Incarceration… imprisonment...captivity…physically no longer free to come and go as one pleases. Cement walls…clanking doors…body scanners…pat downs…a sea of men dressed in khaki colored uniforms…young…middle age…old…more blacks than Hispanics…more Hispanics than white… all suffering from a malaise…a social sickness…a condition of continual malcontent underscored by a desperateness …forever plotting and planning the next scheme…the next scam…pursuing a delusion…never seeing beyond the fantasy and the illusion of the American dream. Children idolizing daddies in jail grow up assimilating prison into psyches of limited understanding consequently glorifying the new reality. Loved ones caught up in a cycle of hope and disillusionment stretch out hands of comfort that continually get burned in the fire of social injustice.
The United States has more people in prison than anywhere else in the world, There are over 2,000,000 people incarcerated of which over one third are black and yet black people represent only about 13 % of the USA population. Many men and women with prison records are disenfranchised, and lose their right to vote due to felony convictions; jobs for ex- cons returning to the outside world are almost non-existent; the path to GED programs is overgrown with weeds of erosion which eat away at the roots of education …attrition has scored again… programs have been forced to close, and decent housing of course is always restricted by income.
Fists are raised in rage against discrimination and economic conditions … against incarceration…against the new plantation for people of color…voices cry out against the racism of the new millennium…tears fall for the shattered dreams of children bruised by poverty.
The war on drugs waged primarily in the inner cities, coupled with racial profiling, and the school to prison pipeline account for a lot of the disparity in the racial configuration of the prison system in the United States. One out of fifteen African-American males are incarcerated, one in thirty-six Hispanic males, this compared to one out of one hundred and six white males who are currently in jail. The Bureau of Justice statistics states that one out of three black men will be arrested in their lifetime. According to the Human Rights Watch African Americans make up roughly 14% of the drug using population yet 37% of those arrested for using drugs are black. Why? Because the battle against drugs is fought mainly in the respective hoods of America; because racial profiling is a reality; and because more blacks get harassed, stopped, and searched by the police than do their white counterparts.
“Where’s my Daddy?” cry out youthful voices in the impending night…”I want my Mommy!” sob lonely spirits alienated from nurturing reassuring arms that then grow up always seeking to satisfy their need to fit in…to belong…to define themselves… mean while cultivating friendships with anger, defiance, and violence. Then off to school they go, and the school to prison pipeline becomes an actuality for many. According to data from the Department of Education, African American students are referred to the criminal justice system by schools more than their white peers. Of the 96,000 students arrested in the school year 2009-2010, and the 242,000 students referred to law enforcement over 70% were black and Hispanic. African-American youth represent 40% of incarcerated youth and yet they make up only 16% of the youth population today.
A sea of disenfranchised humanity awaits the eradication of the racism of the new millennium. Children cry out for the restoration of loving bonds that bind the heart of a people into an affirmative identity. Hope marches through the hood illuminating a path to a new reality for those who have lost their way in the midst of dollar signs, in the midst of bling-bling, and in the midst of the illusive American dream.