SYSTEMIC RACISM IS AS AMERICAN AS APPLE PIE
In part 5 of a 6 part series on the prison industrial complex, I am going to discuss how this – systemic and systematic racism – is a part of the fabric of the country we all call home. It’s taken 150 years to get here. It’s going to take a lot of hard work, sweat, and tears to fix this thing.
To see it laid out like this, in such stark detail is not easy. It’s not easy to know our leaders have been such horrific racists and liars. It’s no longer an option to pretend we don’t see it, however.
It’s no longer an option to pretend those people deserve to be in prison. It just isn’t. It’s no longer an option not to use our privilege to help set this right. If you are white, you won the skin lottery. It’s that simple. It was LUCK that you wear the color you do.
It’s no longer an option to pretend that your skin sets you apart in any way whatsoever. You are not better. You don’t DESERVE more.
WE MUST DO BETTER
Going back to those idiots who wanted to be able to say white power from part 1, I didn’t want to engage them. I knew better. I knew where it was going to lead. I absolutely knew they would talk about “Irish slavery” and how they should be allowed to be proud of their race.
If you recall, I told them that “white” isn’t even a race, it’s a social construct. I am a Viking, for example. I am profoundly proud of that, obviously. None of them knew their actual ancestry, though. They were simply proud of their “whiteness,” and they refused to understand why that alone was so very racist.
It didn’t end well. None of the idiots learned a thing. I left there with one less friend than I had before I started. But that doesn’t mean I did the wrong thing. I stood up for what I knew was right, even in the face of all that vitriol and ridiculousness, and I would do it again in a heartbeat.
I told myself a long time ago that I have a zero tolerance policy.
We ALL must adopt a zero-tolerance policy. It is no longer acceptable to walk away when things get difficult. It’s no longer an option to allow little things to slip because it’s easier, either. This problem is bigger than that.
This problem deserves our undivided attention right now, as people of color have been waiting more than 150 years for us to notice.
THE PROBLEM IS SYSTEMIC
As you can see by now, the problem is systemic and has been going on far longer than any of us have been alive. All of these events have conspired in a perfect storm of repression that has kept people of color on an uneven footing for far too long.
Remember too, that once they have been to jail people are branded a felon for life. Once branded a felon, they can never vote, and they have a horrible time finding a job. They are nearly unemployable merely because they are labeled a felon.
Michelle Alexander said in the Documentary the 13th that:
“So many aspects of the old Jim Crow are suddenly legal again once you’ve been branded a felon. And so it seems that in America we haven’t so much ended racial caste, but simply redesigned it.”
Most of these events have been out of our hands, of course. We were no more complicit in this than we are in any of President Donald Trump’s ridiculous antics. However, we have all been complicit to some extent because we knew to one degree or another something wasn’t right. We knew some pretty underhanded stuff was going on, even if we didn’t understand the scope of the problem. It’s easy to ignore this issue because we tell ourselves that they deserve it.
We tell ourselves that they deserve to be in jail because they broke the law. Simple as that.
WRONG. Dead wrong.
RACISM IN THE LAW
Here are a few more statistics to show just how wrong that sentiment is. It starts with the police in the streets and goes all the way through prison and parole. Statistics will show that no matter what they want you to believe, racism is alive and well in America’s police forces.
Let’s start with police searches. Say you get pulled over while driving your car. If you are Black, you are three times more likely to have your vehicle searched than if you are white. Three times! Now, say you are found carrying a little bag of weed in your car. If you are Black, you are twice as likely to get arrested than if you are white. This statistic means they show leniency to white people twice as often as they do for people of color.
Next comes the disparity in sentencing. Imagine for a moment you got arrested and charged for that little bag of weed the police found in your car. If you are Black, your sentence will be 20 percent longer than if you were white. Black people have also been found to be far more likely to be sentenced to death than white people.
In every stage of the justice system, every single person the “criminal” comes into contact with is a potential threat. If they survive the encounter with the police at all, as you can see, the likelihood that they will find themselves in some trouble is more than twice as high as if they were white.
So as you can see, starting after the Civil War, people of color have been shoved from one system of oppression straight into another one. It’s only in modern times that we can piece it all together and see it laid out in stark detail.
In part 6 of the series, we will talk about what you can do. Things may seem hopeless, but we have many more tools nowadays than ever before. We have the world at our fingertips nearly all the time. Use that for some good. Talk to people. Read some things. Learn some stuff.
Most of all, stay willing to be uncomfortable because it’s in those moments when real growth occurs. Click here to keep it real and read some real-life stories of what it’s like in America’s system of “justice.”
Featured Image via YouTube Video.