The first I’d heard about an alternative lifestyle called “down low” was when Dr. Monica Sweeney spoke of it at the Health Crisis meeting called by Congressman Major Owens. She explained, “What is ‘life on the down low?’ That means there are men who are married or otherwise connected to a female partner, who, when they have their infidelities, have it with men and their partners are totally unsuspecting.”
Where did this kind of behavior come from, this “down low” lifestyle of men sleeping with men? Provocatively featured in The New York Times Magazine, this behavior that Dr. Sweeney warned us about is spreading HIV/AIDS throughout African-American communities to devastating effects. “It comes from the prison system,” said the caller to WBAI (99.5FM), and her words rang true. Of course the prison system would play a part in this. After all, that’s where the unbelted pants and untied shoes come from. And sex in prisons is a long-known worldwide phenomenon that comes from incarcerating men for long periods of time. The race of the person has nothing to do with it. But here in the United States, we have a situation where blacks, while only 13% of the U.S. population, are 50% of all prison inmates. In fact, the Justice Policy Institute notes, “Between 1980 and 2000, it is estimated that African-American men were added to the prison system at 3 times the rate they were added to colleges. During that period, 21,800 African American men were estimated to have been added to the prison system and 7,247 were added to colleges. In 2000, one out of three young black men was either locked up, on probation, or on parole.” This explains how Medgar Evers College in Brooklyn has an enrollment that is 78% female, mirroring the situation we find at Historically Black Colleges across the country.
In New York State, these men come mostly from neighborhoods here in the city, and if you live in central Brooklyn, then “behind the prison wall” is really the room in the next building. And when men are released from a punitive rather than rehabilitating environment, from an environment that does not allow them to learn, to grow and to come to their senses, and they are dropped off on the street by bus or subway directly from the prison door without being phased into society, then many times the behaviors they were practicing yesterday are transferred to the next block or around the corner.
The Lowdown on the “Down Low”:
And yet that doesn’t explain where it comes from, this acting on a desire, while uncaringly and wantonly spreading disease throughout the general population. Dr. Amos Wilson said that when you look at this kind of situation, you have to ask, “Who benefits from this aberration in the Black man’s mind? What is the social, political and economic benefit, and for whom?”
Taking Dr. Wilson’s admonitions to heart we ask, “What is the social role, function and benefits of this behavior, who profits?”
If you look at the net effect of this reported “downlow” culture, it has to be acknowledged as being a White supremacist’s favorite dream. Black men removing themselves from sexual competition for females, and when they do compete in the heterosexual market, they spread the highly communicable and deadly disease, HIV/AIDS. While being highly profitable for the pharmaceutical and health care industries, at the same time it destroys the African-American community, certainly making it easier here in Brooklyn for Whites to buy or “gentrify” as these system beneficiaries innocently call it when they smilingly move in up the block.
Continuum of Community Destruction
This disease and takeover of the Black communities is occurring at the end of a forty-year process, so let’s take a look at how we got here. In the December 1999 issue of OTP, we wrote about the history of Africans-in-America and the continuum of States’methods used to break down our communities. The following is an excerpt from that issue.
“After the Voting Rights Act of 1965, there was a quickening impatience with the White supremacist culture of the United States. The anger erupted in the street rebellions of the 60’s. These were first met with troops and tanks and then as the anger became more focused and organized, there was a Counter-Intelligence Program. Known as COINTELPRO, this operation combined city, state and federal law enforcement agencies in a joint effort to destroy the increasingly militant activism of the African-American community. Groups like the Black Panther Party were infiltrated and destroyed. Misinformation was sown and African-American dissenters were treated by law enforcement agencies in the same way as dissenters are in any country with very strict rules for minority people and dissenting opinions. Some like Fred Hampton were murdered in their beds. Others were shot down in the streets or jailed on false charges. This history continues to live on in prisons where many of those politically-active black people are still held today.
One of the things that may have been learned by COINTELPRO operatives was that African-Americans are an unusually resilient and community-centered people – there is a legacy of spirituality and self-help-and a way had to be found to break that. It was during the Sixties that highly addictive and debilitating compounds, drugs, became readily available in African-American communities across the country. If you want to know where in the world the drugs at the corner were coming from, look to where in the world the CIA was active at the time. In the Sixties, the heroin epidemic came in from CIA cohorts in Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam. This is extensively documented in Al McCoy’s book, “The Politics of Heroin in Southeast Asia.”
Going into minute detail, McCoy shows how the CIA’s connection with its covert allies led directly to the heroin epidemic of the 1960’s. The crack explosion coincided with the CIA’s work on behalf of the Reagan administration in support of the Nicaraguan Contras in the mid-Eighties. In Dark Alliance, investigative reporter Gary Webb reveals the connections between the Contras, the CIA and the crack epidemic of the 1980’s. In one instance, Danilo Blandon, a CIA “asset”, was reported to have brought in “easily” 55 tons of cocaine between 1980 and 1991. This is only one of the people controlling deliveries destined for African-American communities. As one convicted deputy put it in Dark Alliance, “I didn’t pump 500 tons of cocaine into the ghetto. The United States government can’t say that.”
