This is very challenging for me… After the summer of 2006 when I worked at a summer camp filled with inner-city youths I will never again be able to approach this topic without a sad heart, even for those who actually committed the crimes that they’re serving time for, as their formative years were almost surely lived in the trenches of warfare. Feel free to let me know what you think, but I think that you should watch this video before you do anything else:
Do you remember that feeling in grade school when it felt like the world had altogether decided to turn it’s back on you? Was that just me? I don’t think it was. I felt like the emotional roller coaster that I rode in my youth relationally was often unbearable. I remember having incredible feelings of self doubt when friends/classmates would turn against me. But of course I loved the times when I was “cool” again (especially in 5th grade when I dressed up like an old woman and dang the first verse of Rapper’s Delight, like in The Wedding Singer in the talent show… I was very cool after that). Of course growing up as I did is not equal in magnitude to the refection that some of these men have felt, but for me to ever attempt to find sympathy or empathy in my heart for them I must find the rejection in my life that is equivalent in my life (meaning that it has been the greatest rejection that I’ve faced). I can’t imagine being sent to jail or death row for something that I didn’t do, and being the rebel of the family it’s really difficult to imagine watching someone else in my family being hauled off to an unjust incarceration… Especially my sister Carrick (if she goes to jail hell has frozen over…).
Hearing statistics about African American incarceration rates in this nation (which is the most incarcerated nation in the world) absolutely breaks my heart… This is not to say that it’s all a matter of oppression, but there is an element of that, like the drug war (not promoting drugs, just abolishing all of these pointless black markets that create so much violence). Race issues, and prisons (especially now that they’re a part of private industry) are incredibly disheartening to me, and I think it’s time that we have a real conversation about these things.
The prison system makes me truly sad as I think it is populated demographically in such a way that tells us that if the American Dream is alive and well the some people are just better than others… I’m more inclined to believe that we have a perversion of fairness in our world.
For example, I am from, and now again in Oklahoma where the female incarceration rate is the highest in the country… I feel like the women I’m around and know in my state are in general wonderful people, yet the prison demographics tell me that Oklahoma women are way more likely to be “outlaws”. I just have a hard time feeling surrounded by justice when I know that my home has the highest incarceration rate among women in the country with the highest incarceration rate in the world…
I’m not sure what I should do about all of this, but I’ll gladly speak up and say that if we are a society that believes in Bell Curves (as our education system tells us we do) then being the extreme on this scale should be wildly unacceptable. I just challenge my friends and family to consider what we’re faced with here in my home state and country so we can begin an important conversation.