Fear Of The Unknown: Walking The Same Road And Expecting A Different Outcome

Where, o where, have the black men gone? O where, o where can they be?

     Answer:  According to the Sentencing Project, a Washington D.C. based group that advocates for sentencing reform, one in every three black males born today can expect to go to prison at some point in their life, compared with one in every six Latino males, and one in every 17 white males.  The advocacy group adds:
“Racial minorities are more likely than white Americans to be arrested.  Once arrested, they are more likely to be convicted; and once convicted, they are more likely to face stiff sentences.”
   Now, the problem becomes enlarged when the groups involved play “the blame/shame game.”  This is where one group, the majority (whites) blames the minority group (African-Americans) for having higher crime rates while the minority blames the majority for institutionalized racism within the criminal justice system.
The second part of this game is where both groups become so immersed (submerged) and enmeshed (entangled) in feelings of self-imposed shame.   In doing so, both groups become unavailable to work towards resolution of the identified problems.
To add specifics to this issue, the Sentencing Project reports the following;
  • Black youth were arrested at twice the rate of white youth for drug offenses between the years 1980-2010.  However, a study from the National Institute on Drug Abuse in 2012 found that white students were slightly more likely to have abused illegal drugs within the past month than black students of similar age.
  • In a US Department of Justice study on the 1980s “war on drugs”, it was reported that the country’s population of incarcerated drug users soared from 42,000 in 1980 to nearly 500,000 in 2007.  African-Americans constitute about 13% of drug users, yet they make up about 46% of those convicted for drug use.
  • Because African-Americans are generally more likely to be poor than whites, they are more likely to rely on court-appointed public defenders who work for agencies that are underfunded and understaffed.  In 2012, according to the US Government Accounting Office, 70% of these agencies reported that they are struggling to come up with funding needed to provide adequate legal defense for poor people.
     There are two issues that are at the foundation of the increasing numbers of African-American men being involved within the criminal justice and therefore incarcerated in either the correction or penal system.  One issue as identified by the Sentencing Project is “police activity.”  Speaking directly regarding “racial profiling”, the Sentencing Project report states:
“Blacks are also far more likely than whites to be stopped by the police while driving.  Since the nature of law enforcement frequently requires police officers to make snap judgments about the danger posed by suspects and the criminal nature of their activity, subconscious racial associations influence the way officers perform their jobs.”
     The Sentencing Project concludes its report by providing recommendations, which include the following:
  • Prohibiting law enforcement officials from engaging in racial profiling.
  • Fully funding the country’s public defender agencies.
  • Establishing a commission to develop recommendations for “systemic reform” of the country’s police bureaus and courts.
     The report by the Sentencing Project is clear, concise and relevant to the issues being presented. Of more significance, however, is that the recommendations made today are no different from the recommendations made in 1998 where research studies found that 1 of every 4 African-American males were under some form of incarceration.
     Given these recommendations, the only thing that has changed in the last 15 years is the increased numbers of African-American males being incarcerated (i.e. from 1 of every 4 to today’s expected rate of 1 of every 3).
This raises relevant questions such as:
  • Why are the numbers of African-American males being incarcerated increasing so drastically?
  • Why haven’t the recommendations provided been implemented during the previous 15 years?
  • Why would the implementation of these recommendations be so slow over the next 15 years?
     The answer?  Internalized fear.  Specifically, the internalized fear that is being shared by all groups involved.
This internalized fear is defined as:
“Fear that is incorporated within oneself (cultural values, mores, motives, attitudes etc) through learning or socialization.  Specifically, it is the acceptance or absorption of an idea, opinion, belief, etc., so that it becomes part of one’s character.  This act often takes root in an individual’s psychological core by learning or unconscious assimilation.”

Specifically, the majority and ethnic minority communities continue to live in fear of each other.  This fear is reminiscent of staying within the “known,”and not seeking the “unknown,” due to fearing the uncomfortable.     These communities are comparable to travelers who are journeying on the same road who upon coming to the “crossroads” i.e. “decision point” continue to take the same road and yet desire “different” outcomes or experiences.  The changes these travelers seek will only occur when they decide to take not the same road, but to seek a “new path.” In doing so, they may learn to come to terms with the unknown (“living with fear”) instead the known (“living in fear.”)

     Both communities must want to create a “new path” instead of walking the same road that was created by others.  In doing so, both communities can learn to balance their fears and hopefully one day, embrace these fears. The reality is this: fear is HERE.  It never left.  Fear will always be among us.  It is for us to determine how we balance and embrace our fears that continue to prevent us from resolving our differences.
Concluding Remarks

We, the travelers, can work towards the resolution of our identified issues if we can re-conceptualize fear. One way to do this is to utilize the following empowerment strategy.  The traveler must:

  • Want to address the concept of fear. 
  • Want to come to terms with the reality that fear is simply a feeling and that fear can be “good.”
  • Want to realize that FEAR IS HERE.  FOREVER.
  • Want to understand that he/she has the choice to “live in fear or live with fear.”




Same old road?  Or walk and explore a new path?

  • What about you?
  • What do you want?
  • What are you willing to do? In order to obtain what you want?

Live in fear? Or live with fear?  You choose!

“Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”

            – Sir Winston Churchill 


Until the next crossroads,


The Journey continues………….

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