Prison relieves us of the responsibility of seriously engaging with the problems of our society, especially those produced by racism and, increasingly, global capitalism.
Some statistics/facts concerning the prison industrial complex:
- More than two million people out of a world total of nine million now inhabit U.S. prisons, jails, youth facilities, and immigrant detention centers. In the late 1960s there were close to 200,000 people in prison in the United States.
- The U.S. population in general is less than 5% of the world’s total, whereas more than 20% of the world’s combined prison population can be claimed by the United States. Short of major wars, mass incarceration has been the most thoroughly implemented government social program of our time.
- In 2002, there were 157,979 people incarcerated in the state of California alone, including approximately 20,000 people whom the state holds for immigration violations.
- In 1990, a study of U.S. prison populations was published which concluded that 1 in 4 black men between the ages of 21-29 were in prison and jail and on parole or probation. Five years later, a second study revealed that this percentage had soared to almost 1 in 3. More than 1 in 10 Latino men of the same age were in jail or prison, or on probation or parole. The second study also revealed that the group experiencing the greatest increase was black women, whose imprisonment increased by 78%.
Reelblack checked in with Dr. Angela Davis during her recent stop at Bryn Mawr College. In this short clip she discusses her latest books on Prison Reform. (apologies for the poor audio—please take time to hear this great woman’s words)
In connection with these lynching and their countless barbarities, the myth of the Black male rapist was conjured up. It could only acquire its terrible powers of persuasion within the irrational world of racist ideology. However irrational the myth may be, it was not a spontaneous aberration. On the contrary, the myth of the Black rapist was a distinctly political invention. As Frederick Douglass points out, Black men were not indiscriminately labeled as rapists during slavery. Throughout the entire Civil War, in fact, not a single Black man was publicly accused of raping a white woman. If Black men possessed an animalistic urge to rape, argued Douglass, this alleged rape instinct would have certainly been activated when white women were left unprotected by their men who were fighting in the Confederate Army.
"The white man that landed here, he came with two great weapons: one is the bible and the other was the gun. If [he] didn’t humble you with the bible, [he] crumbled you with the gun." (Deceit and Violence)
Black Power Mixtape is a documentary film consisting of archival footage from Sweden. It’s worth a watch and has been showing repeatedly on PBS lately. Of course, a critical “eye” should be used whenever viewing material (especially when it’s produced during a time when the world is dominated by Racism). Nonetheless, there were some very interesting statements and observations made by people like Kwame Toure and Angela Davis.
Suggestion to Victims of Racism: Get serious about revolution/resolution.
“Revolution is a serious thing, the most serious thing about a revolutionary’s life. When one commits oneself to the struggle, it must be for a lifetime.”
| Angela Davis