I recently read an article entitled, “7 Places in your Home That Are Dirtier Than Your Toilet.” (Carpet, sponges, TV remote, cutting board, cell phone, computer keyboard, kitchen sink). Who would’ve thought that the common cell phone has 500 times more bacteria, than a toilet, and a sponge 200,000 times more? Or that the average kitchen sink is dirtier than your entire bathroom? It turns out that our toilets are far more sanitary than many things we don’t see as threats to our health! One microbiologist suggested (don’t try this at home) that it’s safer for us to eat from our toilet seats than it is from our kitchen surfaces! And all this time, I believed my toilet was the dirtiest thing in my home…..
Before you scurry off to purchase carts of antibacterial wipes and sanitizing sprays, let’s spend a minute reflecting on this information. The thing we really believed to be filthy pales in comparison to the more dangerous and unresolved filth around us….
This got me to thinking about how we’ve been conditioned to identify “filth” in our society like violent crime for example. Popular crime shows like Law and Order, everything on the ID Channel, or CSI, make us understand serial killings, abductions, rape and torture as acts of psychotic and sick individuals. Corporate-owned TV news programs contribute to this hysteria with their persistent reporting of seemingly isolated acts of brutality sick and desperate citizens.
We watch these news reports in horror, some of us wishing the death penalty, life imprisonment, or an old-fashioned beating for the perpetrators of these horrible crimes
But what if I told you that the U.S. government regularly has and continues to commit crimes more wicked and egregious than anything you’ve seen on the news or forensic crime shows?
1. Deliberately- failing schools:
In the midst of Ivy League and corporate-funded school reforms and the increasing creation of charter schools, the intentional dumbing down of our children continues. Millions of young people cannot adequately read, write, speak, critically think or lead. Black and Brown children remain the disproportionate victims, almost securing their place as a permanent underclass. We were taught that education was supposed to eventually eliminate societal gaps. Instead the education industry reinforces them. And this occurs within one of the world’s richest and most educated nations.
2. Unfair and inhumane incarceration: With over 2 million inmates, America has the largest rate of incarceration among industrialized nations in the world. In the U.S. about 760 of every 100,000 people are incarcerated. In comparison, Japan has 63, Germany 90, South Korea 97, and Britain 153 people incarcerated per 100,000. Furthermore, United States imprisonment has clear racial disparities. People of color constitute 60% of the inmate population; Black offenders often receive longer sentence for the same offense than their white counterparts; Black and Latino youth receive harsher punishment than white students and are arrested 70% more than white youth for school-related offenses. As Legal scholar Michelle Alexander notes, incarceration has become a new form of Jim Crow for Black people. When we combine this fact with the atrocious conditions inmates face, or the numbers of wrongly convicted inmates, this stands as a crime of tremendous magnitude.
3. Imperialist Wars: Conventionally, nations go to war when attacked by other nations. Nations conduct Imperialist wars to create or expand their empires by controlling the labor, trade, politics or natural resources of another nation. This often involves declarations of war and/or establishing military bases in other countries. America’s imperialist activities abroad are infamous, from the Spanish-American War in 1898 to Korea, Vietnam, the Gulf War and continuing military aggression in Afghanistan (not to mention scores of military interventions in several other countries). Excluding civilians, the U.S. military has killed over 10 million people around the world since WWII! Surprisingly we never describe such immoral and murderous actions as “serial killings” but this record of genocide far exceeds the murders committed by Ted Bundy, David Berkovitz, John Wayne Gacy, or Jeffrey Dahmer. In addition, The U.S. operates over 1000 military bases throughout the world, unfairly affecting the trade and political affairs of sovereign nations.
4. Police brutality: Police are sworn to serve and protect. Sometimes citizens benefit; usually businesses and rich people do. Far too often the very citizens whose taxes pay police salaries find themselves unfairly brutalized and murdered by police all over the country. Interestingly, we rarely hear of such attacks against white people. But Blacks and Latinos have come to expect police brutality along with guilty police receiving exoneration from the courts. In some cases, these brutes have displayed sexual deviance and sadistic behavior of certified serial killers.
5. Poverty & It’s Consequences: Due to corporate greed and the very mechanics of capitalism itself, America kills millions of people and tortures even more through poverty. Nearly 50 million people have no medical insurance and cannot pay the exorbitant fees for their medicine; almost 15% of American households seriously struggle with eating; almost 50 million people in America meet the criteria of living in poverty. This is the largest amount since the poverty level was recorded. The inability to generate a livable wage or receive adequate medical or other forms of assistance leads to deaths from hunger and illness along with a tremendous number of homeless people. Somehow, this problem escalates regardless of who the president is or what political party wields power. This problem would be horrific by itself, but to occur in such a rich nation that spends so much money in defense and in aid to other nations is unacceptable and…criminal
My simple point is that we cannot allow the corporate-controlled media or news to define crime for us or make us abhor the crimes of citizens while ignoring those government agencies commit on an institutional level. We cannot excuse heinous acts on the individual level for sure. It is equally unwise to excuse government acts that impact far more people in more compelling ways. And if we call for the death penalty, lifetime imprisonment or psychiatric treatment for citizen-criminals, why do we allow institutional criminals whose actions affect far more people in far more devastating ways, to avoid accountability for their heinous acts? Is this a function of our ignorance, or our cowardice?
Agyei Tyehimba is a former NYC public schoolteacher, co-founder of KAPPA Middle School 215 in the Bronx, NY, and co-author of the Essence Bestselling book, Game Over: The Rise and Transformation of a Harlem Hustler, published in 2007 by Simon & Schuster. Agyei has appeared on C-Span, NY1 News, and most recently on the A&E documentary, “The Mayor of Harlem: Alberto ‘Alpo’ Martinez.” Mr. Tyehimba is a professional consultant and public speaker providing political advice and direction for Black college student organizations, community activist groups, and nonprofit organizations. If you are interested in bringing Agyei to speak or provide consultation for your organization, please contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.