Dr. Boyce: Thank You Eric Holder, You Brought Me to Tears

rreioreoiby Dr. Boyce Watkins

Today, my brain froze in its tracks.  I found myself speechless, yet full of enough energy to power a nuclear warhead.  The emotions bounced around my insides like disco lights, and I found myself more sensitive to my environment than I’d been since the day I came out of my mother’s womb.

Losing my grandmother this week, in conjunction with the extraordinary announcement by Attorney General Eric Holder, made for the kind of emotional cocktail that might possibly kill a man, like using uppers and downers while drinking a glass of Vodka.  I don’t drink or use drugs, but I think this might be how it feels.

In case you haven’t noticed, Attorney General Eric Holder made one of the most impactful announcements in recent history on the effects of mass incarceration.

Holder expressed a commitment to making major adjustments in federal criminal policy, including getting rid of mandatory minimums for low-level, non-violent drug offenders.  This will send fewer people to prison for long periods of time and also allow judges a greater degree of discretion to avoid the Draconian drug sentences that we’ve been seeing over the last 40 years.

“Too many Americans go to too many prisons for far too long, and for no good law enforcement reason,” Holder told the American Bar Association in San Francisco.

The United States incarcerates more citizens per capita than any country on earth.   The federal prison population has grown by over 800 percent since 1980, with nearly half of those incarcerated being locked up for drug-related crimes.   Prisons have become profitable, and corporations now earn billions of dollars each year by taking advantage of the loophole in the 13th Amendment which states that slavery is actually legal in the United States if you’ve been convicted of a crime.

As a professor of Finance, I must reiterate the dangers of building a capitalist model on the idea of incarceration.  It leads us down a slippery slope where our society actually WANTS to put people in prison, since cheap labor allows the US to compete more effectively in the global economy.  This is why it is no surprise that there are states across America that are taking money out of education and using those funds to build more prisons.  A well-educated American doesn’t make for a very good slave.

Making matters worse, a disproportionate number of these inmates are African American males.  These men are the ones who were meant to be the husbands, fathers and leaders in our communities.  Instead, these men were drafted away to modern day concentration camps for decades at a time for offenses that were no worse than what we see in Syracuse University frat houses every single weekend.  If they were to apply stop-and-frisk to any college campus, thousands of white kids would be going to prison.

These people aren’t being put in prison camps in order to make our society safer.  Instead, our world is only made more dangerous after we take otherwise redeemable young people and turn them into killers, criminals, and in some cases, diseased men who become so marginalized that they live their lives with a death wish.

The HIV epidemic in the black community can be traced right back to the prisons, where men and women are raped on a regular basis.  The mental illness crisis in our community is driven by mass amounts of incarceration, causing too many of our children to be forced to deal with that highly-disturbed uncle, brother or father who drowns out his problems with a liquor bottle or a crack pipe.   The extreme growth in single parent homes is tied to mass incarceration, since it’s difficult for women to find men to marry when so many of them are getting locked up.

So, this isn’t just a black male problem or an inmate problem:  It’s a problem for all of us.

I could go on and on, but the point is clear:  The War on Drugs has destroyed our community in the same way that Hurricane Katrina took out the city of New Orleans.  A generation later, an army of fatherless children roam the streets, some of whom become menaces to society before they leave the fifth grade.   Even worse, the poison of prisons has marinated into our psyches, disguising itself as “black culture,” showing up in our music, our dress code, and the way we speak to each other.

Letters like the one written by a young woman to the judge who gave her father 14 life sentences help us to see firsthand how mass incarceration has destroyed families and made our country worse off than before.  Just last year, my heart bled as I watched my older brother figure (an uncle slightly older than me) die after decades of mental illness and substance abuse that I believe came from being sent to prison at an early age.   Most of us have seen the impact of prisons in our own lives, and we know that not every person in prison is beyond redemption.

I must publicly express my most sincere appreciation to Attorney General Eric Holder for listening when Russell Simmons and I wrote our letter to President Barack Obama.  The meetings weren’t easy and I don’t enjoy speaking to politicians, but Russell has taught me a lot about the power of diplomacy and effective expression. I’d also like to thank the celebrities, activists, scholars and public figures who signed the letter, along with the thousands of citizen soldiers who supported our petition.

