An Essay By Kevin
In this country called America there was a time when people were incarcerated and warehoused in a place just because of the color of their skin, as well as the fact that money, big money, was being made off of them. This place was called a plantation.
Today in this country called America there is still a place where people are incarcerated and warehoused because of the color of their skin, as well as the fact that money, big money, is being made off of them. This place is called a prison.
The only difference in these two situations is the period of time in which they take place. In 1996, just as in 1796, black men and women are targeted, from losing freedom, to reproduction, to the clothes worn, to the words spoken, to the food eaten, these people have been thoroughly controlled by -the powers that be.
So when I look at the descendants of these people, of which I am one, I can't help but notice all the similarities between the past and the present, because today black men and black women find themselves in the very same situation as our ancestors and just as it was legal then, it is legal now.
What exactly do the old plantation system and the new prison system nave in common?
First, each was/is a money making operation for whomever is in control.
Second, they each control human beings, and in both cases some of the worst crimes against humanity have happened there.
Third, they tear apart families as well as dehumanize people.
Prison, like the plantation, exploits people, both the prisoner and the society it claims to be protecting. The struggle to survive, to live, to fight, to be free, is one that black men and black women have gone through together, and continue to so through together. The only difference is that one group, the men, are known to be in the spotlight when it comes t o being incarcerated. The other group, the women, are kept in silence, as in all other things. Everyone knows about black men and the prison system, in fact America seems to be proud of the fact that one out of four black men are involved in the justice system in one way or another. You hear about it almost every time you turn on the 6 O'clock news.
What they don't tell you is that three out of four aren't involved in the system. They also don't tell you about black women and the system, or how and why they are made to suffer worse than black men, just as they have always suffered along side, but in same cases worse, than black men. Just as in society itself where black people as a whole, and black women in particular, are the hardest hit in everything f rom low- income, lack of education, poverty, crime and all the social ills, black women have been hardest hit by the prison system.
Research on women of color and the justice system is limited, but the facts show that between 1980 and 1992 the number of b lack women in State or Federal prisons grew 278%. There are currently more black women in prison than at any other time in American history, and they fill the jails in greater numbers than black men. So we must stop thinking of men only when we talk about blacks in the prison system, because to think or talk about men only is to do an injustice to the many women who have suffered the same fate as their men. These women have already had many different types of injustices acne to them, so we need not give them any more by acting like they don't exist, because they do exist.
It seems that the same people who controlled the plantations are now controlling the prisons, and the same people who were in those plantations are now in these prisons. Prison is now big business, and to be profitable new prisons must be justified and th en filled. The politicians use scare tactics in order to get society to build more prisons, then they pass laws making it easier to put people in prisons, locking up more people especially people of color.
Let's look at some facts. Fact: Check out the crack cocaine law versus the powder cocaine law, and the affect on black women. According to the 1994 Justice Department Special Report, at least half of all women in prison were serving sentences for nonviolent offenses, mostly drug p ossession or sales. Because of the new drug laws, black women are being swept up in greater numbers than other women, they are guaranteed to get more prison time for selling crack, and are seven times more likely to be convicted and sent to prison than af fluent white women who use and sell powder cocaine.This is how the politicians fill up the prisons.
Another fact is that from the 1930's to the 1950's five women prisons were built. During the 1980's thirty-four women's prisons were built, and black women fill up most of those prisons.
Also consider most women in prison have children, and when these women go to prison their children do not always go to other members of their family. A large portion of these children go into foster homes, or other forms of State Warehouses. This is also now playing a big part in the break-up of the African American family. This dehumanizing is not just happening in America. In January, 1996, in the United Kingdom, a secretly filmed video was taken of a black women forced to give birth while having cold steel shackles around her ankles, and yes, she was in prison. There was an outcry there, and there should be an outcry here, but you have to got involved to find out about this madness, and getting involved is the only way to put an end to this madness!
Kevin Cooper, California.