June 14, 2007 - Issue 233
Represent Our Resistance
The Empire Building Equation and the Incarceration of Africans and Blacks
By Dr. L. Jean Daniels, PhD
According to Human Rights Watch, “the percentage of the prison population that is Black is more than six times greater than the percentage of the State of Wisconsin’s population that is Black.” Here in Wisconsin, a predominantly white state, Milwaukee’s Black incarceration rate leads the nation.
The U.S. is number one in incarcerating its citizens. Black women are increasingly becoming the new target for incarceration. “Although Black women are eight times (and Latinas four times) as likely to go to prison as white women, imprisoned women of color are not seen as victims of racist and sexist discrimination, writes Angela Davis (Essence September 2000). Unlike their white counterparts and those with financial resources, these women are unable to “negotiate” with prosecutors or in the case of Paris Hilton they are unable to plea to the prison authorities.
It is not just in the U.S. that we witness the rise in Black incarceration. “British media reported last week that the United Kingdom’s penal system has begun to resemble the U.S. system in one significant way—the high number of Blacks being imprisoned,” according to Italian news writer Paulo Pontoniere (Focus 2003). It seems that the Brits, writes Pontoniere, rely on “racial profiling to tackle rising crime rates and street violence.” “Crime” has become a descriptive, a representative of Blackness in the narrative of Empire while Empire building, crushing the poor, the uninsured, the homeless, the work class, and darker-skinned folks is no crime, just hard working ingenuity!
Speaking of ingenuity—most of these Black criminals, “victims” of this nation’s “War on Drugs,” i.e., war on Black Americans, become ineligible to vote once they are convicted! You enter prison, mostly likely with a non-violent offense, and exit without your right to vote!
This brings me to the concern of this article. Who will witness for those U.S. citizens who are being disenfranchised once again? Who will represent the revolutionary guard, opposing with the knowledge that if the bottom is excised, the middle cannot be far behind in falling through the hole? Who will recognize that our demise, along with the demise of others like the Iraqis and everyday Muslims and Arabs, Latino/as, Native Indians etc., is understood as inevitable, indeed, a necessary procurement for the U.S. to achieve its desire as an Empire?
If I may be as courageous as Kanye West, this country does not need Black Americans anymore (for that matter, it does not need Africans or Blacks any where in the world). We do not figure in the equation of Empire building, except that all the enterprises of this country needed to be accomplished on our backs. But our backs are no longer needed. There are Latino/as to exploit internally and Muslims and Arabs to befriend but mostly vilify to capture that precious oil. While middle-classed white citizens are protecting their stakes in the equation, knowingly or unknowingly—for their familial security and financial security interests translate into a covenant with the agenda of Empire, we, Black Americans, have only ourselves as witness to this, the greatest tragedy, surpassing anything the Romans could have imagined or anything Shakespeare could have dreamed.
Take one watershed example of what is happening and no doubt has been in the planning of Empire for the last 40 years.
Progressives, such as journalist Greg Palast and Robert Kennedy Jr., are serving to expose the truly criminal agenda of Empire in the Bush-Cheney phase of its operation. While Kennedy (Rolling Stone June 2006) has reported on the mostly poor, Black and Latino/a, and elderly three million votes stolen in the last election, Greg Palast (see paperback edition of Who's Afraid of Osama Wolf?, China Floats, Bush Sinks, the Scheme to Steal ‘08, No Child’s Behind Left and Other Dispatches from the Frontlines of the Class War) has written on the caging practice conducted out of the U.S. Justice Department. According to Palast, he was on his way home to England in hopes of having the BBC publish the story he has uncovered but the U.S. media will not publish. I am not sure I understand why Palast is so surprised at the indifference of the media/cooperate, co-leaders of the U.S. government. For such a narrative of “criminal” activity equates with munchkin-like intrusion. Would it not fit the “coloring” in the ingenious narrative of Empire?
The practice of caging, Palast explains, targets members of the military, specifically, Blacks and Latino/as who are serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Republican National Committee (RNC) sends letters marked “Do Not Forward” to the homes of people it suspects are serving overseas. Of course, most letters are returned to the sender. Who is the sender? Tim Griffin. Palast asserts that Griffin, who once served as Karl Rove’s protégé (and Director of Opposition Research, interesting!), and recently resigned as U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas, was in charge of creating lists of Black and Latino/as servicemen and women whose voting registration could be challenged, thereby preventing the counting of their absentee ballots.
These are the caging lists, in other words, the devil in the detailed creation of narrative legalization of Empire. Don’t forget that the Diebold election machines littered the landscape. I am sure there’s one near you! These machines eat up votes! “Not just anyone’s vote. Dive into the electoral dumpster,” writes Palast, “and [the] ‘spoiled’ votes have a dark color indeed” (Buzzflash). In total, Kennedy reports, three million votes no longer needed. Your services are no longer needed. With pen and paper, you are expendable!
It is all so diabolically clever and so enlightening as to reveal the intent of the No Child Left Behind scheme—that it has EVERY intentions of leaving Black and Latino/a children behind. Blacks without a decent, empowering education, Blacks without employment, Blacks in prison and Blacks without the vote all equals liberation from a nagging, haunting past and a move toward world hegemony!
But who cares, huh? Neither Kennedy nor Palast should expect media or public attention on the plight of Black people anywhere!
The media, collaborative partner of the neo-cons, takes the narrative of Empire and makes it palpable for the public to digest. Mirth one day and dread the next—it is hard to see the Agenda running through it all:
Odes of hysteria!
It needs no Obama, come from the Black Diaspora, to tell us of “quiet riots” that take “place every day are born from the same place as the fires and the destruction and the police decked out in riot gear and the deaths.”
We are more than witnesses; we have been the resistance at the heart of maniacal narratives that depicted us as inhuman and subject to the whims of white supremacy. We need to care that we pull each other through this latest narrative hijacking.
Remember Sojourner Truth turned her critical hour of loss and despair into a crusade for justice. As a witness, she became the mother of Hope. Think of her as the agent at the center of our narrative of resistance. She brings us the message of hope for our moment of crisis.
BC Columnist Dr. Jean Daniels writes a column for The City Capital Hues in Madison Wisconsin and is a Lecturer at Madison Area Technical College, MATC. Click here to contact Dr. Daniels.