Beginning Thoughts on the Prison-Industrial Complex (PIC) and Abolition

Given the promise of increased criminalization, the promise of increased funding for the police state, and the threat of a heavy-duty deportation machine, it is now more important than ever to defund the prison-industrial complex.

If you haven’t read “The New Jim Crow” by Michelle Alexander or watched the documentary 13th, add it to your list.

I had the opportunity to hear Michelle Alexander speak at Carleton in my first or second year, it was life-changing.

Basically, post-slavery, the United States needed to find a new source of cheap (read free) labor. And so tada! Prison system began to really take off.

Thanks to a series of laws passed by both republicans and democrats (Nixon, Reagan, our would-have-been first spouse, Bill) and the call for “law and order”, we have a system of (in)justice in place that relies on and perpetuates the massive incarceration of people of color and especially impoverished people of color. In addition, the police force in this country has been militarized to continue this pipeline of free labor, petty misdemeanors have been criminalized, and neighborhoods of people of color are targeted disproportionately.

In other news of how everything is everything is everything. Meanwhile, the likelihood of a white rapist seeing even minimal jail time is negligible. Tell me again how this system is working to protect its people?

So this new executive piece-of-crap would provide funding for an already militarized police force. A force that also unfairly targets immigrant communities. P.S. it’s already started in SF.

Okay, so you may have already known all that. What practical steps can we take?

1. Invest in education.

Not only education about these practices, but also good-old-fashioned education in the United States. That means block Betsy Davos from being appointed to Secretary of Education. You’re probably already calling your reps a lot, but add to the list moving funding away from prisons and into schools.

2. Defund private prisons/ move funding for state prisons to localities.

Again, the root of the problem is capitalism. I should just buy a shirt that says that (ha, like, it was a joke… cuz… nevermind). There’s a giant evil conglomerate called the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) and another called the GEO Group which is all the corporations with investment in private prisons. Once again you see the giant banks, Bank of America, JP Morgan and Chase, etc etc. So if you haven’t yet, please consider banking with a small credit union.

Additionally, as far as state prisons go, W. David Bell published a report that suggested moving the funding of prisons from the state level to the local level where the decisions are actually being made. So, now you can pester your reps on the state level, too, and tell them to follow those suggestions.

3. Join the abolitionist movement.

The above to suggestions are ways to help better a corrupt system. But really the best way would be to end the corrupt system altogether. So join the abolitionist movement.

If you needed more convincing, think about the fact that pregnant women in NYC are still being placed in solitary confinement. Roughly a third of prison fatalities are due to suicide (as of 2015 statistics).

This needs to be stopped. There are several organizations already in existence working towards this end.

Critical Resistance sprang from a 1998 conference and has several local chapters (the website is a little-outdated unfortunately). It has some good resources for education re: prison abolition.

Prison Activist Resource Center is a group based in Oakland that seeks to bring the injustice of the prison system to light.

Black and Pink is an organization working for solidarity with LGBTQ prisoners. It has a pen pal directory. Which leads me to:

4. Get to know prisoners.

It’s proven that the best way for ending stereotypes is by personal knowledge. So please, consider signing up to be a pen pal with someone in prison.

I started writing letters to my pen pal a few days after the election. I was nervous at first, unsure what to expect, full of these weird anxieties that I wouldn’t be good enough, that I couldn’t save this person, that he would want something from me that I couldn’t provide.

But I couldn’t have been more wrong. He’s just a really sweet human being in a really screwed up system. Despite all the horrific things he’s been through, my pen pal has one of the most upbeat and optimistic world-views. I am so inspired and motivated by him.

So, for your sake really, sign up to be a pen pal. Or find other ways of connecting personally with people in prison.

Again this is only a starting point. Let me know other practical steps to take. I have to run to work.

Beginning Thoughts On Immigration

First, it’s important how we frame this conversation. Unless you are a member of a native tribe, you or your ancestors are/were an immigrant to this country. If you are white, more than likely some of your ancestors were involved in the theft of native lands and the massive genocide that took place on this continent.

So, the only people who should have a right to pass executive orders about immigration are native people.

Second, since money seems to be the only thing that influences some people, a paper based in the UK reported that decreasing immigration rates leads to a decrease in economic gain, while a different paper based on global figures indicated that an increase in immigration can lead to greater economic benefits.

Here are frequently asked questions answered by the Economic Policy Institute, a nonpartisan, non-profit that seeks to ensure rigorous research into economic policy. It shows that the overall impact of immigration is essentially net-zero on the positive side.

Likely, though, if you’re reading this blog, you don’t need convincing that the recent executive order reducing the number of immigrants, specifically from Muslim-majority countries, is a bad thing. Nor do you need convincing that the massive deportations promised on the campaign trail will not happen on our watch.

