We Can’t Breathe-Reginald Brown

In 1992 I was 5 years old. I vaguely remember the beating of Rodney King by six white LAPD Officers who were subsequently acquitted. Today I am a 32 year old black man, experienced with police contact, some good, and some bad. Nevertheless, I am aware that 30 years later, things remain the same.

Often, we refer to slavery as if it has ended. Slavery is alive, however; the methods have evolved. In the early 1900’s and into the Civil Rights movement, African Americans were beat, murdered, hung, raped, sprayed with water, and attacked by dogs. Slavery and racism are sophisticated beast, it’s unchanging and forever evolving. Our prison system is a true testament to that. African Americans account for almost 14% of the U.S. population. We are no longer the second largest race in the U.S. anymore. However, we account for 75%-80% of the 2.2 million incarcerated in the U.S. The KKK has put down their cloth robes, pointy hats, and picked up badges. They have become Senators, Judges and Presidents. They are the politicians that shape our country today. 

Over the past week or so I’ve struggled with my message. Not knowing if my words have a place in this conversation? But, I have watched the video of George Floyd being murdered by the police repeatedly. It has given me my strength and courage. This man life was taken from him as he begged and pleaded for air. As he called out for his mother. His mother that passed away three years prior. As on lookers begged and pleaded for his life. “You are killing him”, they shouted; “YOU ARE KILLING HIM”! Take one second and ponder on this, George Floyd will never take another singular breath. His children will never be able to hold their father again. So when you wonder or ask what’s at stake here, the answer is, LIVES! 
As I watch the protests in our country and those by our bothers and sisters across the pond, I am educated. Racism in America is only a microcosm of the worlds true reality. Racism is our oldest pandemic. It affects us globally. We cannot allow George Floyd death to go unchecked. We must continue to march together; Black, White, Latino, Asian and all others! Young and old! Male and Female! They will try to judge and focus on the response of the people, we must focus on the actions that has continued to stoke these flames.Together we will make them say their names: 

George Floyd 5-25-20
Breonna Taylor 5-13-20
Eric Gardner 7-17-2014
Mike Brown 8-9-14
Tamer Rice 11-22-14
Freddy Gray 8-19-15
Philando Castile 6-6-16
Sandra Bland 7-13-15
Alton Sterling 7-5-16
John Crawford III 8-5-14
Walter Scott 4-4-15
Oscar Grant 1-1-09
Amadou Diallo 2-4-99
Jordan Davis 11-23-12
Antwon Rose II 1-19-18
Mikel McIntyre 2017
LaQuan McDonald 10-20-17
Botham Jean 9-6-18
Keith Childress 12-31-15
Bettie Jones 12-25-15

I can’t, He can’t, She can’t, We can’t Breathe!

Non-White Classification Pt 2-Terry Thomas

In the MDOC 65% of all clerk positions, 70% of Maintenance jobs and 50% of all Toutor jobs are held by “White” prisoners. This is by design because most of these positions are hand-picked by the assignmet supervisors rather than being chosen by the classification director from first-come-first-serve pools. Supervisors are allowed to slect prsoner on the basis of who they “feel comfortabe” with, while all the SECURITY SENSITIVE jobs require the prisoner be cleared by the local inspector.

Prisoner representatives (who are decisivie voices in how the funds earned in the prisoner store are spent, and act as liaisons between the administration and the population), are also divided between white and non-white. Each housing unit elects only two (one white, one non-white), to serve a six month term as part of the “Warden’s Forum” The “election” is done by ballot and the ballots are counted by the unit councler outside of the view of any prisoners. Without any way to varify that the results accurately reflect the voting, they have to trust i the integrity of the people who make their living perpetuating their confinment. The fact that HALF of all prisoner reps MUST BE WHITE suggests that the administration believes a non-white prisoner could not be trusted to represent the interests of white prisoners and that the interests of white prisoners MUST BE REPRESENTED in any discussions between prisoners and staff. Meanwhile, among the “non-white” population are blacks (who account for 65% of prisoners) and have no such garauntees written into the policy. There is no mandate in policy requiring that any of the prisoner reps be black, becaue the policy does not treat the interests of blacks as a priority. It is entirely possible that there can be one white and one nonwhite “elected”, who have no understandng of the need for a good afro comb verus an afro pick. Or how about, wave grease vs. hair grease?, or doo rags vs. wave caps, wave brushes vs. hair brushes etc.. What would whites or hispanics understand about these thngs? In fact, there are several things that are a daily part of black life which fall outside the experience of other ethnic groups. Without proportional representation in all aspects of the prison’s economy and political life, these things are not reflected in what is purchased with the funds they and their families pour into the prison stores. As an example it is only in recent years that the cable system included any channels which had “black” content. However, even today there are only two such channels BET and CENTRIC. That’s two out of fifty six channels; less than one percent. While conversely there are six FOX cnannels in addition to MTV, VH1, CMT etc. In fact all the other channels cater to white and/or conservative culture.

So you might ask yourself ; “Why this effort to defer to white prisoners?” The answer is the same as it always is; to keep the money and the power in white hands. If prisoners don’t have a source of income from prison jobs, they have to ask their families for money, so when you block the best payig jobs from black prisoners it ensures that money from the black community will flow into these institutions where the sate takes several bites out of it to agument their revenue steams. This bleeds money from our communties that could be put to more productive uses. Those prisoners who cannot support themselves from prison jobs or family conntributons often turn to more illicit sources of income which often result in longer prison stays. This policy is just a small part in an elaborate combination of seemingly unrelated legislative acts that ensure blacks will remain a permanent undercass fit for generating profits but not for sharing in them. Racial bias in prison is just good business for the dominate culture. It helps to perpetuate the advantages they enjoy and profit from.


Terry L. Thomas-Bey 194430

NOTE: Percentages are accurate as of 1/8/2018