Introduction by Bee Frank at Stolen Lives Tour Antelope Valley

The treatment of black people in this nation represents the most concentrated form of oppression within an overall attack on the people. Mass incarceration and police brutality under what Michelle Alexander calls “The New Jim Crow” represent the sharpest, most concentrated aspect of this oppression. It is a problem that this system has no answer for.  It’s a festering blister on the face of America. Politicians blunder trying to explain it. They don’t have an answer because it is the system that they created. This system is continuing to do exactly what it has done in the past in 1 form or another, institutionalize oppression of marginalized groups. Now this may be a problem for all ethnicities, but we would be dishonest to say that everyone is affected equally by mass incarceration and police terror. This program is having actual genocidal implications among African Americans. This is not a program we can just vote away.

The UN defines genocide as...any of the following acts committed with intent to destroyin whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:

(a) Killing members of the group;

(b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;

(c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;

(d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;

(e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.

When one looks at the whole picture of black life in America, mass incarceration, police brutality, the crimes of the social system in regards to our youth, colonial style education and outright criminal treatment by every American institution much of which is beyond what we are here to discuss today.  It is plausible. We don’t say this for shock value or hyperbole. This is going down. 

It would be childish to suggest that we can simply legislate the problems of race and class oppression away. It is in the very dna of America and at the heart of all that is American. That’s what mass incarceration is, it is a form of race and class oppression. What’s going on and who is filling these prisons? The most vulnerable people in our society, the poor, black, latino, native American, mentally ill. Many of these people at the bottom of this society have limited options to the point that Edward Luttwack says in his book, “Turbo Capitalism”, “crime is a reasonable option” for poor youth. This system has no jobs or no future for large swaths of the population due to economic forces they have no control of and these are the people who fill the prisons.  Its easier for many people to live outside the law than inside. These low level hustler making a living in the streets are taking all kinds of risks with their freedom and their safety, for what? They aint making no real money.  Most time they could make more money with a regular job, but to many, that is simply not an option. You gotta look for a job for months but these kids gotta eat now. So they go to jail and when they get out, their job prospects are worse than they ever were.

Upon release, they are branded as felons for life, legally discriminated against in employment and access to education, government aid and housing (an issue we know of all to well due to the great work of the community action league).  As a result, they are forced into the same situations that brought them to prison in the first place.  How many more generations of our young will be imprisoned in dungeons and labeled felons for life?  How many more generations will grow up with incarcerated parents?

Mass incarceration affects literally tens of millions of people throughout this country.  The US currently houses over 2 million prisoners, most of whom never went to trial.  This nation is the number one jailer on the entire planet, so called land of the free.  Once released, prisoners are denied basic rights supposedly guaranteed to American citizens for the rest of their lives.  This has very little to do with crime, but with controlling and dominating black, brown and poor folks.  This is the “new jim crow”     

The prison system is the main control mechanism of African Americans since the legal end of Jim Crow. Both advisors to Richard Nixon, HR Haldeman and John Erlichman admitted that the Drug war was launched to target blacks. Which is why white kids are more likely to do drugs but blacks are most likely to go to prison for it. Lets not delude ourselves into thinking this is an accident or all because of bad laws or representation. This is at its heart a slow genocide of the African community that can turn into a fast one. We don’t say this to be cute or sound revolutionary. This is based on the objective truth. If mass incarceration ended today, there would be another form of marginalization working to entrench itself, just like mass incarceration did after the end of the Jim Crow era because the same contradictions exist that led this system to create this system of unfairly warehousing human beings for political ends.

It starts in the schools.  There is a merging of the educational system with law enforcement and corrections known by the popular phrase,  “the school to prison pipeline”. Many youth are placed in the hands of the juvenile or probation systems as children for minor crimes like fighting, shoplifting or drug possession and placed on a track to prison before they even know where they are headed.  Things that used to get you sent to the principals office or a call to your parents gets these kids busted.  Schools are equipped with onsite police and probation officers.   This is all going down within a context in which black and brown youth are criminalized for walking down the street. Considered guilty until proven innocent, if they survive to be judged.

The crime and violence that some of youth are engaged in has to stop and is not constructive. The system uses this as a justification for using violence and disproportionate sentencing on black and brown people. We can’t get them straight by talking down on them and telling them how to dress and act.  This has the opposite effect.  We need to build a movement that they can identify with that is radical and about action.  They don’t wanna hear go vote for this or that person because they know this political game is nonsense. Some of them are ready to stand up but we are too afraid to lead them. Bunchy Carter organized the Slauson’s street gang in los angeles in the 60’s and Fred Hampton brokered a gang truce in Chicago during the same time.  I know it’s not the 60’s but there is a lesson to be learned. The youth in the street can change and be leaders. We need them now more than ever. 

 You have seen all over the country people being blown away in the most egregious manners, running away, handcuffed, standing in their doorway, sleeping in the car, hands in the air.  And guess what, the one killed is put on trial, name dragged through the mud, the cop lies about it, all the cops back up the lie and the media promote the lie, justifiable homicide. If the cop is found guilty the prosecutor steps in like they did in new york with the killer of akai gurley and locally in palmdale, Jackie Lacey lets a cop off after being found guilty of killing a latino couple running a red light on ave. R.

So the system is geared to protect itself, at our expense. So we cannot trust this system to deliver justice to people it has always denied justice. You wanna vote, vote, but don’t do so with any illusions. race and class oppression are ingrained in American as much as warfare and capitalism. You want these to go, they gotta go with the whole system. To remove them from American life would be like removing the support beams in a home, it wont stand. The legislative process can perhaps make improvements and make the situation less overtly vicious and this is a good thing akin to painting the outside of the house or planting some flowers in the yard.   However if we wanna fundamentally change the way this system works we need to rock this system, if we wanna remove the foundation or weight bearing beams and walls, we cant be afraid to knock it down and build back up. We need a multi faceted movement coming from as many angles as we can, we will need a movement in the streets at least as big as the civil rights movement to stop this. We are looking to activate the people in the streets as well as the college campuses. {discuss April 21 national student strike}

If we do nothing, this problem will not go away.  It will only go backwards and get worse.  We cannot just leave this to the legislature to deal with. It’s going to take us challenging the system, not collaborating with them that will lead to fundamentally change. That’s what were here to talk about what is the problem and how to fix it.  We do not want a reduction in mass incarceration and people being brutalized and dehumanized in prison or a reduction of police brutality.  We demand an end to it.

This cannot be done from our own insulated communities, latinos fight for their needs over here, black folks over here doing our thing, no we need all people regardless of race or class involved in this movement.  We are facing a mighty adversary and supporting your local black business wont stop the cops and the courts from railroading our youth into prison. The question is, do you want your piece of this system based on countless crimes against humanity and insulate ourselves from the terror we have faced as a community while it proliferates elsewhere? Or do you want to end the oppression for everyone?

Me personally, I wanna do the latter. I don’t want anyone to suffer indignities, and injustice.  I wish live in a society where the all youth are valued. I want our different ethnicities and cultures to be seen as opportunities to learn from one another, not a reason to look down on someone else. We should live in a society that perpetuates equality and no one race or class has power to deem another as inferior or immoral. Black people shouldn’t have to feel like our only hope for survival and dignity is to retreat amongst ourselves and live in a bubble insulated from the hostilities of the white, capitalist power structure. There shouldn’t be a white, capitalist power structure to begin with. I think it’s possible, so lets get moving.

Be the first to comment

Please check your e-mail for a link to activate your account.

Donate! Volunteer Get the e-mail Newsletter