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The Mythology of Black Criminality

By: Sheyenne White

The U.S population accounts for less than 5% of the world population but almost 25% of the world prison population. Over the past four decades, incarceration rates have soared and the United States now has the highest prison population in the world, at 716 per 100,000 people. In light of the cries for racial justice around the world, we must re-evaluate the role carcerality plays in perpetuating racial hierarchies.

Carcerality, as a system, is entrenched in a racial framework underpinned by neoliberal capitalism. The expansion of carcerality along the lines of race can be traced back to Nixon’s “War on Drugs” which doubled as a rhetorical war on poor communities of color through an amplification in policing and penalties. It is important to note that the War on Drugs was nothing but a political tool designed to protect Nixon’s fragile presidency amidst a controversial war abroad and a civil rights movement. In fact, Nixon’s former domestic policy advisor admitted, “The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and Black people. You understand what I’m saying? We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or Blacks, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and Blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.”

The Nixon administration’s success in racializing drug dependencies exploded into an era of mass incarceration and brought upon a “tough on crime” wave for the next few presidencies. Republicans and Democrats alike created a political environment driven by fear of crime. Interestingly, Bill Clinton’s infamous Three Strike laws and mandatory minimums proved to be the most destructive in their production of hyperincarceration. Although such policies were paraded to the public as efforts to free communities from crime, they had little to no effect on official crime rates. This leaves many to wonder why politicians across the political spectrum would push for such draconian criminal justice policies. Given the saturated history of racism in this country, it is unsurprising that remnants of systemic and institutional racism pervade both mainstream political parties. Considering the unbridled capitalism and avaricious neoliberalism salient in the United States, racism is guilty of triggering the growth of the private-prison industry.

To say that the privatization of punishment yields financial gain would be a gross understatement, as hyperincarceration generates massive profits for private prison companies. While the private prison industry reaps the lucrative rewards, governmental, communal, and taxpayer resources are being depleted. The for-profit bail bond industry fuels mass incarceration and contributes to racial and economic inequalities. In the United States, millions of people are forced to pay cash bail after their arrest or face incarceration before trial. This flawed system fails to consider that such individuals are presumed innocent and have not been convicted of a crime. In order to avoid imprisonment, people who can not afford bail must pay a non-refundable fee to a for-profit bail bond company. This financial burden disportionately affects BIPOC and low-income communities. The culprits are the large insurance companies who sit atop the two-billion dollar for-profit bail bonds industry, which is both unaccountable to the justice system and unnecessary to justice itself. Although the U.S regards the for-profit bail bonds industry as an inevitable and permanent feature of society, it is quite the contrary. In fact, it is a global anomaly used only in the Philippines and the United States. Considering this, we have a criminal justice system that treats you better if you are rich and guilty than poor and innocent.

However, the destructive forces of capitalism are not excluded to the legal processes that take place before incarceration, as the loophole in the 13th amendment reads “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction. This exception clause can only be seen as an extension of slavery as it strips the humanity of those convicted without taking into account the implicit biases riddled within the justice system. Nearly 900,000 men and women are exploited by a $2 billion a year industry that pays them a few cents an hour in some states, and nothing at all in others. Given that the 13th amendment maintains the practice of slavery, we can no longer regard slavery as an instiution of mere cruelty but the driver of broader American prosperity. Simply put, racism and slavery may only come to an end upon the destruction of the political-economic system of capitalism.

Nonetheless, many disparage mass incarceration as a byproduct of Black criminality and therefore justify their dismissal of the other injustices at play within American carcerality. Along these lines, the notorious Black-on-Black crime fallacy is used to derail conversation. Although this is a tired and banal argument, it’s pernicious in its fabrication of Black criminality. A mythology that marginalizes and de-victimizes the Black community. After all, the Black community is subjugated by the very systems in place sworn to protect them. The carceral state  perpetuates racialized violence and therefore, must be abolished.

