Century Marks

Century Marks

Locked up

"More African American men are in prison or jail, on probation or parole than were enslaved in 1850, before the Civil War began," Michelle Alexander told an audience in Pasadena, California. Author of The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness and a law professor at Ohio State, Alexander said most of the increase in prison rates among black and brown men is due to the war on drugs, which is conducted disproportionately in low-income communities among people of color. Men with felony convictions have difficulty getting housing and jobs once released, and 70 percent of them return to prison within two years (ushrnetwork.org).


The U.S. likes to think of itself as a nation that welcomes immigrants, but since 1950, 13 million more people have been deported than were granted permanent residency. The number of deportations is up in the past 20 years and is accelerating thanks to the Secure Communities program designed to deport people with criminal records. In reality, this program is deporting undocumented immigrants guilty of petty crimes. The Valenzuela brothers, for instance, have received notice of deportation hearings. Residents in the U.S. since 1955, the brothers are both Vietnam veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, which they claim led to their separate misdemeanors (Dissent, Spring).


The Tea Party slogan "Taking back the country" has also been used by liberals. A 1992 political button pictured Jerry Brown and Jesse Jackson and the words "Take Back America" (Brown had said he'd select Jackson as his vice presidential candidate if nominated for president by the Democratic Party) (Dœdalus, Winter).

Sham weddings

A vicar in the Church of England was arrested during Britain's second major police investigation in as many years into bogus marriages, staged to help immigrants win visas. The church immediately suspended Canon Patrick Magumba amid claims he was involved in scores of sham weddings. Magumba, from Uganda, is accused of failing to read the banns, which is part of a safety net to make sure a marriage is legitimate. Reading the banns involves reading the names and addresses of engaged couples at three separate Sunday services. The banns are necessary in Britain to acquire a marriage certificate (ENI).

The U.K. and us

Alyssa Battistoni, an American graduate student at Oxford University, wonders why Americans seem more resigned to cuts in public services than people are in the U.K. The only political movement in the U.S. that seems to have real steam, she says, is the Tea Party movement, which is demanding cuts to public services. Brits tend to expect more from their government to begin with and have never taken to the idea that lowering taxes leads to economic growth. Brits are also more aware of class differences and are less optimistic that economic mobility is possible (Salon, March 31).