Racism, Crime, and The Prison System

The same article of the US constitution (the thirteenth amendment) that was used to abolish slavery and/or involuntary servitude is also utilized to legalize it. The thirteenth amendment reads (very clearly) that slavery shall not be imposed except in those instances when a person has been convicted of a crime. Thus, all that is needed is a conviction to legally enslave. It should come as no surprise that to obtain a conviction for a person with an impoverished status, in a judicial setting that is biased against the Black and the poor and inclined toward the wealthy, the White and the influential; is a rudimentary process,

The wholesale imprisonment of Black people is, consistently, an integral and traditional practice of American jurisprudence. Whether on the local, state or federal level; throughout American history Black people have been routinely exploited as a cheap and readily available labor source as well as a convenient scapegoat for the nation’s hatred, paranoia, and guilt.

This selective, planned incarceration of Black people is for a variety of reasons and purposes. It is not by accident that African Americans, while only comprising 13 percent of the nation’s population, make up between 60 and 70 percent of the jail and prison population nationwide.[1]

Once convicted and imprisoned, Blacks can be legally used as components of government and corporate sponsored slave labor. We get a overt indication of this practice with the resurgence of chain gangs in the South, and the development and establishment of private companies investing in Prisons and buying and trading prison stock on the commodities market.[2]

Moreover, imprisoned Blacks are removed from the nation’s outside (free) labor force, and thus competition with Whites for jobs and other services are greatly reduced. And the prison industrial complex simultaneously provides jobs and career opportunities for Whites as correctional officers, counselors, medical personnel, teachers, plumbers, dieticians, electricians, construction workers, parole officers, social worker, etc.- which in turn serves as a safety valve against White resentment and unemployment.[3] Moreover, imprisoned Blacks are suitably taken out of circulation, preventing them from producing Black offspring and from being fathers to those already born.

There are essentially three ways to make a living in America. A person must either work, go on welfare or steal. Once the avenues of Black employment are tightened, and the social service resources strangled the result is an upswing in Black crime as well as a correlative increase in jail and prison expansion. Legislation is enacted to hire more police and guards, and to expand existing penal institutions and to build new ones. Everywhere, the results of crime and criminality are vilified and condemned, but almost no where are the causes of crime being addressed, rectified or alleviated with the same determination and zeal.

The problems of crime in America are complex, combining social, economic, moral. and political factors. And no one factor should be indicated without placing due emphasis on the others.

We live in a society that pays lip service to the principles of law, order, and justice, yet where no earnest or viable system has been established to prevent or to discourage the destructive societal elements that erode the universal moral law and that cause havoc and imbalance in society.

On the one hand we are warned to be obedient to the nations laws. We are admonished of the dire consequences that we will incur if we transgress the boundaries set up for us. Yet on the other hand, we are systematically shut out of the nations economic arena, stigmatized with the stains of revulsion, violence, and worthlessness, and encouraged in the wild pursuit of pleasure and the mindless acquisition of material objects at whatever means and at all costs.

From the very beginning, Black people in America have been targeted by the countries legal and extra legal agents and agencies. The reasons for this are both fundamental and complex, and they are rooted in the abominable and savage legacy of American slavery and centuries of systematic dehumanization against Black people in particular and people of color in general.

There is coiled in the psyche of the rulers of America, a deep and abiding fear. It is an unshakable dread of retribution for centuries of oppression, exploitation and genocide and a white racist fear of genetic dissolution and annihilation, brought on by the realization that whites are a minority of the world population, and a projected minority in the United States by the year 2050.

Indeed, the huge number of Black people locked away in the nation’s jails and prisons is not surprising when one remembers that literally millions of Black people were initially kidnaped and brought over to the Americas in chains to endure a continual existence of fetters, slavery, and unimaginable cruelty.

Only relatively recently (within the last 150 years) have Black people been released from this abject state to taste a semblance of freedom. Although many historians and social scientists believe that Blacks were only released from chattel slavery because of the industrial revolution and the gradual infeasibility of the institution itself. Yet the mind set and infrastructure that promotes fear, greed, cruelty, paranoia, and racism is still firmly in place, although it has been fine-tuned to give the appearance of justice and equality. But if we take a closer look, it is readily available for all to see.