Prison “Seasoning”: Updating Human Software
One of the distinguishing features of the slavery business was the one-to-three-year formal process known as “seasoning.” This was when new captives from Africa were terrorized and programmed into slavery and their roles on the plantations. If we were to judge the United States as we do people, that is by what it does rather than by what it says, then the current criminal justice system can be seen as an updated version of the “seasoning” process. It catches unending streams of black men and puts them into cages for the installation of new behavior software to fit the current needs of the ruling classes. Farmwork is long past and the industrial age is shifting offshore. The remnants of those jobs and the remaining technical, government and small businesses can be handled by a much smaller workforce. There are people needed in the service areas, but according to a New York judge, those folks won’t need more than an eighth-grade education.
So one of the things that is done is shown in a report from the College Consortium at Bedford Hills Correctional Facility. They note that “in 1994, under a provision of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act, Congress eliminated inmate eligibility for Pell Grants. Allowing inmate access to Pell Grants was viewed as taking money away from law-abiding citizens, despite the fact that inmate education accounted for 1/10 of 1% of the Pell Grants’ annual budget. At the time that federal support was removed, extensive research demonstrated that recidivism rates decline significantly with higher education. Despite the evidence, by 1995, all but eight of the 350 college programs in prisons were closed nationwide. As public funds for college education in all New York State prisons were eliminated, a successful college program at BHCF, run by Mercy College from 1984 through 1994, closed its doors. Given the extraordinarily low levels of educational achievement with which most enter prison, this loss was not only educationally consequential but also, according to reports from women and corrections officers at BHCF, profound in terms of morale and discipline.”
Did you spot the enemy’s PR marker in the above paragraph? It’s “viewed as taking money away from law-abiding citizens.” That’s the way a lobbyist says, “You’re taking money from White people and giving it to Blacks.” What’s left unspoken is that it’s being used to give them an education and the collective subconscious, part social-engineering and part genetics, does not even want them to survive.
New Technology Leads Way
to Solving Control Problem
One of the technologies used in WWI was social engineering, and the importance of the work of Dr. Edward Bernays, “The Father of Public Relations,” cannot be overstated. Bernays was the author of Crystallizing Public Opinion (1923), Propaganda (1928) and The Engineering of Consent (1947). During the war, he worked for the U.S. Committee on Public Information (CPI), the group charged with marketing the war to the American people. It was they who developed the WWI rallying cry, “To make the world safe for democracy,” to help bind the nation behind the war, and also to create the template for all the war-rallying that has followed. From these kinds of government projects, as well as work being done with mass psychology in the private sector, it would indicate that state-of-the-art social engineering is a tool that any ruling class or business has in its kit.
I believe it is this cumulative use in business and government, expressed most visibly in advertising and political action committees, that creats a collective subconscious that is always looking for profit and racial control and because it’s exercised mostly by Whites, there is a peculiar sense of racial superiority and animosity is exercised as well. That’s why an obvious solution – education in prisons – is a very difficult idea.
This subconscious would have had two intolerable situations developing after WWII. African-American businesses were growing in pockets around the country and African-American children, taught in second-class schools by first-class teachers who believed in them, were becoming increasingly militant and vocal.
Working in a way that is not a conspiracy but has the effect of one, government and business were able to take the journey for equal rights, for which African-Americans had marched and fought for during the Fifties and Sixties, and transform it into a movement that “wins” by having White businesses accept Black patronage and demanding that European people educate (or miseducate, according to Carter G. Woodson) Black children.
A popular quote by Bernays from Propaganda is, “The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in a democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitutes an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country…. We are governed, our minds are molded, our tastes formed, our ideas suggested, largely by men we have never heard of.”
“My People are Destroyed for Lack
of Knowledge…” Hosea 3:6
Referring to what is needed to cure the current conditions of Africans in America, Reverend Johnny Ray Youngblood, of East New York’s St. Paul Community Baptist Church, says that “when ‘our’ masses begin acknowledging and purging the pain of the past, profound political, social and economic change is inevitable.” Toward that end, for the last nine years St. Paul has hosted a “Commemoration of the MAAFA”, a Kiswali term encompassing the experience of millions of Africans during the Middle Passage, when they were brought to the Americas for enslavement.
In workshops and seminars led by experts in their field, the Commemoration seeks to reveal the American situation and that “The way out is back through.” And in that knowledge we have the key to stopping unhealthy, self-destructive and community-degrading behavior. We have to also remember that in a very real way, helping us to rebuild will be an old spirit. Brought together by technology and the conditions of African people worldwide, there is a new excitement around Pan-Africanism, the work of the African Union and the tantalizing promise of the synergy of the AU’s proposed “Region Six”, comprised of the Diaspora with all of its economic and political potential.
If we can stop the violence, stop the disease, and exercise the right to