Posts Tagged ‘black community’

maxresdefaultA young black teenager wakes up and rolls out of his twin size bed in a room he shares with two other siblings. It is hot muggy and smelly, but he dares not open the small dusty window. The window leads to the back alley and he fears letting in the big black flies that buzz around the trash scattered throughout the alleyway. The same flies that pestered him all night long.

He stares around the room and sighs, “how much longer will things be like this?” he questions himself as he pulls himself up out of bed. He pulls on a pair of dirty jeans and a stained t-shirt. The same outfit he has worn three times this week. He grabs a old worn out pair of Nike’s and the sweaty smell causes him to cringe. He heads down the short hallway to what passes as a kitchen, in search of something to eat.

“The same ole thing.” He murmurs as he stares into the half empty refrigerator. He finds more relief from the cool air that blows out the refrigerator than the food inside. All he finds is processed meat, cheese, milk and other food scraps. He grabs the milk and takes a big swig from the container.

He steps outside into the summer air and sits on the stump. The day is bright, but not that promising for him, the sun is shining, and the city is starting to come alive. He notice more and more white people, people he has never seen before. Young, old, hip and seemingly carefree, walking their dogs, talking on the latest I-Phone and drinking coffee. Some walk by him and stare, as if he is new to the neighborhood. Some hardly notice him at all. They are the ones that he despise the most.

He lights up some K2, he can’t afford a real bag of weed. Plus he is on probation and a dirty urine will send him back to jail. It is bad enough his probation officer is on his back to get at job. He was just given 30 more days to get at job, or else. The young man knows he is on borrowed time. He does not have a GED nor vocational skills. He has no money to get to and fro so he can’t get to the job interviews.

As he begins to feel the effects of the K2 he begins to think of what is to him a master plan. What is this plan? Commit a crime. What crime? A petty robbery. He thinks it is safe to snatch a phone from someone getting on the subway.

He heads out in search of a unsuspecting victim. He searches high and low. He begins to get frustrated and agitated that he cannot make his move. It is getting late in the day and his agitation beginning to mount, as well as his desperation to rob someone. As decides to stop and take a break. He stops in front of the corner store and sits on a crate. While sitting on the crate he notices an elderly man walking towards a new Audi. “Dam, if I can get that joint I can sell it and make some money.” He tells himself as he stares out at the elderly man. He creeps up behind him and hits him over the head with a bottle. The old man falls to the ground, stunned and bewildered. It takes him a minute until he realizes he is being mugged. He begins to fight back. The young man was not expecting this and panics. He begins to stomp and kick the old man. Blood is spurting all over the parking lot and the man has passed out, or so he thinks. He finally gets the keys, jumps in the car and pull off. He smirks to himself as he search for some music to blast as he heads back across town.

Two days later the old man dies. There is a police outcry and man hunt for the young man. The community is shocked and want justice for the old man. They want blood. They call for longer prison terms for violent offenders. They want to keep them in prison longer. They want to be safe from these violent people. Meanwhile in SE another young teen wakes up to the same conditions. Poor, living in an underprivileged/underserved community, where cheap synthetic drugs are easy to get, hopeless, plotting to pull off the master plan. A petty robbery. One that will almost certainly turn tragic.

This is the story of so many youth across America. This is the story of many of today’s incarcerated population. They are the victims of social disparities that cause them to victimize others.

Criminal offenders, by nature of their actions and involvement in the criminal justice system, are typically regarded as social outcasts. Truth be told they were social outcasts long before their direct run in with the criminal justice system. It is only after the act of a senseless crime that they are noticed. At this point the community wants to put them away forever. They are not to be trusted as they cannot conform to the decorum of society. So it is best to label them as violent, to invoke fear in the public, and keep them in prison for a long time.

There is a lot to be understood when it comes to criminal offenses and penal reform. First, crime is a result of poverty, racism, homelessness, substance abuse, mental health and social/psychological issues. Crime is a result of lack of education and ignorance. Crime is a problem that cannot be locked away. If the public response, if the President and other members of government, is to lock away crime then good luck.

That response to crime is the reason why there are 2.3 million people incarcerated. It is why the US spends 50 billion dollars a year fighting crime. In 1982 the cost of incarceration was 44 million. In 2001 that cost was 44 million. The current cost of incarceration is 80 billion dollars, annually. Each year the cost of fighting crime and incarceration increases while crime has not, significantly, reduced.

There are four goals of incarceration, and none of them actually addresses the problem of crime. The current practice of incarceration focuses on incapacitation, deterrence, retribution and rehabilitation. The way to reduce crime is to target it before it happens. All of the current measures used to fight crime and lock up its offenders are all post crime related. If this continues to be the means of addressing the rise in crime and the way it is dealt with, the chances are slim that there will ever be a significant decrease in crime.