The association of Black people with crime and criminality has existed in America for centuries and has been utilized as a justification to treat Blacks as wild beasts and dangerous animals that must be beaten, circumvented and confined. Moreover it serves as a reason why Black people (as a whole) are consistently on the bottom rung of the economic, political, and social rungs. After all, it can be explained away that Blacks are just sub-human and beast-like creatures who (despite the benevolence of Whites ) just can’t seem to do any better. Khari Enharo in his powerful book, "Race Code War" explains:

"This word (criminal) more than any other is directly connected to Black males. When a Black male walks into a room, a criminal has just entered the premises. This imagining leads to such activities as racial profiling which is one of the most recognized public manifestations of racial criminalization. Black males are now being tagged as future criminals and are called predators or super- predators. In the population control psyche, the lowering of the birth rate in the Black community is defined as reducing crime. That is why the infant mortality rate among Black people here and abroad is still higher than among Whites."[4]

There is a purpose and a methodology that fuels the crusade to project Black people as criminals, and to arrest and incarcerate them. This is hatched by a hidden perception in the minds of White racists, that Black people, left unhampered on the plane of equal opportunity and justice, will dominate the economic, political, and academic realms just as they have dominated the arenas of amateur and professional sports. In fact, the racism that permeates the institutions of America and which is prevalent in White minds is so much a part of America and so ingrained in the cultural norms and reflexes of Euro-Americans that it is considered normal, natural, and routine and often goes unnoticed by the racists themselves. Joe Feagin and Herma Vera, give insight into this strange phenomenon in their groundbreaking book, "White Racism, The Basics":

"Racialized ways of feeling and acting are widely disseminated by parents, peers, the media, and the educational system. They are passed along from generation to generation. Whites can avail themselves of this racialized thinking as needed. Racial categories form part of this Eurocentric culture off-the-shelf taxonomics that classify and organize certain features of the social world into a coherent whole. In this sense, racial categories form part of the social blueprint Whites use to orient their actions. The broad availability of racial categories, prejudices, and myths helps to explain, to a certain extent, how many new immigrants to the United States quickly adopt negative images of African Americans. Many immigrants from Europe and other parts of the globe hold antiblack prejudices and stereotypes even before they set foot in the country. These beliefs and myths are imbibed from US movies, television programs, and publications, which are now viewed in every country around the globe. The US version of modern White racism is more than a national phenomenon, for it now encircles the globe."[5]

Engineering Crime and Violence

Many Black urban areas have literally become enclaves of violence and economic and social decay. This is, of course, by design and not by accident.

Wherever large numbers of Black people live, we find that wealth, investments, subsidies and education, are pulled out, drastically reduced, or withheld. While destructive substances, such as alcoholic beverages, drugs, weapons and the ills of unemployment, homelessness, urban blight etc.) are substituted, encouraged, and allowed free rein. The tremendous stress of living in a crowded, underdeveloped and repressed environment is conducive to a litany of physical and psychological ailments. And feelings of frustration, anger, anxiety, and hopelessness, coupled with(the ever availability) of drugs, gambling, and liquor, result in neglect, crime and death. Authors Robert Johnson and Paul Leighton write:

"Several powerful dynamics hinder us in seeing the situation clearly. The larger society is quite removed from the grim life circumstances and daily degradations experienced by poor Blacks, and hence the average American has little real feeling for the forces that shape their lives. Much of the destruction of Black life occurs in urban ghettos. Not unlike their counterparts in Nazi-occupied Europe, these ghettos are a no-man’s land to people from the larger society. These environments are, in fact, the fundamental equivalent of prisons; people in these oppressed settings desperately want out, and those who make it out to better worlds desperately want to stay out. Few people visit ghettos willingly, unless they have relatives there; even fewer aspire to reside there if other choices are available. As a result, the indirect casual chain that ends with systematically high rates of mortality in these invisible ghettos can be hard for outsiders- the larger society- to appreciate. Here, death flows not from gas chambers and state sponsored torture but from Conditions marked by deprivation and desperation."[6]

In short, people infected with racist attitudes, create depressed urban areas, which produces toxic and inhumane conditions, which result in sickness, crime, incarceration and death.

Notes and References:

[1] "Numbers of Blacks in Prisons Nears 1 million" Louise D. Palmer, Seattle Post (Tuesday March 2, 1999)

[2] "Private Prisons: Profits of Crime" Covert Action Quarterly (Fall 1993 issue)

[3]. Ibin

[4]. Khari Enhaharo, "Race Code War" African American Images, Chicago Ill. – (2003) p.90

[5]. Joe R. Feagin & Herman Vera, ‘White Racism" Routledge, 29 West 85th St – New York, NY (1995) p. 8

[6]. "Black Genocide? Preliminary Thoughts on the Plight of America’s Poor Black Men" by Robert Johnson & Paul Leighton, accessible online at: http://www.paulsjusticepage.com/reality-of-justice/blackgenocide.htm