It’s important to note, that such deportations, if they should be kicked into gear violate the constitution. Anthony D. Romero, executive director of the ACLU, pointed out that a deportation machine on the level that the dung-beetle promised would “shred the Fourth Amendment’s protection against unreasonable search and seizures”.

So with this in mind, what practical steps can we take to combat the executive order policies and protect current immigrants living in the United States?

1. Call your reps. The executive order still requires appropriation of funding from Congress.  So, this means continue calling your Senators and Representatives and tell them not to appropriate funds to the increased border patrol. I’m still going to call my reps even though I’ve been severely disappointed by the lack of resistance to the cabinet nominees thus far. (For peeps in Oakland that’s Dianne Feinstein 202-224-3841; Kamala Harris 202-224-3553; Barbara Lee 202-225-2661)

2.Support the ACLU. The ACLU have currently filed suit against a certain someone regarding certain financial documents. If you have the means, you can donate to support this fight. Call and be sure that immigrant rights and the aforementioned constitutional deviances are kept in mind. (it’s telling me deviances isn’t a word… isn’t it? Language is a moving target.) There are plenty of local ACLU offices as well that you can support and get involved with. Northern California’s office is right on Drumm Street! That’s near where I work!

3. Find your local USCIS Office. There are two in my area, one in Oakland and one in SF. I don’t know why exactly I think this is important, but if the time comes to protest or to physically stand in the way, I know where I’m headed.

4. Stay vigilant. Probably the most important and most nebulous. SF has been a sanctuary city for quite some time and thankfully our mayor made a statement saying we would remain that way, but I’m not so sure I trust politicians anymore. So I am ready to call and protest if I see wavering on this stance. In general, get to know the immigration stance in your surrounding area, it may, unfortunately be obvious. Here is a HuffPost article about what to do if you witness a deportation. BUT LET’S MAKE SURE IT DOESN’T COME TO THAT.

This is only the beginning of my thoughts. If you have more concrete actions we can take, please feel free to comment. I’m still collecting my thoughts on how to combat the targeting of Muslim countries and how best to support Syrian refugees.

In general, if you are an immigrant, I am here to support you however I can.

This is Not What “Change” Looks Like

This is what a kleptocracy looks like.

So, if you happened to vote in this past election for the orange thing (I’m going to show it as much respect as it has shown me and my compatriots), and you don’t believe yourself to be racist or homophobic (HA), you probably voted because you wanted to shake up Washington.

Putting aside the fact that you placed your belief in a megalomaniac who promised to destroy millions of families both queer and migrant, register Muslims, increase the war against people of color, and cripple health care in general and women’s health care in specific, putting all that aside, you still aren’t getting what you voted for.

It turns out it doesn’t matter if you’re a wealthy politician or a wealthy “business-asshole”, sorry, “bussiness-man”, the wealthy in this country have for the past three hundred or so years been in the business of solidifying and increasing that wealth. If you thought the jingo-pig was any different, well, you’re in for a bumpy ride.

The only thing that differentiates the orange-marmaduke from other longer running politicians is 1) he’s overtly racist and has the support of Neo-Nazis and the KKK 2) he has openly admitted to sexually assaulting women 3) he has absolutely no idea what reality is. I think his tiny hands can’t hold onto the facts.

I’m sure it’s only a matter of time before I’m not allowed to write things like this without facing jail-time. I’m not exaggerating. The dingo-baby has already begun attacking the right of freedom of expression, and heaven knows his tiny ego can’t sustain itself when gets a taste of his own treatment. Not to mention he’s appointed Mike Pompeo as head of the CIA, so let’s all celebrate the return of torture.

I said I’d try to be more inclusive in my writing. But it’s 7:00AM and I woke myself up because I was so angry.

Okay, so back to the point. This dung that white people elected to office is not going to shake anything up politically speaking. He is only going to shake more money into his pockets and the pockets of his kkkronies. Why do you think he refuses to reveal his tax documents? It’s probably just to prove a point, right?

I would think this is ironic and divine comeuppance for the United States. That at last we have bitten our own tail: after putting dictators into power all around the world, we finally get a taste of our own medicine. But the problem is, this isn’t going to harm those responsible. They’ve got their safety nets. As always, this is going to harm the most vulnerable populations. In fact, some of those same vulnerable populations are running away from the dictatorships we created only to find themselves once more in the orangutans jaws.

So, what’s my point here. If you voted for the monster, it’s time to face up to the facts and start fighting against what he is doing. You’re probably just angry at me right now. That’s fine. You can be angry at me as much as you like as long as you stand with me to stop the return of torture, protect freedom of religion by opposing a Muslim registry, support working families by sheltering our immigrants, and prove you aren’t racist or homophobic by countering homophobic and racist policies. This means saying NO to the return of “law and order”. “Law and order” is just code for a return to stop-and-frisk, greater prison time with less legal justification and greater militarization of the already militarized police. This means saying NO to anything even close to resembling conversion therapy or the overturning of the 2015 Supreme Court marriage ruling.