It would be presumptuous of me to think that our letter was the sole reason that the attorney general made his announcement, but our coalition, consisting of supporters as diverse as Jamie Foxx, Brad Pitt, Michelle Alexander and Jesse Jackson, was strong enough to get us a meeting with the Attorney General’s office.  I was impressed, thrilled and inspired by the broad range of Americans who’ve come to understand the devastating impact of mass incarceration, and even people like Kim Kardashian, Justin Bieber, Lil Wayne and the presidents of Morehouse and Spelman were willing to lend their names to the initiative.   I didn’t care if I agreed or disagreed with the people on the list:  Our only objective was to accept the support of anyone willing to use their fan base to help with this important cause.

We couldn’t have done this without you and I thank you from the bottom of my soul.

Eric Holder’s words represent a huge victory for all of us.  If followed by appropriate action, this decision will make our communities better, safer and more fulfilled in the long-run.  Unborn children will enter a world that is a little less hurtful than the one we experienced during the dark era of mass incarceration.  We may even one day be able to raise our children in a world that doesn’t build a prison cell and casket for every black child on the day they are born.  Our children deserve to live, prosper, succeed and be happy.

It’s time to start the healing.

Dr. Boyce Watkins is the founder of the Your Black World Coalition and author of the book, “Black American Money”. To have Dr. Boyce commentary delivered to your email, please click here.

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  1. We all need to read “Torchlight for America”. This book is being revised due to data being outdated but the framework is very powerful and enlightening to read! As a society we suffer from a “Spiritual” problem! We walk around thinging we know but we have know idea what we are up against and why we are being plotted on to be destroyed. I guess the Holy Bible is right about being destroyed..Hosea Ch4 v6…
    6 My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee, that thou shalt be no priest to me: seeing thou hast forgotten the law of thy God, I will also forget thy children.

  2. We all need to read “Torchlight for America”. This book is being revised due to data being outdated but the framework is very powerful and enlightening to read! As a society we suffer from a “Spiritual” problem! We walk around thinging we know but we have know idea what we are up against and why we are being plotted on to be destroyed. I guess the Holy Bible is right about being destroyed..Hosea Ch4 v6-8…
    6 My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee, that thou shalt be no priest to me: seeing thou hast forgotten the law of thy God, I will also forget thy children.
    7 As they were increased, so they sinned against me: therefore will I change their glory into shame.
    8 They eat up the sin of my people, and they set their heart on their iniquity.

  3. I wonder how many people think about the families of victims. I wonder how many people think about the women and men who walk home late at night from work. Stop and frisk sure needs to change but it does not need to end. Too many people in the community live scared to walk down their block. Be assured, the moment S&F ends becomes the moment more young men carry their guns out of the house. Yes, they used it in a racist way but change it, dont abolish it. Most people against it do not live in the inner cities where its being used. We who are here need a voice as well.

  4. For all of you jumping up and down and acting like some major coup d’ etat has taken place with the Attorney General’s announcement, let me put a few things into perspective. Assuming that everything Eric Holder said comes to fruition, what does it really mean for Black people? Instead of going to prison for 20, 30, 40 years for committing a crime, you only go for 5, 10 or 15. Regardless of the years you’re still a criminal in the eyes of the law and that has long term consequences. Until something happens to change the attitudes and behavior of Black people from committing crimes and going to prison in the first place for any length of time there is no reason to rejoice and be jubilant. Boyce Watkins really believes he is somewhat responsible for the Attorney Generals actions; he loves to use these ridiculous analogies to try and get his message across, well to take a page from his book; I think Mr. Holders announcement is like busting a casual pot smoker and never going after the dealer. We’re fighting the wrong fight.

  5. Thank you Dr. Boyce, Robert Moore,for your voices of

  6. Dr. Watkins,

    My heartfelt sympathies to you and your family for your loss.
    Stay strong and continue to be our beacon of light.
    God Bless You and I believe in the GOOD work that you do.
    Father to Father, Brother to Brother.


  7. Thank you Eric, for helping so many men who has been denied for so long to be with their families while the murderers are set free to kill again and again.

