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Obama’s Prison Charade

The list of Barack Obama’s crimes is a long one, but one of the worst is his refusal to even attempt a dismantling of the mass incarceration state in America. In criminal justice as in other issues, Obama fakes left while actually moving to the right. He is suddenly interested in “reform” and is on a cross country marketing blitz meant to burnish his image and fool uninformed people.

The White House recently announced that the president would commute prison sentences for “dozens” of federal prisoners who were convicted of non-violent drug related offenses. There are 208,000 federal prison inmates and 48% of them were convicted of narcotics violations. Approximately 100,000 people are under federal jurisdiction who could be given some consideration if narcotics sentencing laws were changed.

The slap in the face was worse than expected when a grand total of 46 people had their sentences commuted. Obama perfected the art of political marketing, which like all advertising makes lies appear to be true. In 2013 the president had an opportunity to free at least 5,000 black people from federal prisons. They were all imprisoned before the 2010 Fair Sentencing Act which reduced the powder/crack cocaine sentences from a 100:1 ration to a 18:1 ratio. The act did nothing for those sentenced prior and the White House successfully appealed a federal court ruling which would have given those persons the right to request resentencing.

The appeals court ruled in the Obama Justice Department’s favor, but no one knows that except for readers of Black Agenda Report. Formerly well respected organizations such as the NAACP Legal Defense Fund lamented the decision without mentioning that the president supported it and took an active role in keeping their clients in prison.

Obama is a master of appearing to do what he doesn’t do. That is not all marketing skill; he also relies on a compliant corporate media and a spineless black misleadership class to fool nearly all of the people all of the time. His sudden desire to look like the Great Emancipator is an ongoing publicity junket. On July 16, 2015, he is scheduled to visit the El Reno medium security federal prison in Oklahoma. His trip will be part of VICE news documentary scheduled for broadcast on the HBO television network.

It is important to remember that Obama is still a duplicitous back stabber, not the lesser evil but the more effective evil. He has the power to prosecute killer vigilantes like George Zimmerman and the police who murdered Eric Garner and Michael Brown yet he refuses to do so. Despite the hoopla surrounding the commutations for 46 people, he falls short of the pardons given by his predecessors. He has yet to use any of the powers at his disposal to bring justice to black people. Of course he will show up at El Reno and use black people as a propaganda back drop, but those people can expect little else from him. It is insulting in the extreme for the president to talk about incarceration as some knotty problem he can’t quite figure out when he could have given thousands of people the right to seek their freedom.

Obama is able to play the same game over and over because he is enabled by his idol worshipping defenders. They never met an Obama lie they didn’t like and they are happy to help him appear powerless when it suits him. The president can claim and exercise a right to assassinate American citizens without charge or trial, exact regime change in Libya, or give billions to Ukraine but suddenly claims to be impotent if black Americans need help for any reason.

After the meager justice dispensed for 46 people, Obama took his phony show on the road at the annual NAACP convention. The once august organization is a leader among the misleaders, giving Obama cover in exchange for access and money. There was no better arena for the president to give an appearance of substance when he really offers only illusion.

“Mass incarceration makes our country worse off and we need to do something about it,” was but one of the meaningless platitudes the president uttered. If the president wanted to make a dent in the federal prison population he could have used Democrat majorities in Congress in 2009 and 2010 to do that and more. Of course neither he nor other Democrats sought to raise the minimum wage at that time either. Curiously, anything that Obama and the Democrats didn’t change when they had the chance is now open for discussion after the opportunities have disappeared.

Obama doesn’t really have a problem with mass incarceration. After all it keeps Cousin Pookie locked up. As far as the president is concerned, black America deserve nothing more than to stay behind bars.

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Margaret Kimberley writes the Freedom Rider column for Black Agenda Report, where this essay originally appeared. 

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