Yesterday afternoon, at the Dudley Branch Library in Roxbury (a predominantly African-American neighborhood in Boston), I attended a community meeting re the proposed 3 Strikes, You’re Out legislation here in Massachusetts. More than a hundred men, women and children crammed together in the library’s already-overheated community room to hear different voices speak out on this racist bill.
So that’s the first thing I wish to lift up: Lots of perspectives, lots of different ways to explain “Here’s what I think this legislation is really about!”
Here’s mine: Yes, as many, many speakers said yesterday, this is a racist bill. Anything to do with the criminal justice system in the United States is going to be about race. No argument.
AND: Senate Bill # 2080 and House Bill # 3818 are also about Massachusetts recently having allowed casino gambling into our fair commonwealth. So consciously or unconsciously, our elected officials on Beacon Hill must have thought: “Okay, then. Time to get tough on crime—and, oh, by the way, that’s a post-casino, surefire way to get re-elected.”
Here’s the second thing I want to note: Many, many people yesterday, when given the opportunity to ask questions re the action plans laid out, wanted to instead tell their stories. Their own incarceration stories. Stories of their sons. Stories, as one woman said, of “The Struggle.”
And that’s exactly how I heard her words: in italics and with quotation marks. But I heard something else. I heard those two words’ gestalt: Slavery, Jim Crow, the civil rights movement, The War on Drugs, the criminal justice system, poverty, “The jail trail,”* and that woman at the community meeting, like thousands, millions before her, struggling every day to survive, to overcome, to fly!
SO much practice. So much more to do.
* The path of poverty, inadequate education, and systemic racism which leads to eventual incarceration.