Crime and Punishment: What’s it really about?
Can we really say the the legal and justice systems in America are about crime, punishment, and rehabilitation? Are they remotely about bringing justice?
If universities, banks, and major corporations are hoarding money and opportunity, starving the people of surrounding communities, why do the police protect these institutions and inflict violence on the people and communities that speak and rise against them in protest, when they should instead be protecting them?
If White people in America are 4 times more likely to be in possession of drugs, then why are Black and Latino drivers 3 times more likely to be stopped and searched by the police? Also, why do Black and Latino people on average serve substantially more time in comparison to Whites for the same non-violent drug offenses?
If 109 of the last 128 documented FBI cases deemed as terrorist acts in America were carried out by white males of christian/protestant mid-upper class backgrounds, then why does our country vilify people of color, the poor, and muslims as the face of terror?
The reason is because our system in America is clearly not about crime. It is a stratifying, oppressive tool of a country that protects and promotes limitless monetary gain for some, while ignoring the toll it has on the finite resources of the masses of poor people throughout our communities.
Here is a recent reflection provided by my partner on her identity as a passing (racially Asian), Afro-Chinese woman in relationship to our legal system:
“My Clean Record”by Mei-Ling N. MaloneToday I’m getting a live scan done for work. It’s going to come back clean but here is what it should read-
- Identity Theft
- Terrorist Threats
- Underage Substance Abuse
- Driving Under the Influence
My clean record is a symbol of my privilege, NOT my actual behavior. Born another class and color, I too would have experienced the nightmare of incarceration, denial of my very humanity and a lifetime of discrimination and inhumane living conditions. Crime has never been about actual crime. Instead, crime and prison has always been about oppression, racism and capitalism.
In our history, we have been blessed with countless freedom fighters that have exposed the racialized oppressive nature of the American legal system. Whether through the fearless calls for prison abolition from Sister Angela Davis or the direct conviction and rejection of our unjust establishment by Malcolm X, we have had several examples to call on in order to begin imagining a new way to seek justice.
How can we as Black Americans begin to build toward a new reality where our justice system seeks justice to provide just that, justice.
Can we imagine a place where we can utilize our justice system to provide healing, treatment, care, and peaceful recourse to right our wrongs? Share your thoughts below.