Stuck in transition
Glossed over vision
The world, no it isn’t
A visit, Cuz this myth
Is bigger than Wizards
My head in orbits
Round phantoms so gorgeous
Dreams in remission
Yo God has been missin
From my prayers
Through night terrors
And Flashes of RAGE
Blank stares, at my wares
I’m locked in a cage
I’m put on display
Just to shock and amaze
Gawked at through windows
I’ve been here for days
There is no escape
From a place that can’t be
I’m telling you now
You bark up the wrong tree
I’m just out of phase
Between your world and mine
Hear but cant see
Smell but cant find
I’m just trying to live
I hope you don’t mind
Crossing the barriers
Fight against the poison of the mind cuz I believe
Fight against the prison with walls that I can’t see
Fight against the system makes us seem like the enemy
Fight against the barriers don’t want us to be free
Fight against the urge to quite, instead live my destiny
Fight against the trap to become another tragedy
Fight against the lies they use to justify their tyranny
Fight to pull these walls down until they come tumbling
Stay in your place
Respect your race
You don’t belong, man,
Just look at your face
Been turned all around
Feeling things just like this
Every time I walk
In to their office
My degree don’t mean shit
When I’m caught in the grips
Of whips, chains, and ships
Hist the scars on my wrists
Blind fold my eyes
But there’s still no surprise
To the brim with its lies
Got their roles and the jobs
All neatly comprised
Prison bed counts
Done from third graders’ eyes
How well they read
Forget what they need
They work or they bleed
Jim Crow concedes
Some walls we see
Others we don’t
Some will believe
Others just won’t
Cuz they’ve not had to cross
Deal with the loss
Traverse the gauntlet
Risk paying the costs
Before beginning I must first acknowledge that we are on stolen Duwamish and Salish land.
Second, I would thank you for making the time to visit us at the University of Washington Governor Inslee. There are myriad pressing issues you could have selected to devote your time to, but you have chosen to invest your time with us and your concern and interest has not gone unnoticed. Thank you.
Today I am going to speak on issues of equity and how they pertain to the qualities and characteristics of the kind of Board of Regents members we desire here at the University of Washington and why. Equity is not blind it is very intentional and it differs drastically from equality. Equality as I have come to understand it is like placing everyone from different socio-economic, racial, gender, and citizenship status backgrounds on the same starting line. On the one hand this would seem just and fair because of the concept of equality, but what it lacks is an understanding of preexisting conditions for some that translate into unfair advantages for others. Many of the non-white students here at UW are also first generation college students, which may mean that our families do not possess as much disposable income to assist us in times of need, or that when it comes to academic concerns or administrative issues they are unable or incapable of helping us. Gender is a fluid and evolving concept of identity, but one thing that is certain is that when a student does not fit into a particular definition of gender they face discrimination and marginalization. And citizenship status can often pose an almost insurmountable barrier to affording tuition or other helpful resources, regardless of the reasons a particular individual’s status is in question. These preexisting conditions and many others can make admittance into and successful completion of university programs difficult, if not, nearly impossible for many. Merely placing everyone on the same starting line is simply not enough. On the other hand, equity seeks not to establish a similar starting point rather it seeks to garner similar outcomes regardless of preexisting conditions.
Last week students from universities across the country staged demonstrations in solidarity with the students of the University of Missouri who were protesting racial injustices and unfair responses from their administration. The demographics of University of Missouri are not unlike University of Washington, which is also a predominantly white institution; black students make up roughly eight percent and three percent of the undergraduate populations respectively. Earlier this year the students of the University of Washington staged what has been reported as the largest demonstration on campus since the 1960s when we declared a State of Emergency because of the racial and class disparities on campus, and walked out on February 25, 2015. During that demonstration we were subjected to racial epithets and as a result of further reprisals intent to silence our people through violence, which went unpunished, we determined it was necessary to challenge the unjust system of impunity with further demonstrations, much the same as the students at the University of Missouri.
These demonstrations are part of a much larger national struggle challenging the racial and class inequities and injustices within institutions such as law enforcement, the prison industrial complex, and education that reemerged onto the agenda of the general public with the Black Lives Matter movement. Police brutality and murder by police officers are major problems because they equate to state sanctioned violence against the people, which is extremely problematic because this violence is perpetuated in the name of and purported to be for the benefit of society. We are members of this society and this treatment is disreputable, and repugnant, humiliating and dehumanizing. Moreover, police brutality, which is nothing new to poor and minority communities is but one of the many factors that constitute the negative preexisting conditions that layer and stack upon each other to consolidate into a system of oppression and inequity.
