Day 11

Color and Politics of War

“The law enforcement methods [of the War on Drugs] have been employed almost exclusively in poor communities of color, resulting in jaw-dropping numbers of African Americans and Latinos filling our nation’s prisons and jails every year.”  Michelle Alexander, The New Jim Crow, p. 98; *See also Human Rights Watch – Punishment and Prejudice

80% of criminal defendants are indigent.

Although the majority of illegal drug users and dealers nationwide are white, three-fourths of all people imprisoned for drug offenses have been black or Latino.

Overall, African Americans and Latinos are incarcerated at grossly disproportionate rates throughout the U.S.

And it isn’t just a right-left, Republican-Democrat, divided issue.  Yes, approaches may be a bit different in some ways, but the results are the same.  Bill Clinton vowed that he would never allow Republicans to be perceived as tougher on crime than he.  *read more in Michelle Alexander, The New Jim Crow, pp. 56-7.  Under Barack Obama not much has changed until very recently in the federal enforcement of the Drug War, Obama has overseen record numbers of deportations and a growing increase in federal immigration-related prisoners.  *See Pew Research and Growth in U.S. Deportation Machine

I share all these things to say that we all must face the facts together.  We cannot hide any longer behind the political rhetoric of anger and fear, or our culture hellbent on punishment, or in our ghettoed existences.  This War and the mass incarceration that continues to devastate poor communities of color is not just their issue, whoever your their may be.  This is our problem.  And we need courageous leaders and footsoldiers to join a movement to work for the redemption and transformation of our society.  But we must be brave enough to realize that the perceived enemy is not really the Enemy.  Together we battle an even greater Enemy that seeks to steal and kill and destroy Life.  Be brave, my brothers and sisters.  We are more than conquerors through our God who loves us.

Thank you, but…

Oh, and thank you for the vast amount of encouragement and support so many of you have given me in this journey.  Please keep reading, sharing, posting, liking, following, and all that other stuff!  The more you spread the word, the more people will know and understand and hopefully respond in compassionate action.  But don’t do it for me or focus solely on what I am doing.  Please act on behalf of those who truly suffer.  This is their story.

The attention and praise provided, although deeply appreciated, has also made it harder for me to experience much of what I set out to experience personally in my own spiritual life.  Now that I am “famous” as a few people have jokingly remarked, I have sensed a lifting of the stigma attached to my choice of uniform.  Sure, there are still many questioning looks and second glances, but now a lot more people have heard who I am and why I am wearing an orange prisoner uniform.  Part of me is glad for this relief, as Prof. Mark Osler reminded me in his blog post yesterday — “It’s entirely possible that someone might think he is an escaped convict, a situation might escalate, and that could happen.  Possible, but not probable.  Still, when you are talking about getting shot, ‘possible’ isn’t so great.”  So local law enforcement knowing who I am is okay with me.  However, I believe I still have more to experience in order to understand more deeply what the stigma is really like, how the fear incapacitates, and how one of privilege like myself might truly find a place of solidarity with the poor and oppressed.

So…  I guess I will just show up for jury duty.  Yes, believe it or not, I have been summoned for jury duty this morning.  I report at 8:30 at our county courthouse.  Should be interesting!  I will report back to you tomorrow…

Until then, be strong and courageous, for all our brothers’ and sisters’ sakes.


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