  8. I started to shout for joy for such great good justice to be rewarded to so many black men who has been given long lengthy imprisonment time for drugs, when the real murderers like Casey Anthony whom everyone knows killed her child, Zimmerman who just walked free after racially profiling and killing an innocent young man who was only holding a box of skittles, and no one wants to talk about the wide majority of child predators and rapist who walks the streets today for only getting a slap on their risk. Most of these men who are incarcerated has never harm a child or killed anyone but because racism for generations has lingered and swept ground in the justice system to get rid of as many black men as possible. This has taken place for years

  9. Kindly GIVE $13 @ God Kept Me Fundraiser The Jamal Strayhorn Accident Fund @ gfwd.at/151Z8ud Thank you for your kindnessKindly GIVE $13 @ God Kept Me Fundraiser The Jamal Strayhorn Accident Fund @ gfwd.at/151Z8ud Thank you for your kindness

  10. Dr.Watkins, thank you for the beautiful response to Eric Holders announcement…We state this is a black problem, when reality it incorporates all. Stats fail to state, the % of nationalities behind bars, with blacks being in the middle. True black children.males are targeted due to bigotry,racism, lack of motivation, education and the streets, making them the dominated factor.
    We standing together can make a change in this imbalanced society and form that village which will keep our children out of the system. Tears run superficially but pain runs deep, which we suffer daily. A friend of mine just lost her son to mistaken identity in the streets of Los Angeles. continue to pray, fight, and reach out for change. Prayers of the loss of your Grandmother, time will heal the wounds of loss.

  11. Though I found it ridiculous there were “PETTY ” arrest for paraphernalia. , residue & any other BS…, I’d rather consider this “recovered ground ” from law enforcement actions that over reached… drug enforcement took on an ECONOMY of its own., What should’ve been considered a public health issue…”

  12. Let’s stop torturing the English language with nonsense terms like “victimless crimes” as if the products sold will not sicken & kill many of the buyers… Do you think the families of these victims think that the death or addiction of their loved ones is a victimless crime…

  13. This isn’t a black only issue. As a country we pay millions to incarcerate people for victimless crimes.
    This goofy war on drugs has cost us all many freedoms. End stop and frisk EVERYWHERE not just the black community.

  14. Wonder what Eric Holder is going to say to all the families of loved ones raped & murdered by all the thugs & low-lifes who will be spilling out of the prisons & onto our streets….BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU WISH FOR!!!

  15. In roads are powerfully sweet. Thank you Dr. Boyce, I surely signed the petition and it felt great.

  16. Wow, Dr. Watkins. You can take even a great moment that ought to be reason for pure celebration and use it as a backdrop for lies and half-truths.

    All of us should celebrate that this president, after six years in office, is finally doing the right thing here. But, no, you’ve got to gussy up the story with complete BS.

    You claim “The federal prison population has grown by over 800 percent since 1980…” That is simply not true. According to the government’s own records, the US prison population (at all levels) nearly quadrupled from 1980 to 2011 (going from 319,598 to 1,504,150). That’s an increase of “only” 317 percent – an abomination, to be sure, but nothing close to your mythical “800 percent” number.

    When you gin up your so-called “facts” with so much exaggeration, you only give your opponents ammunition to undermine the otherwise strong argument for change.

    You claim “..corporations now earn billions of dollars each year by taking advantage of the loophole in the 13th Amendment which states that slavery is actually legal in the United States if you’ve been convicted of a crime.” There is no such “loophole” and if a private company can do something cheaper than government can do it itself, many things are outsourced to private companies – garbage collection, parking enforcement, etc., etc. Incarceration for committing a crime is NOT slavery. If you can’t do the time, don’t do the crime. Only an idiot would think the world will listen to him cry that he’s become a slave because he’s been convicted of a crime and finds himself in jail – that use of the word “slave” shows so much disrespect for the real injustices done to people who have gone before us and actually were slaves. The same goes for your use of the phrase “concentration camp.” I’ve seen what’s left of the German concentration camps, and your comparison of anything related to them and modern America is nothing but histrionics – the cheapest of histrionics.

    Then you assure us “The HIV epidemic in the black community can be traced right back to the prisons, where men and women are raped on a regular basis.” According to the CDC, HIV in every community has been spread primarily by unprotected homosexual activity (including in prison populations), infected female prostitutes spreading the disease to their johns and infected needles for drug use. If you have actual facts otherwise, please share them with us.