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Oh, The Irony

By: Flora Oliveira

“My body my choice,” a statement institutionally oppressed women use when fighting for their bodily autonomy, has recently been engulfed into the bigoted riots against the shelter in place orders. Twitter has wonderfully given name to the delinquent white women at the forefront of this idiotic engulfment of ‘my body my choice.” The names for these white supremacist troglodytes range from Karens to Susans to Beckys. The KKKarens all over the US have unironically displayed why the phrase “my body, my choice” is important in the times of COVID. Those most vulnerable to the disease have not only seriously questioned the state of mind of the KKKarens but have also been very vocal that the “my body, my choice” movement applies to not wanting to be viciously infected with COVID. Especially not when it’s due to another person’s delusional interpretation of systematic oppression. 

Even before COVID KKKarens compromised the health of Black and Brown people through gentrification, racial profiling, and who can forget their role in colonialism? So what do we do now? We surely cannot let these women run around invading stores without masks, rioting in big groups, or collaborating with anti-vaxxers right? But the truth is, the only time the state steps in is when the advocates are Black, Brown, or of the working class. 

So why do they understand the use of “my body, my choice” only when it’s convenient? Aside from being the most skilled of appropriators, white women do not acknowledge their privilege. Acknowledgment of privilege could be the solution to saving generations of minorities. Privilege is like superglue, no one wants to be caught with it plastered all over their bodies, but once it’s on, you can’t ever get it off. Just to be extra clear, in this case, the superglue is you blinding whiteness, you don’t want it, but we’d love to see you try to rip it off. 

 The fault is not all that of white women, though. America’s systems were created directly through the use of white supremacy. Moving from a country and colonizing other humans is not excusable because God came to you in a wet dream. Do not get me wrong here, God isn’t the problem, it’s your idealization that God has specifically given you, and ancestors a free pass to murder indigenous, Black, and Brown people. And also the way yall used missions to trap, murder, and subdue minorities too. 

Through centuries of continued violence, Asians, Black folk, Latinx communities, and now Hispanics have all been at the forefront of violence and entrapment. Who hasn’t? The answer: white people. Once again, the reason for that goes back to colonization. Your far removed ancestors are not deities, they are not Wiccan goddesses, they are not souls of those once oppressed. Your American ancestors were either Konfederates, in the KKK, or like you, are still, directly complicit in white supremacy. This is why you’ve continuously been granted a free pass, even when your meaningless, and outright delinquent filled riots against the shelter in place piss everyone off. 

You don’t get shot down while running in your neighborhood (Ahmaud Arbery), you don’t get framed, manipulated, or imprisoned for a rape you didn’t commit when you were 14-15 (Kevin Richardson, 14, Raymond Santana, 14, Antron McCray, 15, Yusef Salaam, 15, and 16-year-old Korey Wise), you don’t face capital punishment for smoking pot (literally any Black person ever), you don’t get “accidentally” murdered by police or SWAT while you sleep in your own home (Aiyana Jones and Breonna Taylor). You don’t get killed for being trans while Black  (Tony McDaid). You don’t get killed for a “counterfeit” 20 dollar bill (George Floyd). You don’t suffer at the hands of ICE or racist doctors.

 You, as a white privileged person, don’t suffer for just being a minority. That whiteness grants you the privilege to not suffer when you approach police armed with an automatic weapon all in the name of protesting shelter in place. That whiteness grants you tear gas-free, brutality free, and most of all, a murder free time when expressing your 1st amendment right. 

Go ahead, continue “enhancing” your natural beauty by filling your lips, ass, and hips, placing in weaves, spreading that thick layer of melatonin imitating spray, and using AAVE but at the end of the night remember who can take it all off and who can’t. Now to close with the wise words of Angela Davis: To all you white “freedom fighters”, “in a racist society, it is not enough to be nonracist, we must be anti-racist.”

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Dear Andrew Yang: I Voted. Why Are People Still Racist?

