On my way home, a few minutes ago, I was listening to a news broadcast on National Public Radio. The reporter was talking about the possible reversal of the Supreme Court decision in Roe versus Wade, which made abortions legal in the United States. Somehow a draft of a decision has been leaked, and it’s the talk of the town. Of course, we’re being told that this isn’t an indicator of how the court will rule later. Although I tire of discussions about Roe v. Wade, that wasn’t what irritated me the most about this report. It was the incessant use of labels in association with how states might lean in their lawmaking if this historic decision is reversed. Red states versus blue states, moderates versus conservatives, progressives versus who knows what.
It seems, during these times, that everyone needs a label. It’s reminiscent of the old saying, you can’t tell the players without a card. I recall when Clinton was in the White House. He was seen as a New Democrat, centrist in his approach to governing. He had the most diverse cabinet in the history of the United States. Droves of Black people and other people of color felt good about President Clinton’s administration. I’m not writing to debate as to whether people should have felt good or not, but there was something going on back then that has hatched some unintended chickens. And these chickens are incongruous to the labels that were assigned to President Clinton and his folks.
There were reforms to the criminal justice system that were put in place under Clinton of which no one took the time to consider the consequences. The 1994 Crime Bill created tough new criminal sentences and incentivized states to build more prisons has resulted in a disaster. Some of the effects have been inequality in sentencing for Black people versus white. We’ve all heard the discussion about Black people receiving harsher sentences for crack cocaine compared to whites receiving leniency for powdered cocaine. The mandatory sentencing for crack versus power were unequal. More prison time given for crack, which is cheaper and more prone to be used and sold by people of color. Powder is more expensive and used more by whites. Oftentimes in life a rose is just a rose, no matter what else one might want it to be.
Clinton had some good labels attached to him. Those labels made most of the people of color feel good about him. I must admit, I was one of them. Now, after thirty years, we’re dealing with the effects of those tough on crime laws. President Biden is now feeling the effect of those 1990s tough on crime initiatives. Of course, he has his labels to wear also.
Rather than labels, wouldn’t it be great if we all were judged by our character and the resulting behavior that stemmed from the character traits we possess. Each person would be viewed individually. You and I would be afforded the opportunity to be known, not encased in a box that we’d find ourselves struggling to escape. Yeah, I know you have some swamp land in the Sahara Desert you’d like to sell me.
I’m old and blessed…hope you will be too.