“No task is more urgent for racial justice advocates today than ensuring that America’s current racial caste system is its last.”
~Michelle Alexander in The New Jim Crow
Institutions of incarceration, acting as systems and structures designed to control human behavior, have defined my life prior to me taking my first breath. I say that because American prisons have always had a special relationship with minority communities, particularly African Americans. What is truly chilling though, is to have drawn parallels that connect my life to a corrupt system comparable to this nation’s original sin. This system of oppression builds on the foundation which gave birth to my mother country: the United States of America. I wanted to believe that slavery in America ended with The Civil War, but America’s prisons and my lived experiences have taught me a tragic and unfortunate truth. Slavery still lives in America today, and our constantly evolving value gap between white and colored lives blinds us all from acknowledging our complicit souls within its existence.
As my chills subside, a personal rage is awakened. My rage speaks for those that have been caught as victims of this tragic tool designed to destroy the human soul. Rage for my father, who was incarcerated at the turn of the century. Rage for my brother, who was incarcerated during my freshman year at Howard University. This rage speaks to this system that has deemed their lives – along with millions of others – worthless. America has chosen to splinter freedom and opportunity from those lives, and this is a reality that I cannot rest with. Because of their oppression, I am obligated to fully dismantle this American regime of white hegemony and racial oppression through any means possible.
The evolution of the American penal system in my lifetime seems unreal, but will linger as a shadow over this country for centuries to come. Egregious sentences, felon labels, and systems that operate through bias and intimidation largely define the criminal justice system of today. Relying on ignorance, policing institutions have bogarded their way into our lives, effectively destroying the trust and goodwill that generations before us worked so hard to establish.
The scary reality is that these transgressions are carried out through a myriad of government institutions. Social control of African people is the underlying premise, and we are subjected to undue surveillance and policing practices. America is sick with a disease called racism. As Kwame Ture once wrote, “for racism to die, a totally different America must be born.” I believe that we as a people are entering into a phase of the massive deconstruction of American racial injustice. Our goal is simple: we as a nation must pursue excellence with equity in all aspects of public American life. As in our past, only a revolution of values can bring us to racial reconciliation in America today.