ACKNOWLEDGING THE BLACK STRUGGLE IS A START

I don’t know if anybody follows Mark Zuckerberg, the founder and CEO of Facebook.

I follow him on, well…Facebook (lol) and got a chance to catch a post he shared with his followers on October 13th as he and his wife, Priscilla, visited San Quentin State Prison, which is California’s oldest and best known correctional institution.

Anyway, what stood out to me was the content of the post, which read:

“Today Priscilla and I visited San Quentin State Prison. Earlier this year I read The New Jim Crow, a study of how the US justice system disproportionately criminalizes and jails Blacks and Latinos. We wanted to see first hand what prison conditions are like for people — and we got a chance to speak with inmates and staff.

US jails hold around 2.4 million people — about 25 percent of the world’s prisoners. Blacks and Hispanics are significantly more likely than whites to be arrested for possession and sale of marijuana and to receive a conviction and criminal record, even though the majority of marijuana users are non-Hispanic whites. Almost 40 percent of prisoners are black. More than half the people entering prison live below the poverty line. Our entire society pays the price for an unfair, broken system.

San Quentin has one of the best track records of people not returning to jail in the country. They run programs to teach valuable skills to help inmates find jobs and avoid criminal activity.

In this photo, I’m talking with inmates who are taking a coding course. I was impressed by their spirit to return to their communities and provide for their families, as well as the dedication of the staff to help them reclaim their lives.

Making our criminal justice system fairer and more effective is a huge challenge for our country. I’m going to keep learning about this topic, but some things are already clear. We can’t jail our way to a just society, and our current system isn’t working.”

While it blesses me to know that non-Black people are beginning to acknowledge, and in many cases understand the plight of Black people in this country, it also concerns me.

It concerns me because I try to understand what took them so long to acknowledge it in the first place. I am not picking on Zuckerberg at all, but I get frustrated because many of us are constantly sharing the information about the plight of African Americans in this country, that Zuckerberg was able to get a revelation on because of a simple visit to San Quentin prison.

For the most part, it shows me how out-of-touch and how oblivious many non-Blacks can be and even how some Black elites are, especially when it comes to the issues the average Black person faces in America and concerning the overall plight of Black people in this country.

For some, it may take a while to come around to finding out what Black people go through, so at least I applaud Zuckerberg for taking the necessary steps to leave the comfort of his home and office, to go to where the people are and get to better understand what they are experiencing.

I am a firm believer that most people don’t know, what they don’t know.

But once you know, and come into the knowledge of truth and reality, then I believe you should do something about it – acknowledge it first, but then do something about it that makes a difference.

Zuckerberg has a powerful voice and I heard him and others did to. He used the platform that God gave him the wisdom to create to get this important message out and I am grateful.

And to show you the power of this platform to educate and inform those who are unaware, I loved this exchange between Zuckerberg and one of his followers who asked a question, and made an accusation, based off of assumption and not fact. She said:

“And are you opening your company up to hiring anyone from the prison system when they are released? Please don’t just talk the talk, you need to walk the walk. Convicted felons find it very hard to find work when released, even with a college education.”

To which Zuckerberg responded:

“We actually don’t ask about your criminal record on your job application here at Facebook. That way we don’t bias against people who’ve made a mistake in their past, and we can help give them a second chance.”

Again, I applaud Zuckerberg for making the choice to visit San Quentin Prison and for acknowledging the plight of Black people that continue to suffer from that unfair and discriminatory system that impacts Blacks more than any other group. More importantly, I am happy to hear that he has a focus to ensure formerly-incarcerated Black people have an opportunity to get back on their feet, through employment with his company.

Now, if more people, especially non-Black people, would follow suit and adopt the same paradigm, we would see change.

Whatever the case may be, at least acknowledging the Black struggle is a start.

Jeffrey L. Boney serves as Associate Editor and is an award-winning journalist for the Houston Forward Times newspaper. Jeffrey is a Next Generation Project Fellow, dynamic, international speaker, experienced entrepreneur, business development strategist and Founder/CEO of the Texas Business Alliance. If you would like to request Jeffrey as a speaker, you can reach him at jboney1@texasbusinessalliance.org.