Report from Harlem
The new code words for racism are “welfare” and “crime.” Reagan’s fictitious welfare queen is back. She’s driving her Cadillac and collecting extra checks while decent (read “white”), hard- working people struggle to make a living. In reality welfare, Aid to Families with Dependent Children, constitutes 1% of the budget. Corporate welfare, on the other hand, costs taxpayers hundreds of billions of dollars, but the politicians and media don’t talk about that. Crime is another issue. It dominates the media. It’s a way of talking about black men. The public’s perception of crime is high, while statistics indicate crime is lower. It doesn’t matter. The official response is more and more prisons, stiffer and stiffer sentences, capital punishment and three- strikes-and-you’re-out. The U.S. leads the world in prison population. Harlem is a devastated African-American community. Homelessness, unemployment, poverty and abandoned buildings are widespread. In terms of health care, conditions are appalling. Harlem Hospital leads New York City in tuberculosis cases, with 24 times the national average. One medical journal reports that males in Bangladesh—one of the poorest countries on earth—have a higher life expectancy than black males in Harlem. The average black man growing up in Harlem will be dead by the time he’s 49. Death rates from cancer are 50% higher today than 20 years ago. Yet crime dominates the media. It’s a way of talking about black men.
Recorded at the Dempsey Center in Harlem.
Angela Davis is one of the iconic figures of this era. Acquitted on conspiracy charges in 1970, after one of the most famous trials in U.S. history, she went on to become an internationally renowned writer, scholar, and lecturer. She is professor emerita at the University of California at Santa Cruz. She has been at the forefront of the movement focusing on the prison industrial complex and its intersection with race, class and gender. She is the author of many books including Women, Race and Class, Blues Legacies and Black Feminism, Abolition Democracy, and Freedom is a Constant Struggle.