I really knew that I had returned to Washington when I saw a political ad in the airport moments after stepping off the plane. It is a characteristic element of life here, especially for someone who takes the metro as often as I do.
I usually don’t give them a second thought, as the causes and agendas are pretty clear, sometimes altogether blatant enough to be off-putting. This one below, however, was particularly thought-provoking. Not because there is something poignant or moving about it, but because it made me think over and over again on what it could possibly mean.
In reading just the tag line, my first reaction was, “So what? Is America being touted as a police state?”.
My second thought was, “Well, the figures may or may not be exactly accurate, but perhaps there is something to be said about rule of law, about the real enforcement of consequences to crimes”.
And then I continued to read: “Let’s build a better America together”, and I figured, “Oh, I see. The ad is calling upon people to avoid a life of crime, to get educations, work hard, live the American Dream, etc., etc.”.
And then I finally read the signature – the NAACP.
And I didn’t know what to think.
The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. The name itself suggests that it is an advocacy organisation for the blacks for the most part. I am not familiar with their work; perhaps the moniker “coloured people” applies to a broader range. But I thought that this reputable organisation might be highlighting or somehow capitalising on the fact of a stereotypically prominent black presence in the country’s jails. So, again, I didn’t really know what to think.
Finally, just now, I visited the advertised URL – http://www.naacp.org/smartandsafe. It reads:
“Misplaced Priorities: A New Report From NAACP
On April 7th, the NAACP released a new report, Misplaced Priorities, that examines America’s escalating levels of prison spending and its impact on state budgets and our nation’s children.
Misplaced Priorities tracks the steady shift of state funds away from education and toward the criminal justice system. Researchers have found that over-incarceration most often impacts vulnerable and minority populations, and that it destabilizes communities.
The report is part of the “Smart and Safe Campaign,” and the NAACP is urging everyone to sign its petition to urge governors to adopt a set of recommendations that will help policymakers in all 50 states downsize prison populations and shift the savings to education budgets.
Below are profiles of the six cities studied in the report, as well as three profiled individuals.
Click here to download a PDF of the full report.
Click Here to Sign the Petition Now!”
And I finally get it.
I wish the message had come across on a first read, though.
(photo of ad courtesy http://www.soignorant.com/tag/5-of-worlds-population)