The response by the public is motivated by fear. Many fear the stories they hear about across the news and other media outlets. It is as if they are only privy to the worst of the worst stories. The stories that make them feel unsafe when they see the “stereotypical” soon to be offender, or the recently released offender. The stigma and stereotypes play in the the psyche of many of them. These thoughts and ideas are hard to change and overcome. This is why the generalization of this term violent offenders should be used with caution. Every person convicted of a violent offense is not necessary a violent offender. Just as most drug offenses are connected to drugs, whether abuse or sale, most violent offenses committed are connected to drugs. In fact it is safe to say, with the exception of the most extreme cases, drugs is the major connector to almost all crime. So it is unfair, and not good penal reform, to discredit and disregard those violent offenders as people who do not suffer from the same social disparities as the rest of the members from their population.

Would it not be a good solution to include, as part of the sentencing process, violent offenders in the actual solution finding process. It those people who have, in hindsight and they say hindsight is 20/20, realized the error of their ways, and understand what it is that other members of their communities are experiencing, that have better ideas, ideas that are realistic, to solve these on-going problems. It is not uncommon for guys of rival crews, that have beefed for many years, to set their differences aside, while in prison, to live and co-exist in a peaceful manner. Most begin to realize how stupid it was for them to be at odds from the beginning. Now that they have come to this realization they look for ways to get those on the outside to stop killing and harming each other. Fact:  Never has law enforcement put an end to street wars and beefs. It is when, and only when, the members of those communities say enough is enough. Until that happens there is no stopping it. It is time for law enforcement and other law makers to open up their eyes and take note of this fact. As much as they may want to claim it was, some how, their work, they are sadly mistaken. Which is why when crime and violence surges again they are at a lost. They have no recourse other than lock’em up. If it was that simple the gang violence of Chicago, Los Angeles, and other places would have been solved years ago. Generations of gang members incarcerated yet gang violence has reached smaller cities and communities. As the tendency is to re-locate when things get hot. Not stop the violence but merely take it somewhere else.

Dealing with this issue is a challenge but there are effective ways to deal with it. People have to become properly educated, on all levels, and learn to work together. Everyone has to be included. Right now we live in time of arbitration. Everyone is pitted against someone else. The common news is cops against blacks. Or this group against that group. Or that group against that group. At some point people are going to have to come together. This means those incarcerated with those on the outside to bring about the solutions needed to save our communities. It is one thing to re-name incarcerated people as returning citizens. It is another thing to actually allow them to be citizens. Being a citizen is to be part of a community. If you want offenders to come home to the DC area and act accordingly they have to feel like they belong. They have to feel like citizens upon their return. If you change the way a person thinks of themselves so will their behavior change.

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The latest events surrounding the death of Michael Brown has me wondering about the future of the the world we live in. I think of the events that have taken place and wonder how will this change the society.

I think of the racial split that will occur behind this event. I am grateful that the youth of today are more open to the diversity that makes up this country.

As these events unfold the discussion on the prison yard is interesting. Those mostly concerned are black, and you can hear frustration and anger in their voices.

Being incarcerated I have a different view. What happened was wrong, no doubt. But, the way that the community has decided to voice the wrong is not proper either. I know there are some who are taking advantage of a bad situation. But at whose the expense?

I remember early in my incarceration we decided to protest the living conditions within the prison. At the time I was being housed on the juvenile range. Someone came up with the “good idea” of throwing our mattresses and property on the tier and lighting it on fire. We were locked in the cells and started to throw out our stuff. We were yelling for our demands to be met. We gave them 5 minutes to fix 100 year problem.

We started to toss baby oil on the stuff, as baby oil is flammable and will burn. 5 minutes passed and a match was lit and tossed on the stuff laying on the tier. A big fire ignited and there was this loud whoosh sound. In a matter of seconds the tier was on fire. Smoke start to fill the locked tier and cells. We almost killed ourselves!! Guys were choking and screaming to be let out the cells. Guys were sucking air through the toilets. We would flush the toilet to get air in the bowl. The bars got hot to the touch. We almost killed ourselves! What did we do? Excuse my French but we did not get shit and we fucked up the prison some more! The prison that we had to live in because they were not going to let us free.

We took a situation that was criminal (the mistreatment of inmates is called cruel and unusual punishment) and harmed ourselves. We did not get what we wanted, a 5 minute fix to a 100 year problem. We ultimately made it bad for ourselves. It is more criminal to create a oppressive situation for oneself. This is what the people of Ferguson is doing to themselves.

Make no mistake about it.. Wrong is wrong. But you don’t fix wrong with more wrong. Something needs to be done. Answers need to be given. But this is a 400 plus year problem that people want fixed today. Sorry but I doubt that it will happen in that fashion.

We need to step back and readdress the problem the right way. Intentions need to be made clear. For what purpose are we here for? What is the goal and object of any demonstration and protest? I am glad that people are stepping up. But not the manner in which some of are doing so.

For those of us who can remember 9/11 we see how this event has changed the world, and not necessarily for the better. We are no more safer today. From what I hear it is more of a hassle to maintain privacy, to avoid being profiled, and to travel. I don’t know an outside world post 9/11 so I don’t know. But I will say this. What happened in Ferguson Missouri will be monumental in changing future events just as 9/11 change world events. The issue of race and poverty can no longer be avoided. When the time comes to address these issues, whether by dialogue or actually putting forth actions, what course of action will be taken.

