Black History at USD: Tam S. Mandanis
It has come to my attention my dear brothers and sisters; we are again at war. Not with a foreign enemy but rather right at home. Our government, which was created for white America rather than every individual, gives insight into what we are to do. My brothers and sisters, we are having acts of terrorism committed against us and we are to fight it regardless of if its “domestic or afar” and I can assure you this is a domestic matter. Closer for some than others. I thank you all for gathering here with me today to address this matter, and I hope I can be of help to you in the best way I know how: through speaking. Inciting violence is not the answer even when violence follows us everywhere, we go. We have to rise above it because we are not given the luxury to fight back in the way we have been fought against for decades. Today there are two main points that I would like to speak to you about. Two main points I would like to empower you in. Our ancestors never got the chance but we, as the sons and daughters of slaves who didn’t get a chance at life, have the privilege to revolutionize the world for our people for generations to come. Public Education and the Criminal Justice system are two of the walls that confine the Negro. In order to enact change, we must run headfirst into these walls and break them down; only then can we make a difference. I would like to continue the rest of my time separating and breaking down each one of these social issues so that you are able to fully understand the gravity of the situation. I will provide examples of each issue that are seen in our day to day lives and wrap up with solutions that we may possibly implement to move forward.
The first social issue that I would like to address today is the problem with Public Education within the Black community. As my dear colleagues at Brookings have stated, “[Public Education], which has often been underfunded in African American majority schools, [is] limiting skill acquisition and upward mobility for black Americans” (Brooking, 2019). Since our first introduction into this country, via several slave trade routes, we have been placed as second-class citizens who have not been given equal opportunities like the White man has. It is the right of every individual to be educated. The color of one’s skin and its impact on whether he or she should receive education should not be a point of debate nor a divider of our people. We are not born with the capability to choose what race we are, but we do have the capability to determine how we interact with one another. For a while now, we have been peaceful and tried to use our voices rather than our fists. Though we are able to flip over our strategy to a state of violence to gain the attention of our oppressors, we must remain diligent in the methods we have implemented. One of the greatest activists for equality and civil rights, Nelson Mandela, said “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” Brother Mandela lived through the worst of it all, being imprisoned for what he believes in. He started a mission that can help lead our people to equality and it is our job to maintain and practice his mission and beliefs in our daily lives. Whether we recognize it or not, each decision we make in our lives plays a role in what can happen next. It is what some refer to as cause and effect. There is this negative stereotype surrounding the Negro community that we are “hoodlums”, “gangsters”, “drug-dealers”, “gang members” and countless other titles. However, at the root of it all is the continued denial of our kids becoming educated. Let me put it to you this way. A black child who is born in a low-income community with parents who cannot afford to provide him or her with the right tools such as books, tutors, and study environment is pre-destined to fail in life. It is a fact of life that when we are not able to see positive outcomes, we will quit before we have ultimately started. This child, that I am using in my example, will then turn to the streets to look for a way to make money rather than putting their time towards studying so that THEY are the ones who get that college scholarship, THEY are the ones who developed the next miracle medicine, and THEY are the ones who revolutionized the world. Brothers and sister, you must understand how important this issue is. Additionally, my stance on this matter does not only apply to the Negro but to everyone. Even those who oppressed us. In my religious beliefs, we are not placed on this earth to make a happy life for just ourselves and our family, but instead we are put here to advance the lives of those who are less fortunate than us. It all starts with education and I need you to stand with me on this. An educated mind is a beautiful mind and when it is not given the proper treatment to prosper, it will create a path to destruction. We must level the playing field in public education for all of God’s children, not just ours. Will we choose love and equality to dictate our interactions? Or will we fall at the feet of the invisible color barrier that has kept us apart for too long?
Criminal Justice System
The second and final problem on my list of issues facing our community is the infamous Criminal Justice System, which has been designed to be pitted against us. As Brookings puts it, the Criminal Justice System “[is] where poor outcomes for black Americans include higher bail and greater likelihood of monetary sanctions, among other penalties” (Brookings, 2019). I would like to begin my stance on this matter through the sharing of statistics. Some of my harshest critics believe that I make up what I talk about so hopefully this will be of satisfaction to them.
