aNewDomain –– U.S. President Barack Obama’s recent prison visit has inspired a fair amount of dialogue. If you count bloggers and columnists explaining the importance and trolls commenting on their pages as dialogue.
I don’t. Not really. I mean, I just got through reading about how hostile life in prison can be for expectant mothers.
First comment: “So the lesson here is don’t go to prison if you’re pregnant, and don’t get pregnant if you can’t avoid prison.”
See, white people live in a simple world.
Especially monied white people. It’s not us white people being exploited to prop up failing municipalities and traded like commodities to the for-profit prison industry. In our world, staying out of jail is as simple as committing no crimes.
Even when we get caught, it’s so easy to get off. We can afford lawyers. And we’re just white, man. Go onto Twitter and spend some time with the “criming while white” hashtag.
And think about this: The most popular crime in the imprisoned population is drug use. Whites and black are equally likely to use drugs. Yet blacks are overrepresented in the prison population.
While 14 percent of the population is black, 37 percent of the prison population has that skin color.
La La La …
We’ve covered all this before and we’ll have to keep covering it until white people stop putting their hands over their ears and going La la la! I’m not listening to you!
Michelle Alexander lays it all out in stunning and disgusting clarity in The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness
But if reading books about criminology data and voting behavior isn’t for you, then just observe the South. Everything that happens there today demonstrates our continuing overt race problem.
Here are some white people in Oklahoma jeering the President of the United States and waving their symbols of veterans’ pride at him. Sorry, only kidding: they’re the flags the Southern states put up over their courthouses when the Civil Rights Act passed as a way of saying Nope, black folk don’t got no rights here.
Then there’s the KKK demonstrating in public. I think they’re angry that all the white folk in the South bought into the “Southern Pride” apology for the flag. So they have come out in force to cry: “Claim it! We’re white, we’re proud, be racist out loud!”
Hmm. Wonder why?
The Supreme Court in 2013 pulled the teeth out of the Civil Rights Act, making it so states don’t have to run changes in voting law past the federal government.
First thing the South did was start disenfranchising black folk to keep themselves in power.
Assuming they didn’t drink some mint juleps and twirl their mustaches first.
An American problem
Melissa Harris Perry was down in South Carolina last week. She met some white people taking part in the demonstrations. Not those ones. I mean the ones in favor of voting rights for people of color as though it were still 1954.
She asked why? Why do you do this? And: Aren’t you concerned about being seen as an outsider?
The young woman said, “Well, this is an American problem.”
Right. Racism is an American problem.
Voter disenfranchisement is also an American problem.
The South in particular, but all states to some degree, gerrymanders voting districts to make it more likely for incumbent seats to remain secure.
South of the Mason-Dixon line, much of this redistricting involves keeping black people from forming a strong voting bloc.
Particular states with a large “minority” vote also change voting procedure to limit minority voting. Early voting is the first thing to go. Voter ID laws are then passed which disproportionately affect minorities and the poor – people most likely to vote Democrat.
Voters might find their polling stations closed or moved. Republicans have even been known to visit black neighborhoods with leaflets reminding them to vote, but on the wrong day or in the wrong place or with other kinds of misinformation.
Next, we round up, arrest and prosecute the poor and people of color most disproportionately. Once you have a felony on your record you can no longer vote in most states. It is between difficult and impossible to get your voting rights restored.
How the Red Team wins and wins and wins
The Red Team keeps winning and winning and winning through these tricks and tactics. They are willing to sacrifice black people’s jobs, communities, dignity and even lives to win votes.
When racist practices are encouraged far and long enough, things become accepted. Places become dangerous to even visit if for large groups of certain kinds of people (although this is hardly a problem for just the south). Entire communities of humans are not protected by the system for the sake of some power-hungry politicians staying in office one more term.
This is an American problem.
In the North, we spend too much time thinking about how we’re different from the South.
So if you’re from the North and need a more selfish reason to care, how about this: the voting power of the South keeps giving us federal representation of only a narrow, white, racist special interest rather than a whole-nation interest. You aren’t represented by the government which taxes you because southern states limit who can participate.
Check out these sobering statistics on how the South skews America.
Hello! Black lives are American lives.
But they aren’t they and we aren’t we: we’re all us.
Black lives are American lives. In the South, Americans are being denied the vote.
We look at Ukrainian election results and see Nazarbayev won with 98 percent of the vote and go shit, that’s such obvious fraud, why don’t those poor oppressed Ukrainians do something about it?
Then we look at our own democracy and think it’s OK somehow.
But the people who voted “yes” do not represent us.
Millions of potential voters have been and are being locked up for trumped-up charges or crimes of poverty. Then they are stripped of their voter rights.
Millions more are unable to vote because the state limited voting hours to times they were unavailable, moved their polling stations miles away into different neighborhoods, or let community disorganizers lie to the public and trick them out of voting.
Our government, until we’ve fixed this in a serious way, is as bad as any foreign dictatorship.
You can’t fix that by turning a blind eye. You can only fix it by going to jail.
Sorry about that.
For aNewDomain, I’m Jason Dias.
Cover image: CNN.com, All Rights Reserved;image two: NewJimCrow.com, All Rights Reserved; Image three of people holding Confederate Flags as US President Barack Obama arrives at his hotel in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, July 15, 2015: SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images, All Rights Reserved; image four: Politico.com, All Rights Reserved; image five: TheRoot.com, All Rights Reserved; image six: TheRoot.com, All Rights Reserved; image seven: TheRoot.com, All Rights Reserved; image eight: MapsNWorld.com, All Rights Reserved.