The School-to-Prison Pipeline is also a major factor contributing to the racial, class, and ethnic disparities that confront many of our communities. People of color and those with mental disabilities are three times more likely to be disciplined while at school. From the ninth grade onward, one suspension or expulsion makes a student over fifty percent more likely to wind up in juvenile detention. Once in juvenile detention they become seventy-five percent more likely to end up in the adult penitentiary system and, once in that system they are more than eighty-five percent likely to return. Many people equate these statistics to inherently ‘bad’ youth, but Michelle Alexander, the author of The New Jim Crow, reveals that there is just as much if not more crime committed by white people. And one of our very own professors at the University of Washington, Katherine Beckett, the author of Making Crime Pay, has shown racial profiling is real and a serious problem even here in Seattle. So, it is not the case that students and people of color are ‘bad,’ but it is the case that we are being punished at disparaging and unfair rates.
The prison industrial complex is an institution grounded and founded upon extracting profit from slave labor. The Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which supposedly outlawed slavery made one exception in the case of a person being convicted of committing a “crime.” That short clause provided justification for the creation, expansion, and explosion of the prison labor system. It began with convict leasing to plantations and mines that used to be worked by slaves, and now the prison industrial complex produces products that range from military equipment, to furniture, to home appliances and Correctional Industries’ website looks like any other online shopping website where people can purchase products. More troubling is the relative monopoly that Correctional Industries is granted by Washington State Law. RCW 39.26.251 states that all state agencies which include both universities and colleges must purchase the products made by Class II type prison labor. What this all equates to is an inequitable system of oppression entrenched in our largest and most prestigious institutions, which forms many of the preexisting conditions that stack and layer upon one another to create an inequitable system.
I was the president of my high school and the treasurer of North Seattle College and I used to be a business owner and helped the Department of Planning and Development of the City of Seattle revise it Job Order Contracting, so I am very familiar with bureaucratic governmental organizations. I was also part of the Divest UW coalition who for three years negotiated with and challenged the Board of Regents until we won a divestment from coal fire power earlier this year. I was also part of the team that helped draft and pass the City of Seattle City Council Resolution 31614: “Zero Use of Detention for Youth” in Seattle on September 21, 2015. What has been a consistent pattern is the nearly ubiquitous feeling that we as people are not being heard by the representatives that are supposed to be working on our behalf. Our UW President, Ana Mari Cauce, has done a lot to shift that phenomenon and also to address the racial and equity issues at the university, but we must do more. Although, I do not agree with all of the capitalistic and profit driven motives of the institution, I do understand that the university is operating within a capitalist system. Nonetheless, I and the many people I represent find it deplorable to be dehumanized and objectified, being reduced to dollar signs. When a human being is “thingified,” as Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. called it, it dissolves one’s perception of their moral culpability to that individual and that is problematic. We need some Board of Regents members who are not the heads of major corporations, who are leaders in marginalized communities and can represent our concerns. We need Board of Regents members who have a firm understanding of how interlocking and intersecting forms of systemic and structural oppression function to foster inequitable conditions for many people. So that when we bring our grievances we feel heard, are heard, and our concerns are responded to appropriately and in a timely manner. And most importantly, we demand that we are respected as Human Beings.
I am tripping right now. In the last couple of weeks I have watched three of the major battles we have been fighting come to fruition, at least in part. Resolution 31614 “zero use of detention for youth” in Seattle, and while this is only a resolution, it is nonetheless a step in the right direction. Then Shell pulled out of the artic drilling, and while this is not an end to dependence on fossil fuel, it is nonetheless, a victory for the people. UW is also now paying over 5,000 other employees the $15 that have been so fought for, and while there are still countless others that are not earning a living wage yet, this again, is a step in the right direction.
All of these battles we have been fighting for quite some time and I have been engaged with them for the better part of a year. There came a point where I did not really think that we were going to get the decision makers to see anything differently; it was dieheartening and disillusionment set in. But the people never gave up or relented and now change, however slow, is taking shape.
Being new to both activism and advocacy, I expected to be imprisoned or killed, or ostracized and marginalized, and there were more than a few times that they all seemed like very real outcomes for me and the people I was standing shoulder-to-shoulder with. Yet, we all braved the risks together, and some of us–including me–were arrested and/or beaten by the police, but we were acting for a purpose much greater than our own personal concerns. Those fears and realities are nothing new and many who came before us in the struggle for justice have confronted them and come out victorious as well.
What this is teaching me is one, not to expect immediate change and to not stop running before the race is over. It also teaches me that it may take a while to be fully understood, but that we are being heard. And third, that collective action can and will make a difference in all of our lives when we can find a way to sort out our differences long enough to stand together for something greater than ourselves.
The “ghetto” is a social construct of social engineering that was designed to corral particular groups of people into cordoned zones to protect the integrity of the elite class, and in this country the white social and political position.