    Finally, you tell us we now live “…in a world that (builds) a prison cell and casket for every black child on the day they are born.” Well, there must be an awful lot of empty prison cells and caskets out there, because I know a lot of Black Americans who have done quite well for themselves and captured for themselves a fair slice of the American Dream.

    If you want to be a leader of the Black community, Dr. Watkins, and it is clear that you desperately do, you’d best decide to speak the truth, not invent new realities.

    America is in no mood to keep hearing the same ole same ole “It’s all whitey’s fault” from you or anyone else in the self-appointed role of “Black leader.” Enough of the BS, let’s talk about real problems with real facts so we can find real solutions.

    Spend a little less time hanging out with your new celebrity pals, roll up your sleeves and join hands with everyone of every race, creed and color who wants a better America. Change in America is not just about White people changing.




  18. Wonderful start now let’s keep the pressure on, what I don’t understand is how the officer got off innocent when they blatantly shot Oscar on fruitcake station, I think tht they need to be done the same way to send a message tht we will no longer allow cops or the justice system to get away w killing our kids….I am sick of this shit

  19. Thank you Dr. Watkins for your Stance and feelings about Eric holder take the steps to curb unfair sentencing. The next thing I would like to see is us brothers and sisters step up after incarceration and understand that we have value and will not result back to a negative lifestyle that lead us there. I served 9 years in federal prison and you have two type of people there those whose who truly wanted change and those that thought of another way to beat the system. We must wake up and realize that we can create economy power amongst ourself if we had a common goal which is change for a better us. Thank you for all you do
    Robert Moore

  20. I hope Mr. Holder fulfills his commitment concerning this issue. So many of our people have been locked up for decades on relatively minor offenses.

    Deepest condolences on the loss of your Grandmother, Dr. Watkins.

  21. Boyce Watkins crying what a surprise I didn’t think he knew what the word meant after all he has openly criticize both the President and Attorney General Eric Holder many times before so I guess now he finally found some common ground with them

  22. Let’s not think that the fight has been won. I would like to thank all of those who joined in the declaration and forced a government recognition of the problem. But the truth of the matter is, that it’s useless without action. Are they going to vacate some of those sentences, release some with time served? If they are released, where are they going to find jobs? Where are they going to live, eat, play? Who’s going to create the programs to help transition them back into society? Recognizing a problem is one thing. Where’s the action? Where’s the talk of action? What’s next? We need to continue applying pressure until we get change and not just a speech on the problem. It’s time to demand action and not promises and promises of promises. We have been running on fumes too long in our community and we need to gas up the tank and hit the road. We need to demand not only an end to these idiotic laws, but better educational systems. We need to take this moment and say, we have an administration signaling for us to push. We have a several controversial laws on the books, which have created a virtual open season on people of color. And again an administration saying PUSH. What are we going to do? Are we going to stand idly by? Or are we going to PUSH?

  23. Dr Boyce, when are you going to stop regurgitating the Sugar Honey Ice Tea that the CDC/WHO and other alphabet medical gestapo says about Black and HIV and actually research the true history of HIV/Aids?
    Fact: Viruses don’t discriminate according to sex nor race so how can a numerically small group have more cases of a particular viral outbreak than the majority group? FYI, Black women in America are more sexually conservative than white women.
    Fact: HIV has NEVER been isolated nor purified (2 key steps in the discovery of a virus).
    Fact: The so-called HIV tests are ALL bogus tests that measure the reaction of antibodies in one’s system with some proteins.
    Fact: The co-discoverer of HIV, Dr Robert Gallo,was convicted of Scientific Fraud by the Dingle Subcommittee in 1993.
    Here are some resources that you may find useful regarding this subject – Books – Positively False by Joan Shenton, What if Everything that you thought you knew about HIV was wrong by Christine Maggiore; Aids, Opium, Diamonds, and Empire by Dr Nancy turner Banks. Documentaries – House of Numbers and The Other Side of Aids (youtube). And website – http://www.virusmyth.net

  24. Thank you Professor Michelle Alexander for moving this issue …Dr. Boykins & Russell Simmons for getting it done….

  25. Hey ! whats goin on with my favorite pieces of fecal matter ?
    you jigaboos having a good time promoting yourracist N!.gge r
    views on your n! g ge .r world ?
    go have a banana
    ook ook eek eek napas
    cmon now… lets hear some whine. racist this racist that.
    dats beez racist. evil YT is always looking to hold back the black man.
    whine. racist. blah.
    okay goodnight to all you pavement apes out there.

