of over 40 people. He discussed increasing educational programs and other beneficial programs for people who are in prison. Such programs will reduce the recidivism rate and help transform ex-offenders into productive citizens. He mentioned the need to restore voting rights for ex-offenders. Obama further discussed how investing more in education and other preventive measures is fiscally responsible. The costs of such measures is much lower than the cost of mass incarceration.
The President’s proposed reforms are crucial. We must make sure that Obama’s speech is not just another speech. We must pressure Congress and the President to actually implement and enact those proposals.
[Originally posted at New Possibilities]