The whole world knows that California is as broke as its residents are. Yet, it never ceases to amaze me when it comes to local and state politics how low some politicians will go to get their way. Case in point, California’s Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, whose new motto should be “when in doubt, threaten to let em’ all out”—a cheap attempt to play on the fears of good law- abiding, high-propensity white voters to get to support for ballot measures during the upcoming Special Election. An election where the voter turnout among African-Americans voters probably won’t even reach 10%, even though they have as much to lose or gain as their white counterparts. And I say white voters because had he come to South Los Angeles toting that same rhetoric, he’d have been met with “Amen’s,” “Thank you Lawd my baby’s coming home,” and “It’s about time!”
Why is it that when Californians are threatened with early prisoner release, the government suddenly finds the money to avert the current crisis at hand? But when the same voters are threatened with the unexpected release of thousands of teachers from our public schools, it’s business as usual.
What could be scarier than another generation of undereducated young adults headed into the workforce? Where do you think they’re headed after graduation and the harsh reality sets in that they aren’t qualified to even clean toilet bowls? Newsflash—most people don’t commit crimes for the sake of committing crimes.
To me there’s no difference between the white father who offs his entire family before committing suicide, this after losing his job, and the brother on the corner moving dimes.
They’re both victims of circumstance. Circumstances that were created long before they came and at this rate will be around long after they’re dead or locked up.
And while I’m no rocket scientist, it seems to me that our public school systems have become feeder institutions for our state prisons rather than our state colleges.
I’m not in support of raising or extending taxes, let me make that clear. Too many of us are living without an income to tax in the first place due to the current economic crisis. If you ask me, before we’re forced to vote, especially where our public schools are concerned, we should demand a piece of legislation be passed that mandates that all state, city, and county elected officials with children put their kids in a public school in the district they represent. And if their kids are headed to college, they have to first attend a 2-year community college or 4-year State University before heading off to the Ivy Leagues. If it’s good for the gander, it’s good for the goose and their goslings. Maybe then, they’d take this crisis a bit more seriously and stop playing Russian Roulette with the future of California’s workforce.
The same mentality California voters bring to the polls on Election Day when they think their Wisteria Lane neighborhood is going to be impacted by the early release of prisoners is the same attitude they need to apply to the threat of teachers losing their jobs or students being undereducated. Because it’s going to be those same impacted students who find themselves unable to compete in the job market and forced into a life of crime that will eventually land them in one of California’s state prisons. A crime, that before it’s all said and done, may very well affect those same good law-abiding, high-propensity white voters Governor Schwarzenegger is appealing to now.
You tell me what’s scarier, the early release of inmates today or a generation of future inmates in the making who are already out roaming the streets and in most cases sleeping in the bedroom next door?
Jasmyne Cannick, is a critic and commentator based in Los Angeles who writes about the worlds of pop culture, race, class, and politics as it relates to the African-American community. A regular contributor to NPR’s ‘News and Notes,’ she was chosen as one Essence Magazine’s 25 Women Shaping the World.
Published May 12, 2009