Tuesday, August 11, 2020

It's About Systemic Racism - Not Individuals

 This blog was inspired by posts from two people on my social media page who were irate (as they should be) over the release of a man incarcerated for domestic violence because of the Covid 19 Virus. This man killed the woman who was responsible for his incarceration and then as far as I can recall, killed himself. That, in itself, could be another blog. The posts I read were angry (as they should be) over the fact that this man was released from prison and then killed his victim. The picture of the man indicated that he was Caucasian.  On one of the posts, in response,  I simply asked, "What would you have done?" The angry response showed that the person did not even read my comment or understand that it was a question but simply responded (paraphrase) I don't know how this can be more obvious, an accused, dangerous person released from prison? 

I really had been interested in an answer, perhaps to stimulate a conversation on this topic. After that response, I started thinking about the situation through a lens of experience working in the criminal justice system and knowing the dilemma of making sure inmates' health is protected and that they do not die as a result of the incarceration. This problem has gone far beyond treatment in prisons and has been taken to the streets to demand social justice on the part of colored people who find themselves in contact with law enforcement. 

The nation, in general, is divided; people are angry, mob behavior has come in to take the place of order. I cannot help but think about how Radical Republicans and scalawags took advantage of the chaos in the South to destroy a Reconstruction that was based on "malice toward none and justice for all." The challenges we face in this country because of this is one of the reasons we are still fighting the Civil War, but this is not what my blog is about. 

It is about systemic racism that was the basis for disenfranchising the majority of the American population from participation in a supposed democracy and the struggle to incorporate others through using the Constitution, especially the Amendments known as the Bill of Rights throughout our history. One of the things I notice about the very vocal group that makes up much of President Trump's base is that the efforts of these disenfranchised groups to obtain their rights are somehow a threat to their "rights" and an attempt to erase our glorious history. So long as this is what is being promoted and people (on both sides) are unwilling to start thinking and reading beyond jingoistic phrases and rhetoric from political leaders who want to stay in power, we will continue to fight the Civil War with ignorance and unwillingness to face how our very Constitution and, many times, the way civil rights is interpreted by the court system to continue the back and forth ignorant, emotional tirades that each group uses to prove, "racism doesn't exist" and no progress can be made. Therefore, I write this blog knowing that unless I have some celebrity post something that validates what I am saying, no one will pay much attention. In spite of my resistance against doing this, I am writing the blog because at least I can put the subject to rest for me. 

Overcrowding in the prison system has been an issue for generations. In fact, I was encouraged when both sides of the aisle came together to make progress on criminal justice reform. In fact, President Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, encouraged him to make criminal justice reform the pivot point of his election. Instead, the President and his advisors chose to stick with the economy, and rely on his rallying cry to his "base" in huge events that did nothing but stir up jingoism and knee jerk responses. That backfired on him and he is now gathering as much support for his administration as being non racist by dividing the country even more in this "who is most at fault?" I do not blame the Trump Administration entirely for this division, I also do not like the Black Lives Matter" group's approach to that group being the group that is demanding reform rather than look at the idea of racism in general against all those disenfranchised from the "democratic" system set up in 1787 and go to the root of the matter. 

So, I asked myself the same question and my response gave me insight into systemic racism that exists and still gets covered up because of all the noise. As stated earlier, the criminal incarceration system is responsible for the health of inmates in their care regardless of the nature of the crime, even those on death row. When I worked in the juvenile justice system in Oregon, I became aware of the protocols in place to protect the physical health and safety of the inmates that were always under investigation should an inmate die or be injured while in their custody. The dilemma faced by the people running the prison system has been greatly exacerbated due to a virus that requires social distancing, hygiene and face masks. Whether this prisoner was accused of murder or perhaps a less violent offense, the system is required to protect them all. How to best do that when the prisons are overcrowded in the first place? Take a look at releasing some prisoners. Here is the point I am making about racism.

Why choose this white man who was accused of murder over some other populations that were in for less violent offenses? In fact, that was what part of the criminal justice reform act was all about? I am sure that there were many inmates who fit this description who might have been released to homes with ankle bracelets and monitors and visits by parole officers instead of the one inmate (who happened to be white) accused of violent crimes. In this manner room could have been made to isolate those criminals who were more of a threat to society and protect them from Covid 19 while following all of the recommended protocols. I believe his release was about systemic racism in the way white prisoners are treated over people of color. Maybe my readers, if any, don't see it this way, but if you don't, instead of responding with angry, judgmental words, I would be interested in knowing what would you do? Or, if you are a Christian, what do you think Jesus would do? .  

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