This is a quote from a recent documentary I watched – 13th – on Netflix. Trailer here.
This documentary simultaneously saddened and hardened my heart.
Regretfully, it reinforces the familiar story of systematic criminalisation of black (and other ethnic minorities) in the USA. It explores the influence of history on said dehumanisation. It highlights the intentional cyclical effect that modern political frameworks (predominantly war in drugs/ mass incarceration) have had on continuously perpetuating this vicious cycle, again and again. It does this through reiterating the 13th amendment:
Section 1. 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.
Section 2. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.
13th demonstrates black people as the familiar ‘fall guys’. They continue to bear the brunt of America’s economic greed – whether at corporate or government level. The are the scapegoats of implementing social order, free labour (didn’t know your Vicky’s secret bras were made by inmates? Amongst other things) and financial gain for those in power. It clearly shows that mass incarceration of black people is a way to achieve all the above – thus bringing the 13th amendment to life.
I’m not going to give you a history lesson (I can hear sighs of relief ha!). Not today. My hope is that if you are reading this you are interested in educating and elevating yourself – please please do. There is nothing greater than learning and being informed 🙂
What I am going to focus on is very basic.
The right to life.
The right to live.
Two things that many black folk in the States, and in many other Western countries aren’t afforded on a consistent and unbiased basis. I am aware that not all black people feel they fall under this umbrella – there are exceptions to every rule. I am speaking in general terms so bear with me. For each exception there are hundreds who face systematic oppression daily. The majority are from so called deprived and urban areas, but that is by no means the limit.
Now, I will start off by saying we must all remember that regardless of class, colour, or creed – we are all conceived and born the same way.
Before any other (constructed) label is applied -from gender to colour to age to career – we are all human beings first.
Complex emotive and resilient human beings capable and deserving of love. Of freedom for speech. Of fundamental rights. Of having a life and the ability to live it.
Based on this premise we should all have the chance to find and be ourselves. We should not be typecast into a role without consent, a role that we have not subscribed too. We should have equal choice and opportunities. We should be innocent until proven guilty.
But this is not what is happening. Labels and roles have been cascaded upon the black race for generations. The stickiness of the such labels is dangerous. They have lasted for decades and continue to live on.
Criminals. Fetishised lovers. Animals. Sportsmen. Aggressors. Murderers. Rapists. Super-predators. Single parents. Unintelligent. Swindling. SECOND CLASS CITIZENS.
No. The only role that should be assigned is that of being:
Human. Human. Human. HUMAN.
Why is this so difficult to understand? Why won’t the oppression and prejudices end? Why is modern day racism and dehumanisation of certain communities being ignored and even legitimised (yet again) under new leaders (Trump) and legislation (Brexit)?
(Side note – you only have to type in Trump racism or Brexit racism into the world’s favourite search engine to find OBJECTIVE examples of xenophobia. To start you off, find a list at the bottom of this article.)
Back to my point. Everyone and anyone should just be allowed to just be. That is why the whole ‘Black lives matter’ movement began. Because it was becoming lucid on an international scale that this basic right was and is not being afforded to all communities. It was becoming visibly clear that certain groups were being targeted (and killed) by law enforcement even whilst completely innocent.
‘Black lives matter’ asks why black individuals have to question their value as human beings. It asks why they have to question their worth in society compared to others when the only different is the colour of their skin. Why they constantly have to be extra resilient, extra tenacious, extra flexible just to have a chance at succeeding. Or just to prove themselves as humans each day.
Black and ethnic minorities have faced and continue to stare the ugly personification of oppression in its face. Now this face has many expressions – from displacement, to historic slavery, to urbanisation, to mass incarceration, to ‘fear’ propaganda, to unsolicited and inexcusable murder by police. What a mouthful.
This has led to a sub standard existence. This has led to being set up for stares, struggles, failure, and prison. All reinforced by insufficient housing, unsafe neighbourhoods, deteriorating communities, fractured families, lacking educational systems, poisoned water, unreliable electricity, negative connotations and stereotypes, lesser vocational opportunities, gangs, perceived inadequacy and inequality, perceived disregard for life.
Many black people are simply surviving in spite of all these variables. Some individuals ‘escape’. Some deservedly succeed in spite of these variables. Others speak up and are demonised. Whilst others adhere to given stereotypes.
How easy to adhere to a stereotype if you are faced with it daily. How easy to have a f*ck the world attitude if history has taught you that regardless of your innocence and character, they’re gonna arrest you, judge you, categorise you anyway? Even those who respectfully fight against these stereotypes are painted as threats and locked up (Martin Luther King Jr for one). So how can you blame anyone for adopting a defeatist attitude in the face of such prevalent and unending oppression? But closing our eyes to the issue will not resolve it.
The ‘guilty until proven innocent’ rhetoric is very real when it comes to black communities. It is not an issue of victimisation or crying wolf. Please look at these stats below for factual evidence:
Likelihood of white male being incarcerated – 1 in 17
Likelihood of black male being incarcerated – 1 in 3
I cannot find like for like stats, but I have found evidence that males from a BME background are 3 times more likely to be imprisoned than their white counterparts.
Fun fact – In Dorset, a black person was 17 times more likely to be stopped and searched in 2015. 17 times. Let that sink in.
Another set of stats below:
African Americans males make up 6.5% of US population.
Yet these same African Americans males make up 40.2% of US prison population.
Black males makes up 3% of the UK population.
Yet these same Black males make up 12% of UK prison population.
Disparity upon disparity.
As I said above the stats speak for themselves. Either black people are predisposed to be criminals (rolls eyes) or this is senseless and biased systematic witch hunting. An economically charged political agenda that sets such communities up for failure.
When people really are criminals and there is proof, yes please arrest them, take them to court, imprison them if that is the ruling – fairly. But don’t actively target and destroy someone’s life without proof. Don’t then proceed to lock them up and throw away the key. Don’t kill with no valid reason, because of preconceptions and fear associated with golden, brown and black skin tones. You know what how about we just stop the killing full stop? But that’s another topic for another day.
Please read up on your political parties and leaders. Please research past history and current social economic frameworks. Please look up incarceration and stop and search stats. Please look up your rights. Please do not believe everything you see on Sky or Fox News. Look deeper into people’s eyes. Don’t ignore. Read in between the lines.
If you don’t want to read, a good starting point is to watch Netflix’s documentary – ‘13th‘.
Open your eyes. No matter where you are from, just open your eyes. Try and see from another point of view. Try and see everyone as a human being. Please.
We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed. Frankly, I have yet to engage in a direct action campaign that was “well timed” in the view of those who have not suffered unduly from the disease of segregation. For years now I have heard the word “Wait!” It rings in the ear of every Negro with piercing familiarity. This “Wait” has almost always meant “Never.” We must come to see, with one of our distinguished jurists, that “justice too long delayed is justice denied.”
Martin Luther King Jr. Letter From A Birmingham Jail, 1963.
The world can’t continue this way. We can’t keep just praying. We can’t just keep waiting. Something just change.
#blacklivesmatter #alllivesmatter #weareallhumans #changetheworld #13th #humanisation
Trump associated racism links:
Brexit associated racism links:
1. Netflix Documentary -13th