By: Christina Lee

This year marked an exciting milestone for me: it was the first year that I was able to vote! Imagine my excitement upon finally exercising my right as an American citizen in a democratic process that I know I must not take for granted. So, I voted, and it was great. But why did I still feel uneasy about walking around in public several weeks afterward, right before the enforcement of California’s shelter-in-place order?

My uneasiness felt eerily familiar, like that first day of kindergarten when I looked around the classroom and noticed that no one else looked like me. Or that unforgettably awkward time in middle school when my teacher confused me for the only other Asian girl in the class.

Sure, these are not blatant experiences of extreme racism, but they’re the foundational roots of little things that give rise to larger issues. The ignorance, the discomfort, the establishment of “otherness” and foreignness.

So when former Democratic candidate Andrew Yang wrote in his controversial op-ed for The Washington Post that he “felt self-conscious—even a bit ashamed—of being Asian” after receiving looks of distaste in public since the coronavirus outbreak, I felt that. We all did.

In fact, we were all on board when he spoke candidly about the country’s state of insecurity and fear following the pandemic. It’s not surprising that, in the words of Yang, “people are looking for someone to blame.” It’s human nature. It was bound to happen.

And then, things start to go downhill from there.

Yang writes in an almost humorously unnecessary and flippant manner: I obviously think that being racist is not a good thing. (Thank you for your insight, Yang!) Still, here’s the best part: But saying “Don’t be racist toward Asians” won’t work.

I’m afraid that even Yang himself doesn’t realize what he is implying.

If we start to adopt an attitude of believing that “not being racist can’t stop racism,” it is only symbolic of our giving up. If we truly begin to submit to the meek way of thinking that we must find other ways around combatting racism besides speaking up against it, it simply distracts us from our main goal and the glaring issue: saying “Don’t be racist toward Asians” should, in fact, work.

Yang tells me, my family, my friends, and the rest of the Asians in America to start showing some love for Uncle Sam to battle racism. “We Asian Americans need to embrace and show our American-ness in ways we never have before,” he writes. “We need to step up, help our neighbors, donate gear, vote, wear red-white-and-blue, volunteer, fund aid organizations, and do everything in our power to accelerate the end of this crisis.”

Maybe the Asian Americans making headlines for becoming victims of coronavirus-related hate crimes—being stabbed, being spat on, being cursed out—should have been wearing red, white, and blue. They should have known better!

Let’s be honest: if my wardrobe was the key to solving racism, I would have changed it years ago. Yang thinks sporting patriotic colors is the solution, so how will he explain the fact that people will inevitably notice my gold skin, monolid eyes, and dark hair?

Yang then suggests in an example of “patriotism” and poor taste that Japanese Americans during World War II “volunteered for military duty at the highest possible levels to demonstrate that they were Americans,” dismissing the hundreds of thousands of other Japanese Americans who couldn’t do so because they were busy being held in internment camps under a xenophobic government that justified their racism out of “military necessity.” In other words, they were trying to protect the other Americans from an “enemy,” the enemy being Japanese Americans. Or like today, the “enemy” is us.

In essence, Yang argues that we must forgo our Asian heritage because it is something shameful, dangerous, and suggesting of malintent in times of crises. He claims that we must try to blend in, that we must try to prove something that doesn’t and shouldn’t need to be proven, that we, Asian Americans, are the problem.

With a current president referring to the pandemic as the “Chinese virus,” our social and political atmosphere scares me. I’m afraid that we are not progressing as a society, that we are embodying the echoes of a scarred past, that Asian Americans and fellow minorities are giving in. I’m scared because the first Asian American political figure I’ve ever seen doesn’t quite understand the problem. Or perhaps he’s doing just that—giving in.

Let’s not let our fear make judgments for us. Let’s not give up our identity and roots to make others feel more comfortable with their ignorance. Let’s not allow ourselves to think that we are the problem, that we must accommodate. Fear is a powerful thing, but what’s even more powerful is that we can control it.