So, that’s what I’ve got to say to people who voted for the mass of jello. I mean if you’re just racist and homophobic and hate women, then I’ve got nothing to say to you except that I’m human. And if you think I’m going to take this lying down you’ve got another thing coming.

When the Dictator

When at last the dictator’s reign came to an end, the reins slipping from his tiny hands, his strident yell faded to a hoarse unintelligible rasp, the resistance forces breaking through the final of his gun-toting thugs to find him cowering in his bathroom, there was much rejoicing.

The capital, long savaged by a poisoned potent rain from the years of nuclear fallout, the trees stunted from repeated bombings, the once white buildings turned relatable in their scorched soot-facades, filled with celebrators free at last to enter the streets. They marched as they had not marched for twenty long years.

There was much debate over what should be done with the subhuman mass, whether to execute him outright, to electrocute him slowly, or to simply throw him in a windowless cell, there to spend the rest of his days as he had sentenced so many to do before him.

But at last the resistance determined that the dictator would be hung, suspended in a cage where his obstreperous vitriol could no longer harm the populace.

So they lifted him aloft, until he became only a speck, a swinging reminder of what they had suffered.

And at last the resistance went home to their beds, sleeping off the twenty-year-long hangover. And in their darkened and darkening dreams they wondered, silently and only to themselves, whether they might have done anything more.

Why I Am Marching

The past few months I haven’t been writing.

I’ve made vague scratches at the page, but nothing felt like enough.

Donald Trump is nothing new. He is only the concentrated epitome of racism, sexism, classism, and xenophobia that has long held our country in its claws. His rise to power, however, has granted the more violent racist elements of the country a feeling of empowerment. It is not a small thing that Neo-Nazis and the KKK have both supported the small-handed creature that has now been inaugurated.

The cabinet that Donald chose, or more accurately the cabinet that the power directing his incoherent hate-filled gourd-of-a-body chose, is full of people whose careers have been based on denying climate change, electrocuting young members of the LGBTIQA community, and accumulating wealth at the expense of the marginalized populations. They do not care about me or the people I love.

Already, many of the people I love have lost their health insurance with the repeal of major parts of the ACA. For those who don’t understand what it’s like to wonder how you’ll pay for rent and groceries and utilities, let alone trying to pay for doctor’s visits or heaven forbid emergency surgery … it is demoralizing. It has made the concept of surviving in the United States, a high-wire act already for women and men of color, immigrants, non-binary people, indigenous folks, and the many, many others, an impossibility.

I have felt overwhelmed by the urge to act, the regret at not having acted sooner, the fear that my actions may cause further harm, the frustration of feeling that even when I do act it feels at times insignificant. Even my writing, which has carried me through my darkest hours, even my writing doesn’t feel sufficient for this challenge.

But I’m writing now. I am writing because I need to raise a voice, however imperfect it is, however misguided and idiotic my thinking, I need to speak out against those who do not respect human life. No matter how insufficient I may be, I need to write.

I do not support a Muslim registry. Freedom of religion was a foundation of this nation, and those who claim to be Christian should remember the persecution that once faced their own religion. And should also recall a time when people were isolated based on their religion and then slaughtered by the millions.

I will not allow this to happen while I am alive. I will not. I will fight any semblance of such a registry with everything I have.

I will not support the loss of female autonomy. Reproductive rights, already so fragile, are once again threatened. The most basic right granted by joining a society, physical autonomy, is on the line.

I will not support the continued persecution, imprisonment, and murder of people of color. There has never been an excuse for this enslavement and murder. The fact that this evil has continued essentially unchanged since the 1600s is an abomination. We live in a country that time and again has sacrificed its soul in order to perpetuate a racial hierarchy.

Black women are six times more likely to go to prison than white women. Rates of sexual assault against women of color are higher than the rates against white women. Young black men can be sent to prison for years without being charged. Young Hispanic men can be murdered because they “looked suspicious”.

My words fail. My words will never be enough. But I have to write anyway.

This world needs saving. This world needs changing. And I must use my words as a weapon. I will write fiction that does not evade. I will write fiction that eviscerates. I will write to enlighten and uplift, to tear down walls and build houses. I will write when I cannot write. I will write.

At my core, I believe in love. Love is the way to fight against seemingly insurmountable odds. Love saves those who cannot be saved, recovers what has been irrevocably lost. Love forces my fingers forward, draws my hand across the page, when everything inside of me wishes only to erase.

I love you. I love you completely. I will give whatever I have to protect you. I will put my body between you and the bullet, between you and the registry, between you and the forces that wish to destroy you.

I am small and stupid and insufficient. I do not know anything. But I am here for you. And you are why I am marching.

You are why I am writing.