Things heated up on social media between an Instagrammer who calls himself Lord Abba Nyheim and Dr. Michael Eric Dyson, a Georgetown University professor and author.
The exchange was over Presidential candidate Joe Biden and the notorious crime bill he created with President Bill Clinton in 1994.
Dyson, who has publicly endorsed Biden for president in the 2020 election, appeared to defend the crime bill, which he once opposed. Dyson posted, “…PLENTY of ordinary everyday Black folk and many Black leaders supported it — though I didn’t. And so did Bernie Sanders!”
The necessity and the purpose of the crime bill has long been disputed. What is not disputed is the devastating effect it has had on Black people, who were disproportionately affected and still are affected to this day.
Black Americans represent 13 percent of U.S residents but account for 40 percent of the incarcerated population, according to PrisonPolicy.org.
Clinton later apologized for the crime bill, saying in 2015 that it made mass incarceration worse. “Too many laws were overly broad instead of appropriately tailored,” Clinton said.
“Nothing about the 1994 crime bill was unintentional,” wrote Bruce Shapiro, executive director of the Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma, in a 2016 article in The Nation. The intent of the crime bill was to strike fear across the country about crime “the same way that Donald Trump uses immigration today,” he wrote.
The exchange between Dyson and Lord Abba set off a firestorm of responses on Twitter. One person tweeted, “His response doesn’t change the fact that Biden made his career off of intentionally harming us. He tried to minimize what you were saying. However, we know that the data is clear when it comes to mass incarceration rates among ADOS. Great job checking him fam.”
Another person posted: “Trying to force our people into a false dichotomy is wrong. Forcing us to choose which bullet, which hospital, and which school is gonna kill us. Dyson and alot of our people have gotten so high on capitalism they cant hear their own children dying in the next room.”
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Reading the crime bill’s full text today “feels like stumbling upon a prophecy calling out everything that has since gone wrong with the criminal-justice system,” Shapiro wrote.
The things that have gone wrong, Shapiro wrote, include:
By the time the crime bill was passed, violent crime was already decreasing, Shapiro said.
The bill was not widely accepted and had many opponents.
“Criminologists, civil-rights lawyers, community activists, and members of Congress fought against the bill’s provisions,” The Nation reported. These included Rep. Ron Dellums, co-founder of the Congressional Black Caucus, who voted against it along with 168 other members of the House and 34 senators.
The bill still has repercussions today. Georgia Democratic Rep. Vernon Jones said he would resign from office before completing his term after coming under fire for endorsing President Donald Trump for reelection and attacking Biden over the crime bill. (Jones has since retracted his resignation.)
The crime bill, ultimately, was deemed a failure. “It has been well-documented that these policies were failures,” according to the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank that analyzed the crime bill’s impact and cost to society.