Ghettos were formed to maintain and sustain an economic and political advantage over people of color, and in particular, black people during the apartheid era of Jim Crow segregation. The Great Migration of African Americans from the South to the North that began in the 1920s in response to the Klu Klux Klan (KKK) violence and economic opportunity that lasted through the 1970s was responded to with a policy known as Red Lining. Red Lining was the sectioning off of particular neighborhoods for occupation of African Americans, wherein the banks in collusion with state and city officials denied home and business loans to people of color seeking to acquire property outside of these zones. Outside of these Red Lined zones, white communities developed race restrictive covenants that were written into the property deeds to bar ownership of these properties from black people. These conditions resulted in overpopulated and crowded living spaces that drove up the costs of living because in accordance with the Law of Supply and Demand; which stipulates that all things being equal, when demand for a product increases, but the supply remains consistent, then the price must increase.
After World War II (1941-1945) and the emergence of suburbs in the 1950s, White Flight, was the next response to the Great Migration, when major cities like Detroit, Michigan experienced the exodus of white citizens and white owned businesses. This had two major effects, many jobs left the cities in which African Americans had moved to and dramatically decreased the taxes collected in these areas. Since schools are funded by the system of taxation, the education in these areas suffered from a lack of funding. Without an efficient and successful education system structural unemployment, that is, the natural fluctuation of people from job to job, and the people who lose their positions due to them becoming obsolete began to widen. In the 1980s globalization led to many of the manufacturing industries that sustained these red-lined communities being outsourced to other countries leaving these communities destitute. Also during the 1980s, the Central Intelligence Agency (C.I.A.), under the Reagan administration were engaged in the Iran-Nicaragua Contra, which resulted in the collusion with drug cartels in Central America that led to the trafficking of millions of dollars of Crack Cocaine, via Rick “Freeway” Ross into the inner-cities of the U.S. at precisely the same time that jobs were being depleted in these red-lined neighborhoods, and President Ronald Reagan was writing into law the 1986 Anti-Drug Abuse Act, which instituted the 100-1 rule. The rule made possession or distribution of one gram of Crack Cocaine as punishable as 100 grams of Powder Cocaine and the only discernible difference was who used crack—Black People—and where it was available for purchase—in Black neighborhoods.
The rise of the militarized police and the expansion of the Prison Industrial Complex soon followed. Since the federal government could not intervene in state legal practices by arresting people and ‘fighting crime’ they incentivised local police institutions to do the job for them. The way they achieved this was to provide financial incentives for city police to arrest and convict non-violent drug ‘offenders’ and this with the property confiscation laws provided the motivation for a particular type of discriminatory and targeted policing that focused on minorities, people of color, and impoverished peoples particularly in inner-city neighborhoods: ghettos. Also during the 1980s and 1990s, private corporations Began taking over the public prison system and like any corporation they had a profit motive, which means that the inmates were the ‘product’ they intended to profit from. These corporation have spent millions, if not billions of dollars to lobby legislatures to increase the list of carceral offenses, and to lengthen the punishment for ‘crimes’ already punishable with incarceration. In the 1990s President Bill Clinton signed into law the “3 Strikes and You’re Out” legislation and reformed the Welfare System so that those convicted of a drug offense could not access public financial assistance; food assistance, housing assistance, and financial aid for schooling. The public education system has contributed to the explosion of the prison system as well with the School-to-Prison Pipeline. Black students are 3.5 times more likely to be suspended or expelled from school and once that occurs they are 50% more likely to end up in juvenile, and thus, 75% more likely to end up in the adult penitentiary system. Exacerbating the situation is the fact that the data reveals that Black and Latino students are 2 times as likely not to graduate from high school. And all of this is perfectly legal (the law and justice are not the same thing) because the people who have not been disenfranchised have voted on these laws and systems of oppression in the United States. Furthermore, in 1865, the 13th Amendment to the United States Constitution states: “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for a crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.” This amendment technically determined prison as the new slavery and all that was required for it to work was to use the shroud of a ‘just and impartial court system’ to justify the slavery—a system proven to be devastating to Black and impoverished people nationwide. Pulling all of this together, slavery still remains legal in the United States, the new slave owners are prison corporations, the new slave catchers are the police, the school system is active in indoctrinating and preparing people of color for slavery, and this is all targeted on impoverished people to earn profit from the labor of the poor.
This is how the modern day ghettos in the United States were created, and why they have been sustained; ghettos are a slave growing factory system.
And this is the video that we put together. Initially, it began as a project for a competition at the University of Washington, and although, it will still be submitted, as we began constructing the project we realized the potential for helping to make a real difference. We are both seniors at the UW, both musically inclined, both activists with a heart fro justice and a sustainable planet. Everything just fit together. I am also a photographer, videographer, producer, studio technician, poet, spoken word artist, and so much more. So, in the short time period we had to get this accomplished, I threw everything I had into this with Sarra, including the kitchen sink. It was simultaneously, both the hardest and most rewarding project that I have ever been part of.
