Thursday, September 24, 2015

The Color of Justice in America

From The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander

Today most Americans know and don't know the truth about mass incarceration. For more than three decades, images of black men in handcuffs have been a regular staple of the evening news. We know that large numbers of black men have been locked in cages. In fact, it is precisely because we know that black and brown people are far more likely to be imprisoned that we, as a nation, have not cared too much about it. We tell ourselves people like Rev. Pinkney deserve their fate even though we know he did not do anything wrong. We tell ourselves they deserve their fate even though we know and don't know that whites are just as likely to commit many crimes, especially drug crimes.

We know that people released from prison face a lifetime of discrimination, scorn, and exclusion and yet we claim not to know that an undercaste exists. We know and we don't know at the same time.

It is relatively easy to understand how Americans come to deny the evils of mass incarceration. Denial is facilitated by persistent racial segregation in housing and schools, by demagoguery, by racialized media imagery, and by the ease of changing one's perception of reality simply by changing television channels.

There is little reason to doubt the prevailing "common sense" that black and brown men have been locked up en masse merely in response to crime rates when one's sources of information are mainstream media outlets. In many respects, the reality of mass incarceration is easier to avoid knowing than the injustices and sufferings associated with slavery or Jim Crow. Those confined to prisons are out of sight and out of mind. Once released they are typically confined in ghettos.

Most Americans only come to know about the people cycling in and out of prisons through fictional police dramas, music videos, gangsta rap, and "true accounts" of ghetto experience on the corrupt evening news.

Most Americans never hear about the paid informants and do not care, as long as a person is sent to prison. Today 81% of those responding to a Gallup Poll agreed with the statement that law and order has broken down in this country and the majority blamed Blacks, for starting "riots," and "communists."
This country has declared war on Black people. We must say enough is enough! Evidence does not lie! Judges lie, prosecutors lie, sheriffs lie, and police chiefs lie, but evidence does not lie.

-Rev. Pinkney