"CRAZY": Middle Class Guards Mass Incarceration


I have a cellie (Trey), who has been incarcerated for 28 years. He was jailed, merely months after turning 18. I title this “CRAZY,” because on occasions he has told me many a story about homies (comrades) who have, “lunched-out,” or gone crazy for lack of a better description.

Yesterday evening, I found myself in the gymnasium and was approached by a comrade who asked me to pass a message off to Trey. A friend of his, whom he has known for a very long time has lunched-out, off the natural. “Off the natural” indicates that the person did not lunch-out as a result of drug use. Though I did not know the individual, I felt the deepest empathy for him. I immediately felt as though he had lost hope, and his mental bulwark came crashing down. I will never know what broke this man, but can understand how and why such a breakdown could have happened. Men like him, who have lunched-out off the natural, are described by Trey as strong and without showing any more signs than the next man, that they were susceptible to a breakdown. Sometimes, I wonder if such a tragedy will be my fate.

I have been called “burnt-out” by some, as they reference my vocal diatribes and harangues about the systemic racism found here in America. My studies have revealed a great many things, germane to the depredation, exploitation, and contrived destruction of people who look like me. The more one is educated - and I speak not of education handed to you by the system that oppresses - the more one becomes angry. One must seek knowledge and truth on ones own terms to be truly enlightened. Otherwise, what you have been fed does nothing more than buttress the enslavement of you and the masses along with you.

W.E.B. Du Bois in “Souls of Black Folk,” has a section in his book called, “The Coming of John,” which illustrates the enlightenment of the character, John. He too is angered by the injustice, and juxtaposed by the ignorant, happy black people in his community. John’s sister asked him, “Are all educated people angry?” John responds in the affirmative.

Frederick Douglass also explained how he was enlightened by educating himself. He was being taught his A, B, C’s by his master’s wife. Upon finding out that his wife was teaching Douglass how to read, the slave master ordered his wife to never teach a slave how to read, for it would make the slave no good to his master. This served as the impetus inspiring 5-year old Douglass to educate himself.

I am presently reading, “From ‘Superman’ To Man,” by J. A. Rogers. It tells of a discussion primarily between a black train porter named Dixon and a white racist Southern legislator. Dixon explains, “Moreover, the thinker of any color is often unhappy because education enables him to see the tinsel and the heartaches; the injustices and the greed that go to make up the greater part of our civilization…The ignorant Negro like the ignorant white man will continue to be the happier one until we educate or remove the cause that makes the thinking ones of both races unhappy, namely, the greedy white men and the few greedy Negroes at the top.” I am often amazed that our progenitors were so wise. Today, more than ever, social ills are the result of the very few in power.

If we could only realize that race is not the problem, but only a deftly employed smokescreen.

I accept with open arms my being called “burnt-out.” Having been surrounded by the pariah and proletariat of our society, it is easy to see how and why we fall victim to a system built upon racial prejudice. What drives me “crazy” is the fact that the so-called civilized Americans allow the systematic destruction of a group of people they claim as their own. I recently heard that 75% of those incarcerated in the federal system for drug laws are black. How is this possible, when there have been studies proving that all races use and sell drugs at similar rates, and that blacks only make up 13% of the population?

This system exists and thrives because the middle class allows it! Those that make up the middle class are either indifferent, or sincerely ignorant. Laws have always been unequally enforced to the detriment of black people. I see as analogues a didactic appeal by the character Dixon, in his response to reading a newspaper article titled, “Negro Burned by Mob of Cheering Texans. Thousands Including Young Girls, See Black Burned Alive at Stake in Public Square,” he states,

“That such a thing should be possible in a country which more than any other on earth proclaims its civilization!” Dixon states further, “Can the most savage South Sea tribe equal in barbarity the infamous lynching record of this republic with its vast number of churches, colleges, and schools? When before in the history of the human race, from its darkest moment until now, has there been another country where a citizen could be dismembered, burnt alive, and every other form of atrocity which fiendish ingenuity can devise be inflicted upon him simply because he refuses to get off a sidewalk or gives a saucy word to another?…The conscience of a nation is numb, that is, if it ever had any conscience at all. How we shudder at the barbarity of pagans who two thousand years ago, we too burn Christians alive! Yet we let pass almost unnoticed the burning of Christians by Christians today in our own midst…Let it be a vicious mule that was burnt alive; how those tender-hearted Christian sadists would howl!”

How then is the burning and lynching of blacks in days past any different from burying them alive and driving them to madness in prison! I watch the clever pathos of commercials about abused dogs. I imagine, that kind hearted people are hurrying to send money to save these distressed animals. But what of the distressed humans? What of the unequal and unjust enforcement of laws used to not protect us, but to serve prejudice against blacks? I would even proffer that times today are much worse than before. Now, the majority of our community turn their backs on us, convicted criminals. Can you not see that I am you?That we are hunted and have been since before Europeans came to the “new world.”

The “Black Lives Matter” movement motive, as I understand it (and I can be incorrect), is straight and true, but its direction is curved and incorrect. Of course, black lives matter as all lives do. The purposeful “too,” left off at the end of the “Black Lives Matter” name would have had the added implication that the protection of white lives here in America is a default.

The Black Lives Matter movement would be better to direct their attention to what allows a black man to be shot by a cop without provocation.

Our community has turned its back on a segment of their community who most often are the poor and vulnerable. They have allowed America to conduct a propaganda media campaign designed to demonize black people, strike fear in white people who are made to think that we are all drug dealers here to destroy families, hence, mass incarceration.

My ex-wife had the temerity to tell me that she worked hard with regard to her job and values the position she attained within her company, and that her fear of losing such heights played a part in her decision to leave me. I tell you, the feelings of abandonment and pain are ineffable. I hold no ill will toward her, as I have endeavored to be understanding, or at least try to be, in all things. I understand.

I say again that things are worse today, because the ethos of the past which brought blacks together on the basis of their skin color and shared feelings of oppression, have been addled by the financial scraps used to placate them. The middle class stands guard of a system that does not love black people, and enslaves them, stealing their time in a myriad of ways, even if they are not incarcerated. Thins are worse, because those being burned alive have not even their own community to look for help.

What say you?!

Yasmina MrabetComment