We can no longer, as a society, avoid what is to come, in terms of social change and justice. To do so would truly be criminal.

Talib would like to hear other opinions about this situation. He is currently incarcerated but maintains the A Voice From the Inside as a means to reach out the public, and as a tool of awareness to what goes on in prison. He is open to taking all questions and comments. If you think others would be interested in hearing more pass the word, repost and sign up at his site.

This morning I woke up to some tragic news. An unarmed 18 year old teen was shot and killed by a police officer in Missouri. This news has created some discussion among some of the men here in the prison. Some of the conversations surround the response of the community members. Some of the members in that community rioted, looted and even shot at the Chief of police.

I am old enough to remember the Rodney King case and how the South Central LA community responded to the acquittal of those officers. They resulted to looting and violence. As the old adage goes, “two wrongs don’t make a right”, I agree with that. Yet, there is something deeper happening here. Something I have not yet heard mentioned by those that have appeared on TV to give their advice/opinions of what went, or is going, wrong.

As a people we are what we are taught. Black people living in the inner-cites don’t feel part of a social structure where they view justice and equality the same as those that have their place in main-stream society. In the black community exists a very different type of law and order. A very different type of infrastructure, where the values and norms are not shared by those outside of their communities.

There is a teaching in these communities that in order to be heard “we” must rise up against “any” and “all” with the force/threat and use of violence.

How can one expect anything other than rioting and looting in a community that is most likely stricken by poverty and under/low class living? Where most of the community feels marginalized and ousted by members of other communities. Was anything else expected from them?

The most important question to ask is did it work? Did it get the attention of the authorities? Unfortunately, it was the rioting and looting that got the national attention this event deserved on its own. This is the training that I speak about. That in order to be heard, to get justice “we” have to act up.

Go a step further. This has made news alongside the broken peace treaty between Israel and Palestine. As well as the slaughter of Kurds in Iraq by ISIS. That has been the rotation of news all day. My heart breaks when I see the slaughter of innocent people, wherever they may be. But what is the message of showing this type of news, the killing of a young black teen, in between the killing of innocent Kurds, Palestinians and Israelis. Does it say that “blacks” in this country when they feel they have been wronged respond the same way as “Islamic Militants” or “Palestinian rebels”. And I use those terms loosely. How will public opinion be shaped by the way this event is covered?

Will it send the message there is not hope for “those” people? That is what comes to mind when I think about the Crisis in the Middle East. It is almost a hopeless situation. A situation where one wants to see peace by any means necessary. Do I have those same thoughts about the shooting of an innocent black teen? I most certainly do. Not just a young black teen but any young or old person that is attacked and killed by those that are entrusted to serve and protect.

What upsets me is the coverage of the events. One guy was talking to a reporter and tried to interject a piece about the “black” mindset in America. She cut him off with, “lets talk about the looting.” They repeatedly showed the interview of the Chief of Police where he stated, “last night was the worst night of my life.” Not to discredit him. As I sincerely believe he was being genuine and honest. He was not prompted and had emotion in his voice as he said it. Yet, what about the other victims of last nights events? Do they not share the same sentiment, that it was the worst night of their lives as well?

Anytime you get the “police” to admit to fear. Those who are trained for these situations, to not respond with fear, to say they were “fearful”. What does this say about those that evoke this fear? The must be dangerous and helpless.

It is sad and unacceptable that the community responded this way. This is not the way to respond to any event. The use of violence never solves anything. This is why the continual fighting around the world will never cease. As it goes to be said. There has never been a group of people to take down another group of people, with force, except they became worse than the group they took down. So, it is not acceptable to respond this way. Yet, I understand it. It all goes back to what we are taught. I goes back to what gets the attention needed for “justice” from the other side. That is the way the “black community” is often designed. It is “us “against “you all”. So, to get justice from “you all” this is what we must do. Sad to say it works. Until those that cover these events wizen up to this it will always be a response to events such as these.

Trust me I know. As a black man in this country I have heard this train of thought all of my life when it comes to finding the “solution” to “our” inequality issues. Even in prison. Guys always talk about stopping work or something of that nature. Although, guys have not been successful with this in years, they still mention acts such as work stoppage and events that took place in Missouri as the route to take. The route to justice and equality. Knowing that it has not worked in years and hence forth will never work again. Why, you may ask yourself suggest it as a solution. Because that is the way some of us “think”.
Until this mindset is challenged by those who have the position, influence and authority to challenge it many will continue to not only think but respond this way. As they search for “justice” and “equality”.

Hopefully, something good comes from this tragic situation. If there was one thing I could say to my “people”, and it is hard to say considering the history of blacks in this country, is that we are perceived by the perception we give. True the young teen is not at fault here. But what justice do you get for him by making it about you. When you respond out ignorantly you make it about you. What justice do you get for “him” by looting, robbing and killing your own communities. How are others going to buy into our cry for justice and solutions when we say we want it for us, yet we maim ourselves along the way. That sends a mixed message. One that is not to be trusted. What happens in this event? Nothing.