African Americans are imprisoned 5.1 times more in state prisons than White Americans. In over 10 states, over 50% of the prisons are made up of African Americans. To emphasize this statistic, over 72% of our brothers and sisters make up the prison population in the state of Maryland. 11 states in the “United States of America” have on average, at least 1 in 20 African Americans in prison. It is evident from these numbers that the Negro is being targeted against by our “justice system.” How is it that an organization committed to “protecting and serving” the community, only serves and protects whites. Did our founders not frame the Declaration of Independence to say that “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of happiness?” I believe, once again, it is fair to say that “all men” refers to all white men.
There are issues and stereotypes surrounding black families today, but I wonder how it is that the justice system divides our families and then acts surprised when they are not together. A system that goes after individuals based upon their skin color is not a system that should remain standing. We have seen anger from multiple communities, demanding change within the system and we must empower them to remain angry until their demands are met. For several decades now, our criminal justice system has robbed families of their mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters and we must end this tragedy. As the Criminal Justice Program states, “by fighting for nationwide reform at a variety of government levels, the nation can right wrongs before the problem becomes worse.” I cannot emphasize enough, the fact that the Negro community has been mistreated for hundreds of years. We came to this nation bound in chains and even today, with reluctant emancipation, we are bound by the chains of society. It is time that we break these chains and move about freely. No longer shall we be tied down and told what we are and are not capable of. We must right the wrong doings of the White ancestors in-order to restore the brokenness of our Negro ancestors and pave the way for success for our kin.
My dear brothers and sisters, we must put an end to these issues once and for all. We have spent too much time talking and asking for change, having only faced the same conclusion time and time again. However, although we have been trying methods such as sit ins, marches, protests, meetings with politicians and more, we cannot stray from our ways. We must continue to use our voices and peaceful actions and stray from violence. Public education and the criminal justice system are only two of the problems that plague our community, problems that impact one another. We have not received the support we have needed from some communities in the ways we want but I am not surprised, and you shouldn’t be either. People have a tendency to ignore the problems that do not have an impact on them and instead they focus on the things that help them get ahead in their life. Now more than ever, we must remain united.
I have considered some potential next steps that can be implemented in this trek of life. Although some locations around our country have mixed the classrooms and there are combinations in racial standing, there are still many locations that are solely separated by race. In turn, funding to the black community schools is much more limited than funding that is received by the white community. We must petition local and state governments to make funding equal in every community. It is not fair to expect the same outcome academically when equal opportunities are not implemented. When the black students are not given a chance to academically excel, we should not be surprised when they want to stop their education. As I have already mentioned, lack of an education encourages turning to the streets which often accompanies illegal activities. Because our justice system has been targeting the black community at a rate higher than others, black boys and girls often fill the prison systems and continue to stay there even after they have become black men and women. The stereotypes surrounding our community have an interesting appearance in my eyes. Whether we want to admit it or not, African Americans in prisons today have committed crimes, often small, but some are falsely imprisoned as well. The system that robs our children of an education cannot be the same system that stereotypes us because it is their actions that puts our community behind a prison cell. We must call on our elected officials, those we chose and those we did not, to make a change. They need to govern for everyone, not just some.
My brothers and sisters, I thank you for coming out here today and listening to me speak about issues that have weighed heavy on my heart. Our ancestors did not have a choice in what their life became, but now we have the power to empower our community. We have the tools to make the black experience what we want it to be instead of letting it fall at the hands of the whites. Although the path we’ve traveled has been dark and broken, I am hopeful that the future is one of promise and forward progression. I dream that one day we will have done enough so that our children and their children will not have to live through the same horrors that we have had to endure.
 Statistics as of 2016 via The Sentencing Project
Criminal Justice Program. “3 Reasons the Criminal Justice System Needs Reform.” Criminal Justice Programs, 4 May 2021, www.criminaljusticeprograms.com/articles/3-reasons-the-criminal-justice-system-needs-reform/#:~:text=Criminal%20justice%20reform%20is%20working,before%20the%20problem%20becomes%20worse.
Nellis, Ashley, and Nazgol Ghandnoosh. “The Color of Justice: Racial and Ethnic Disparity in State Prisons.” The Sentencing Project, The Sentencing Project, 10 Jan. 2019, www.sentencingproject.org/publications/color-of-justice-racial-and-ethnic-disparity-in-state-prisons/.
Shambaugh, Jay, et al. “How Racial and Regional Inequality Affect Economic Opportunity.” Brookings, Brookings, 19 Feb. 2019, www.brookings.edu/blog/up-front/2019/02/15/how-racial-and-regional-inequality-affect-economic-opportunity/.