Week 3 of Victim Impact.
Wow today was a very intense day, to say the least. The topic started out on education and the importance of education. One of the questions was how much is enough. During that discussion the topic of race and history came up. To me this is an important topic. Some of the other facilitators did not think that this issue was relevant.
One of the thing we suffer from, not only in this country but the world over, is fear of the truth. The truth is that many African- Americans lack the information that other races have that make them feel proud of how they are. The history, as it is taught in this country, of Blacks began on a boat; on a boat in chains in shackles. What does that say about the trans-generational trauma that many Blacks suffer from today.
It is a known fact that certain behavioral habits/traits and diseases can be breed into a race of people. Look at the disposition that the Native Americans have to certain diseases, alcohol in particular, that stems from the introduction of those diseases in their communities as they were fighting for the land that was taken from them. It is a fact that alcohol was used as a means to buy off and control the natives by the white settlers.
In the case of African-Americans we suffer from some of the same trans-generational trauma, if not more. Some of the myths of Africans still are used today. From the comparisons of our penises, shoe sizes. lips hair types etc. Black women right now have a mountain of identity issues when it comes to being accepted in this country. As to what is beautiful and what it looks like. It says a lot when you see a Black woman dye her hair blonde and wear blue colored contacts. Everyone has the option to dress as they want it is just sad that the image of beautiful has to come from outside oneself. What makes a person beautiful is not what is on the outside but what is on the inside.
So what does this have to do with victim impact? A lot! History plays a major role in the acts that many of us commit. It is not the focus on the program but it is a starting point for many. An example of this is that almost everyone incarcerated dropped out of school. I believe that there are two systems in this country that allows it to thrive and fail at the same time.
The education and criminal justice system. Almost everyone who drops out of the educational system find themselves within the criminal justice system. Almost everyone who takes education serious almost never find themselves in the criminal justice system. Not to say that they have perfect crime free live but due the having a certain amount of education they have other options and more opportunities.
I believe that the more education one has the less likely they are going to, either come to prison or come back to prison upon release. Often crime is committed due to lack of education. One of the most monumental cases of our time is Brown v the Board of Education. It is a historical case in a time and era that had many challenges in terms of equality. This land mark case changed the education system in this country forever. I asked the question how many guys ever heard of this case and only 3 hands went up! If many of the young men in the class understood the implications of this case would they take education more serious? See this is one example where knowing history plays a critical role in the choices that one makes as it concerns committing crimes etc. Not to say that it is the end to all but it is a start. As we talk about victim impact it is important that we talk about education and history at the same time.
Another fiery topic that came up is role models and aspirations. I made a statement that the role of role models has been misplaced. That the true role models for our children are the fathers and mothers that bear them. Some of the guys mentioned what did I think about Obama and him being a role model. I told them that I did not believe that he will not be a role model for the children that I have one day. That, regardless of my past and the bad choices that I have made in life, I will be that role model for my kids. I also mentioned that what they were using, mentioning him to be a role model because he is the first “black” president is misplaced responsibility. That it is easier to point your children in the direction of someone else to aspire to be like than it is to change the behavior that is needed to be the role model and example that our children and communities really need.
This did not sit well with some of the men as it seems as if I was to giving credit to the achievement of Obama. It is not that I am not recognizing the accomplishment. It is I am not going to put my job off on him. This has become a pattern that is found in the urban communities. Whenever something goes wrong people place the blame on external sources. Not to say that there are no outside influences in the decisions that are made; but to say that there has to be some accountability as well. This attitude is very common in those that refuse to admit that crime and anti social behavior is a result of their actions. That at the end of if all it boils down to the choices that are made, individually.
It is unfortunate that the institutionalization of these communities are as such. The harsh reality is that a lot of the conditions we have created ourselves. If one does not want to admit to that at least admit and own up to the conditions that, individually, have been made. Choices that have lead to the destruction of communities and lives. That is the part that as individuals we have control.
Those around us are our best teachers. What we learned we learned from others. So when we talk about role models we have to be the example that we want others to live by. It is not the job of another black athlete, politician, doctor etc. It is the role that we must fulfill. This is where it becomes important to know history, as a starting point; To use as an example.
This is not an easy journey as it means changing belief systems, values and mind-sets. It is a challenge to get someone who has been a victim to realize that through this he/she has become the victimizer. It is a challenge but hopefully some one gets it.
I asked a question in the last class and yesterday one of the younger guys approached me and mentioned to me what happened to him. I challenged all of the men there that had children that if they told their child that if they had one wish what would they wish for. I told them that most of them would wish that they were there with them. This guy did this and his daughter told him, ” I wish that you were here with me.” He said that it bought tears to his eyes.
There is another guy that meet is father in prison for the first time. They were in a state prison together doing time together. His father went to prison shortly after he was born for Life. He never meet his son until his son came to prison 20 years later. They spent 4 years together and when the son left he knew that he was leaving his father behind forever; that he would never see him again.
This guy came up to me later and vowed to do and be better for his son when he went home. I thought that it was all talk. He began getting serious about his GED studies, he even got a tutor to spend time with outside the class. He has opened up more in class. He has even severed some of the negative ties that he has.
So although it is a challenge it is worth it. If one persons life is change it makes a difference. Until next week.