By Sharon Brooks
Many moons ago on a bright cold April day, I had a beautiful baby boy. What joy we all felt! What a relief. However, never did it ever occur to me that there was a tight system in place determined to capitalize on his very being the minute he took his first successful breath.
Don’t get me wrong, I was familiar with America’s shameful 400-year history of slavery of Black people. But really, we were headed towards the new millennium. All that was over, right?
Not hardly. You see, the average Black person born will have some negative association with the criminal justice system in their lifetime. The system of criminal justice in America is corrupt and extremely racist against Black people. After all these years of protecting my baby (and the others that followed), I can honestly say that the fight against the criminal justice system has been worse than fighting a bear while covered in honey.
What is even more perplexing to me is that everybody knows this, yet turns a blind eye against the reality of it all. Sure, it’s embarrassing, but so is talking while you have something stuck in your teeth during a conversation. Face it, handle it and keep going.
Politicians especially give no weight to the fact that although Black people make up less than 10 percent of the population in Minnesota, the state prison population here is made up of 60 percent Black people. That’s no surprise; you already knew it too.
Too many Black people are routinely searched, harassed, arrested, beaten, and even killed by police in what should be routine situations, and sometimes without any repercussions for the cops. The next stop, the criminal justice court system, is even worse. It’s where Black people are expected to plead guilty to whatever language the powers that be made up, and then accept the hot branding iron of a felony conviction. Ouch!
All aboard the train to prison where many, many, many Black men, and now our youth and Black women, end up. Prison is the last stop on the huge financial capitalism of our babies’ lives with notable guidance from America’s massive infiltration of guns and drugs that effectively destroyed our neighborhoods, partnered with laws to lock us up if we survive after touching them.
I would be remiss if I did not mention America’s strategic, severe non-distribution of employment, funding, quality health care, opportunity and just basic hope to communities of Black people everywhere, all while the White media features us as woe-is-me sufferers who don’t utilize some invisible, secret, easy solution to battle structural racism.
Why this horrific modern-day slavery? Power, hatred, greed, etc. I don’t know! Upon my invitation earlier this year, the Minnesota Department of Corrections Commissioner Tom Roy showed up on the North Side of Minneapolis and said he knows the numbers are disproportionately Black people in his prisons, but that he doesn’t know why. He went on to say that his job is to just lock ’em up as he receives them.
Sure, but we know politicians know. Let’s start with Mayor Hodges, and Governor Dayton, and Congress, state reps, some judges, the State Supreme Court, and even our beloved President Barak Obama. Let’s talk with them and I’ll go with you, because they also know there is strength in numbers.
By the time you read this article, I’ll be hugging my 6”1’ college-educated beautiful baby boy again, this time outside of their cold walls and sneaky stares. Yeah, we survived his incarceration, but we know it ain’t over. As long as America’s view of Black people is “bad,” it ain’t over.
You are not bad and you certainly ain’t ugly. This war has got to be settled. The new Civil Rights Movement is Criminal Justice Reform.
Sharon Brooks welcomes reader responses to contact firstname.lastname@example.org