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Prison-Industrial Complex-Cole’s Take

February 13, 2010

On Saturday, February 6 we did a show discussing the Prison-Industrial Complex. During that show we there were a lot of different avenues we addressed; everything from discussing changing policies to meeting our young black men on the corners. We covered as much as we could in the little time we had. Here I can expound, enjoy. Hit the jump for more.

The Prison-Industrial Complex (PIC) in short is basically a group of actors (government, privatized prisons, contractors, etc.) that profit off of the incarceration of people, mainly men of color.  The PIC draws on racism and poor education to fulfill the desire to have higher incarceration numbers.  For example, 3rd grade test scores help actors in the PIC understand how many prisons they will need to build in the future.

My take on the issue focused on both the macro and the micro levels of impact.  On the macro level, it takes for us to understand that we are all living and functioning (at the very least, attempting) in a system that does not work properly for minorities.  Just listen to our politicians, the buzz-focus for this last election was the middle class.  (John Edwards’s recently publicized personal issues are unfortunate, especially since he was the only person explicitly discussing poverty, but that’s another blog for another day).  There was no explicit talk about recidivism, none about vocational programs.  Basically, if you were poor before the election then chances are you will be poor after it.

We function in a system that punishes crack harsher than powder cocaine.  We live in a system that is filled with mentally ill patients and drug addicts – a system that transforms petty criminals into hardened ones. We live in a system that offers minorities subpar educations in subpar schools but then demonizes affirmative action.  Where are the ones that will fight for changing that?  Well, I’m not too sure that it will happen anytime soon.  I’m not trying to be a pessimist and I do not want to alienate those that may be working hard to change these policies.  I recognize there is a pocket of people that are working very hard to change it but I’m not holding my breath.

I acknowledge all of these macro factors but we help out too.  All of us.  We help out because, in many cases, we believe what systems say about us.  When the system tells us we can only play ball or sell drugs, we buy into that lie.  Not only do we subscribe to that, we chastise others that are trying to break away from that.  We label them sell-outs and persecute them for wanting more.  If I would have had access to other black men that were successful in other fields like law or physics and did not compromise who they were who knows what I would have aspired to be.  My advice for folks that have tasted the sweet nectar that is success is to grab someone from the old neighborhood.  Take them and be as honest as you can be.  Be as true to the person that you are as possible.  That does not mean take pity or act like you are saving their soul but show them that you came from the same place and it is possible.  Offer to mentor and be a sounding board for their frustrations.  If you went to college, help equip them with the tools for them to navigate that confusing system.  We have to take responsibility for us.

For the young person caught in the trap, my advice is work hard and hold on.  Constantly work towards something and do the best you can to focus.  Try hard to surround yourself with positive folks.  If all your friends do is smoke weed and focus on women then guess what you will do.  Or young women, if all your friends do is look out for ballers then you are setting yourself up to be disrespected by them.  Listen, I loved all of my friends growing up but when I decided to stay in on those Friday nights to study for that class or fill out those grad school applications, they gave me the business.  But I held strong and in the end I had their respect.  The ones that do not respect or support you are not really down for you anyway.  Remember, misery loves company. I’m going to be totally honest, I lost A LOT of “friends” but I kept my focus. During the rough times, and they will come, I kept that focus.  Identify your purpose and allow God to guide you.  Surround yourself with associates that are pushing each other to be successful. But what do I know?  Peace.

-Cole Out

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