N.Y. Lawmaker Calls for Greater Focus on IT, Less on Jails

A senior congressman from New York on Tuesday urged state legislators across the country to push for greater use of "color blind" technologies, such as computers and the Internet, to help eradicate the last vestiges of racism in the United States.

Attaining such a goal is easier said than done, however, when massive amounts of government dollars are being spent on jails and incarcerating nonviolent criminals instead of on information technology infrastructure, said Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.).

Rangel made the remarks at "Resolving the Digital Divide: Information Access and Opportunity," a program sponsored by the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies and held at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, Washington, D.C.

"Computers don't know who we are and don't care about our color," Rangel said. "They should be used to break through the last vestiges of racism."

The ranking member of the House Ways and Means Committee said he continues to be dumbfounded by state legislators nationwide who fight for jails and not for education, particularly in less affluent areas that lack high-tech infrastructure. "We need to bring the educational systems to the same level so that the kids understand computers and the Internet...so instead of hemorrhaging on our economy, they can make a contribution," Rangel said.

"America cannot move forward with these chains and balls around our economic ankles -- with the jail population continuing to explode," Rangel said, adding that he plans to propose legislation that will provide tax incentives for teachers and school systems to incorporate and make better use of technology in the classroom.

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