The beautiful Hannah and I just watched a documentary together….WHAT? I know it doesn’t happen often but she actually sat down and learned WITH me. But that’s not my point.
My point is that this nation has a history that sucks. We have institutionally accepted horrible things happening to our own citizens since the beginning of the country and allowed institutionalized slavery to continue to present day. And since there is an election coming up don’t think I am speaking as if one side started or stopped this. They are all guilty as #$@#@ and need to be held accountable. Johnson, Nixon, Reagan, Bush, Clinton, Bush Jr., Obama…all have allowed slavery to continue in newer forms. Don’t believe me? Watch The 13th on Netflix.
Are you back? Or never left?
Here’s what I learneded, there is a line in the 13th amendment, which ended slavery in its previous form, that allows men (people) to be free as long as they are not being a punished for crime. Which sounds great until people are falsely arrested, forced into a plea bargain and then have a felony on their records FOR LIFE. This causes them to not be able to vote in many states, not be able to receive government assistance, not rent, not be employed, and even not receive life insurance. After the US Civil War, prisoners were used to help rebuild a lot of cities and infrastructure destroyed in former slave owning areas. It was a good deal. If you needed more “workers” simply round up former slaves for loitering or trespassing, since they no longer had jobs or places to live. This started what we see today with over 2 million people in the prison industrial complex. That is people that are under house arrest, on long probation or physically in a facility. Bogus loitering charges still exist, but often drugs or theft is involved. We all have heard stories of police planting evidence, (Google has about 1,280,000 results in 0.49 seconds) and of quotas. It’s like they HAVE to arrest people to keep their jobs, right?
The movie delves deeper into the money side of it. How laws are passed to arrest more people and politicians use code words to scare the public into behaving or make us feel safer when we feel attacked. We like when we hear people will have to serve 85% of sentences and Mandatory Minimums and 3 Strikes. But then we start hearing what is actually happening to people who are arrested. How they are coerced into plea deals, and not allowed to leave because of high bails. Even 10% of 10k is often still too much for working people or single mothers created by their husband, boyfriend or baby daddy serving life for a third strike, 2/3rd of which might have been false.
I believe police have hard jobs and attempt to do good the majority of the time. I also think they are trained to identify people of color as guilty and Caucasians as victims. This has more to do with what I have heard from experienced people than from any article on the interwebs. People of color being stopped and ticketed for small offences (5 over, broken taillight, out of state tags too long) while I was let go with a warning many times. Or larger offenses like possession of drugs not being reported for white friends, while people of color were illegally searched to find them. Therefore I truly believe that lives of crimes and drugs come from circumstances. To gain power and money to get out of the “rough life”, but then get a felony and keep the cycle going in your family tree. If you don’t have privilege or opportunity you fight more for it and bend the rules to get there. I have met too many people on the streets with felonies from 19 or 20 years of age that limit them when 50. Lesser jobs, lesser apartments, lesser insurances, lesser lives and so falling back into the escape of drugs and then the need to crime. Yes, crime as a verb.
Instead of helping people break the cycle though it seems like the government is enabling the profiting off of poor, uneducated and disproportionately people of color specifically in the prison complex. Instead of setting up a safety net that would help most, the system mandates felons can’t live in subsidized housing, penalizes family unity by limiting food and job benefits per address, and caps the limited benefits people can legally get in a tight timeline. So people numb themselves with illegal drugs and resort to crime to buy food and keep the cycle going.
The major problem that The 13th exposes though is that prisons in this country are for profit, privately run institutions. Therefore they need “raw materials” to make profits. Unfortunately this leads to arresting people that can’t defend themselves in court. Those who have been raised to fear the authority of police and all law enforcement. Those whose fathers were arrested and served time for the same or similar crimes they will fall into. If they were public run, I am not saying this wouldn’t happen it. But I am saying that if they were charitably non-profit they would attempt to be run out of business.
I have more in my head that I’m not sure I have the words to say and realize I am just rambling so will leave you to ponder this quote from the film.
“We (African-Americans) thought, I mean they called the end of slavery “Jubilee”, we thought we were done then. And then you had a 100 years of Jim Crow, terror and lynching. Dr. King, these guys come on the scene, Ella Jo Baker, Fannie Lou Hamer, we get the bills passed to vote then they break out the handcuffs, label you felon, you can’t vote or get a job. So we don’t know what the net iteration of this will be, but it will be. It will be. And we will have to be vigilant.” Van Jones
Stay woke y’all, especially those in the racial voting majority like me.