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I was born and raised in upper Manhattan
in an area that is called Inwood. I get off in Dyckman on the A train line. The
winters in the area can be dangerous with the slippery snowy sidewalks that the
residential property owners fail to clean, while in summers you have cold
drinks of soda and water to cool down your day. I’ve walked down neighborhood
blocks to only be offered the presumably finest marijuana; usually by someone
close to my age with my assumption of them being high school drop outs.  Growing up in Inwood, a low-income community
in upper Manhattan, I saw first-hand the consequences of incarcerating African
American males for petty non-violent crimes like smoking weed, selling
marijuana, hopping the turn-style, and etc. There is no question that mass
incarceration is a problem in the United States because it is racially
motivated. Due to high incarceration rates in the African American community
children grow up fatherless, in a matriarchy society and living in poverty.
Because of this there are many stereotypes going on about African Americans of
the things they do and how they’re viewed in our society. Some act in very different
ways from others. Things that come into factor is race because it can play a
huge role about one’s skin identity.  My close
friends grew up fatherless had a lot of leisure time because their mothers
would be working, did not graduate high school and in and out of prison. The
imprisonment of males has direct consequences on African American families
because of the absence of a male figure. Without a male figure it becomes more
likely that African American families will struggle financially and African
American children will most likely turn to the underground economy to make ends
meet, which will increase their chances of going to prison. I have always been
conscious of the high number of incarceration of adolescents from my
neighborhood but I did not realize it was a problem until I reached college and
studied the systematic racism in the criminal justice system.

            I believe the incarceration system
is the new slavery for many reasons. First statistics alone show that the
United States has the highest incarceration rate. Second of all the prison
industry is a billion-dollar industry and makes a huge amount of profit by
having inmates work hard labor to create products for industries and paying
inmates an extremely low wage. Third of all prisoners live in unsanitary and
dangerous living conditions. Last but not least even after prisoners complete
their sentence they are stuck with parole and the stigmatization of being
labeled a felon. Once a felon an individual becomes isolated from society. In
many states felons cannot vote, unable to get housing and it becomes extremely
difficult for them to get jobs therefore forcing them into the underground
industry and most likely ending up back in jail, a never ending cycle.

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            Police brutality is an example of
the racism in the criminal justice system. Police brutality has always been a
problem in the African American community but it has become a popular topic in
the media due to social media. It’s annoying when people say “not all cops are
bad” because there is no such thing as a good cop. How can there be a good cop
when the whole criminal justice system is messed up. I believe police brutality
is the main social problem that has caused my generation to protest and
challenge society with organizations and movements like Black Lives Matters.
It’s great to see a social movement like Black Lives Matter carry so much
momentum because I believe there has not been a movement so powerful in a
couple of decades. It saddens me when people say all lives matter because of
course all lives matter but African American are the ones suffering from
systematic and social racism. Hopefully the Black Lives Matter movement
continues to grow and helps solve the social and systematic racism African
Americans face in the United States.

 

A book I read in regards to mass
incarceration is Lockdown America: Police
and Prisons in the Age of Crisis by Christian Parenti is a form of
investigative journalism, which explores the explosion of prisons and mass
incarceration in the United States. It is meant to be an informative read on a
topic that has not had much coverage in the past. Parenti explains historical
background; economic factors and political legislations that contributed to the
way the Carceral State is ran today; the Carceral State is a system in which
every aspect of the criminal justice system is involved (prisons, jails,
policing, the justice system, parole, probation, the FBI, judges, lawyers and regimes
of government control). In this book Parenti argues that the buildup of the
criminal justice system began in the late sixties after capitalism hit an
economic crisis and continued to grow in the late seventies and into the late
eighties with the Reagan era. Parenti presents his argument convincingly by
carefully organizing, using several sources and giving historical background
prior to the 1960s. Lockdown America is a very important book I believe because
it does not only talk about the many issues in our country but also it catches
attentions to anyone who is interested in the prison industry and all the
contributing factors. Parenti does an great job in informing the general public
about the historical and political process that leads to mass incarceration
among African Americans and Latinos. 

Inequality exists, and the African
American community believe there is inequality in the justice system. They feel
they are being targeted by law enforcement because of their gender and race and
believe the system has failed them. On the other hand law enforcement feel that
they are just simply doing their job and are in no way targeting African
Americans. They believe when they open fire or use excessive force it is
because it is necessary and not because of race. Each group has different
views, beliefs and opinions, which leads these two groups two compete against
each and this competition is the bases for social change. In this situation
conflict is handled both in a negative manner (riots, violence, looting) and a
positive manner (marches, peaceful protest). African Americans are challenging
the status quo and the powerful people to eliminate this racial inequality that
exist in the criminal justice system. A song that really hits home for me is
called “Neighbors” by rapper J. Cole. I feel that this song relates to the
stereotypes of African Americans and minorities in the United States because J.
Cole is explaining in the song about a real life experience that occurred to
him in North Carolina. Neighbors had reported odd activities in a house he
rented in a wealthy neighborhood. The neighbors thought and assumed that there
was drug activity in the house, because they would see African American men
coming and in out the house. A stereotype of African Americans and minorities being
misunderstood. The S.W.A.T showed up to his house. There were no drugs or any
narcotics activity found in the house. In the song he also speaks the misrepresentation
in society about the injustice of racism, and killings of African American kids
who have died over police brutality. 

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I'm Erica!

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