The Ethnic Cleansing of America

It began over a decade ago - subtle, quiet and unnoticeable.The media played it up as the result if the drug epidemic. The public accepted it with the bel
ief they would be safer. Ten years later, the state and federal governments continue to laud its accomplishment and urge expansion of the cleansing process. With over 800,000 Black men and women in jails and prisons, the ethnic cleansing of America has become an economic strategy of Wall Street, with private prisons on the stock market.


Although FBI statistics proclaim a decline in crime, prison construction has become a growing multi-billion dollar business. Black men and women have become commodities in an industry directly representative of slavery. The 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution ("Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime ... shall exist within the United States .. ") actually indicates that slavery was not abolished; it was institutionalized in the criminal justice system.


With the revelation of racist police profiling and a criminal justice system wrought with racism, it is appropriate to charge America with ethnic cleansing. Such a charge is especially ominous as Congress considers new laws that permit children as young as 10 to be tried and jailed as adults and states increase the use of the death penalty and tighten restrictions on parole releases.


This country imprisons more of its citizens, about 1.5 million people, than any other industrialized nation. Although European Americans comprise 69 percent of those arrested, institutional racism in the criminal justice system incarcerates Blacks in disproportionate numbers. It imprisons African men three times more than European Americans and four times more than did apartheid South Africa. While Blacks comprise 53 percent of those in prison, they are only 12.5 percent of the entire population.


This reality is coupled with gentrification of Black communities, which are being destroyed from the top down. Voting districts are being redrawn or annexed, gerrymandering that serves to eliminate the prospects of Black elected representatives dedicated to the Black community. At the same time, real estate moguls in the guise of city and state officials gentrify predominantly Black neighborhoods, and entire communities are being displaced as part of the cleansing process.

In addition, with the rightwing rollback of affirmative action policies, there is a decline of Black enrollment in colleges, job hirings and promotions, and small business contracts. At the same time, welfare to workfare programs have increased the number of poverty-stricken single mothers.


Hence, the criminalization of poverty: anyone who is poor, unemployed and homeless is likely to suffer the penalities of incarceration. While these socio-economic conditions are produced by government policies, the corresponding result is the increase in the construction of prisons that have become the new housing for the poor and unemployed. At the same time, an exponential increase in orphaned Black children is burdening the first care system.


While Kosovo's situation is overtly violent and disheartening, the ethnic cleansing in America is just as devastating. It destroys families, uproots neighborhoods and creates orphans under a misguided policy of population control, i. e. the war on crime. Essentially, it can be argued the Black community has for over a decade been under direct attack from institutional racism via right-wing state and federal government policies.


Needless to say, the disproportionate number of Blacks in prison ultimately lowers the birth rate of the Black population. The genocidal implications are even more startling when one considers the state of Black health:

1. Infant mortality is more than twice as high among Blacks as whites.

2. AIDS is the leading cause of death for Blacks age 25 to 44.

3. Homicide is the second leading cause of death among African American men age 25 to 44, killing one in 22 Black men.

4. African Americans suffer considerably more strokes than their white counterparts and are more than five times more likely to die from them.

5. Black men are 38 percent more likely to get prostate cancer than white men and more than twice likely to die of it.

6. Black women are less likely to get breast cancer but more likely to die of it.


It should be added there are more Black single parent households than ever before and 35 to 50 percent of Black youth are consistently unemployed. With a 58 percent Black prison population, it is estimated one of every three Black males will at some point in his life confront the criminal justice system. This is not surprising considering racist police profiling across the country.

Given the reality of Black mortality from the cradle to the prison system and the absence of government sponsored and financed programs to reverse these developments (ironically, after the Colorado high school shooting, President Clinton provided $1.2 million for funerals and counseling), equating what Serbia is doing to Kosovo Albanians with America's ethnic cleansing of Blacks doesn't take much imagination.


It is well established that the U.S. government is capable of such horrendous inhumane activities. Some examples are the genocidal decimation of the Native American population and continued violation of treaties, African chattel slavery and the denial of reparations, the atomic bombings of Nagasaki and Hiroshima, the carpet bombing and the use of defoliants in Vietnam and the 250,000 Iraqis killed in seven days of bombing during Desert Storm. All of these give credence to the proposition that the U.S. government is tacitly capable of engaging in ethnic cleansing, while at the same time proclaiming itself a champion of human rights.


As the millennium draws to a close, it is expected the u.s. will continue to lead all industrial nations with the largest prison population. The American ethnic cleansing process will soon go into its second phase: increase death penalty executions, further restrict public and media oversight of prison management, limit prisoner's appeal and movement and broaden the market for prison made products.


Because it is supported by the media, the subtle style of American ethnic cleansing is unnoticed. It doesn't alarm the majority of Americans or the broader international community.


However, this reality does in fact exist, and it is time public leaders and the media begin to recognize that the claimed economic prosperity of America does not translate into racial and ethnic harmony and stability. There is something extremely wrong with the disproportionate number of Blacks incarcerated, and it has little to do with the pretext of a war on drugs and crime. It should be described for what it actually is, the racist American style of ethnic cleansing.


Originally printed on June 16, 1999, in the San Francisco Bay View newspaper