    • Dr. Watkins,

      Please accept my heartfelt condolences on the loss of your Grandma.

      Thank you for saying such kind words with regards to Attorney General Eric Holder. I think it is so important to support our President & his team.

  26. You should be thanking Michelle Alexander instead of inflating the importance of your Johnny-Come-Lately letter with Russell Simmons. Like that did it…

    Michelle Alexander is the Mother of the Movement and the modern day Martin Luther King Jr. Not Dr. Boyce Watkins and Russel ‘Rush’ Simmons. C’mon Sun.

    • If Michele is the “Mother of the movement ” what is the title of the woman that inspired her? Lest we all forget Sister, Commrad, Professor , Dr. Angela Davis has been on the case while Michele was in school…that would be before she attended college! Just saying…

  27. Dr.Watkins and Mr.Eric Holder, may GOD continue to Crown both of you with “WISDOM and KNOWLEDGE from on high.

  28. Thank you all for your commitment to ending those ridiculous sentencing laws and mass incarceration!!!

  29. Dr Watkins I like to start off by saying I respect you very much. you have truly been a light in our darkness. but you know as well as I know throughout their history. they will simply not give us anything by talking we have been reduced to a race of complainers will we continue have to wait every 30 or 50 years to receive justice or for the law to recognize and injustice towards the black man. and the entire world hates us and uses our communities as if they were nothing but tools of monetary gain. oh and I do blame my own also the TD Jakes, Creflo Dollars, Bishop Something profit Telling us without money without sowing seeds we can receive no seeds of growth. if anything we can look at history where there is no fight there is no change. we have brothers and sisters committing suicide do to themselves considering them as failures because they are not given a chance to fulfill the so-called American dream. brothers and sisters being employed 2 to 4 years getting rejected time and time again. for a job that they know that they are well-qualified for left with feelings of worth of nothingness. what you must remember is they hate us. but I will stand in say no justice no peace.

  30. Great Job! Thanks Attorney General Eric Holder…However, there is still much work to be done.

  31. It’s a step in the right directions.

    What I don’t understand about the blacks who are in the media and have a platform never talk about the this.

    King, Medgar, Malcom, Mandela, Patrice Lumumba, Vernon Dahmer, Felix Maumie’, the Panthers who went into exile, Fred Hampton and Mark Clark, just to name a few. What do they all have in common?

    I don’t want to hear about in being in the past, because it’s still happening. Qadahfi is one. You can listen to the propaganda about him being a dictator if you like, but I beg you to read the history. Robert Mugube in Zimbabwe, Kenyette in Kenya, Castro, Chavez.

    They are all people of color who either fought against or are fighting against former colonial powers and America. There are no black people in America fighting because most are indoctrinated into the same mentality of the former colonial powers.

    Bill O’Reilly had a lot to say, and for the most part he was right. We allow them to say this stuff without any responsiblity to the problem. No one talks about Reagan, Iran Contra, Freeway Rick Ross and the CIA. The influx of drugs into the black community in the 80’s was no coinicedence. Bob Johnson and his BET assisting in the destruction of his own people was no coinicedence.

    The problem that black people face today didn’t start in America, it started in Africa. When we start talking about our history, it may empower and strengthen the minds of our your people. You do better when you know better.

  32. Now there’s a man fit & doing Gods’ working!! :-)

  33. God bless Dr. Watkins and Eric Holder!!!

  34. I was happy as well Dr. Watkins when I heard the news. This was the first time that I was happy that this administration did something that will benefit black people.

  35. This great work Dr. Watkins You have saved millions thank you.

  36. Congrats and THANK YOU Dr. Watkins and the people around you for fighting the good fight. It is indeed a great day for black people and people in general. I have seen first hand what drug incarceration has done to our community and families around me. It is a pleasure to see this mandatory rule change, don’t forget they admitted that stop and frisk is unconstitutional. Again Thank you Dr. Watkins and everybody around you. Much love to you brother.

  37. Yo we still at war especially with racism and classism Amerikkka is iLL!!