Climate Change is all the more pressing at this particular junction in time, in Seattle specifically because Shell Oil is planning to bring a seafaring oil rig through Seattle’s harbor, which will serve as a lay-station as it forges its way to the arctic to drill for oil. If this occurs, then the dreaded two degrees of change the the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), 360, Rising Tide, and a host of others have been warning about will be crossed. This will doom the planet to catastrophic failure. Hence, the “Draw The Line” logo. We are standing up and yelling NO!!!
We hope that this song and video will cause you to consider what is happening and to foster some creativity on your part to learn more if you are not already hip to the situation.
Peace & Love
We Have A World to Win written by Jess Spear
Rude Awakening written by Renaissance
The Capitalist Dilemma written by Renaissance
This is the song we have been grinding on for a couple of weeks now and I think it came out very well.
We hope that you enjoy it enough to pass it along to others.
You may also download it for free.
More than a Moment! The struggle is real and it will not be fought or won over-night. We have to plan and implement the future we want. But first we have to know what the causes and conditions are that led to the circumstances we are contending with now, if we are to change the system and not run into the same problems all over again. This is a humble beginning, but I am in this for the long haul and I hope you will stand with me. We will only do this together.
I know there has been a lot of talk about what happened at the Metropolitan King County Council meeting when they voted unanimously for the new Children and Family ‘Justice’ Center; the Jail, Prison, School-to-Prison Pipeline, factory, warehouse for our children. This is what really went down.
Although, they voted unanimously for the new supposed CFJC It is not built yet, and even if they waste the money to build it, we can still work to ensure that it is not used and that alternatives are employed to help our children, who are victims of the system, not criminals.
Regan Dunn, Dave Upthegrove, Rod Demowski, Kathy Lambert, Larry Phillips, Petr von Reichbauer, Larry Gossett, Jane Hague, and Joe McDermott
These are the names of the people currently on the Metropolitan King County Council. Voting is right around the corner and we both want and need people in office who are going to be sensitive and responsive to our needs and concerns.
The Criminal Justice System is no longer,
if it ever has been in American,
about punishment and rehabilitation.
The philosophy grounding the criminal justice system suggests that society has a right to punish those who violate the laws. How the laws are devised is questionable at best, but the premise is that laws are rules that are less stringent than the actual moral code of a particular group of people, yet sufficient to ensure the stability and order of the society. In this regard, John Stuart Mill in the paper On Liberty (1859) phrased the justification as such: “the sole end for which mankind are warranted, individually or collectively, in interfering with the liberty of action of any of their number, is self-protection. That the only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others.” This is what is called the Harm Principle and is the primary principle by which of criminal justice system is justified. However, and in stark contrast to what the principle suggests and what the actual practices of the Department of Justice, with it many subsidiary police departments and courts, reveals is that it diverges dangerously far away from the grounding principle.
First, I do not think that we will find much argument, unless the person be a sociopath, that causing undue and unjust harm to another human being is wrong. People are naturally inclined to form or have desires; to form plans for their lives and to share special bonds or connections with those whom they care about. Furthermore, most people believe that insofar as those plans do not impede and infringe upon the plans of others, or horrendously violate some moral code, that all people should be permitted to express and exercise their desires, plans, and special connections. If this is disagreed with and the person be not a sociopath, then I do not think they have fully considered the implications of their argument because if it were the case that people did not have the liberty to do this, then the dissenter could not rightly voice their opinion in contention. For example, if this individual did not think that another should play baseball, let’s say, because the sport in their opinion is a useless endeavor,and this ruling was to hold even though no harm was done to anyone by the playing of the sport, then a new principle would be employed wherein no one is protected. Nothing would protect that individual’s expression from interference by others, and the result would be a system of arbitrary infringements based on whims. In other words, a devolving into lawless tyranny, (this is not to be confused with anarchy), wherein whoever could gain power would rightfully exercise that power over others at their choosing. This should make it clear that a principle needs to be in place, which permits the exercise and expression of one’s desires, given that they do not cause harm to others.
Second, the criminal justice system, as became clear with such recent events as the killings of Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, Oscar Parez, John T. Williams and so forth, is causing undue and unjust harm to people. These cases by themselves should be enough to cast more than doubt on the Department of Justice, but actually usher in a reconstruction of the entire system. These are just the cases that have made national and international news, but are representative of a much more grave problem that exists within the United States concerning police brutality. The police have a dangerous task, there is no argument about that. If the Harm Principle is accepted, and the society chooses to attempt to limit or punish any harms that may occur to its citizens, then something like a police institution as an option becomes viable. For the sake of argument, assume that there are no socio-economic discriminatory conditions creating vital motivations to violate the laws in order to survive. In a society of millions it would be nearly impossible to ensure that undue and unjust harm was either not done, or that those who caused it were punished. This means that there would be a potential to escape punishment, and people tend not to enjoy punishment, so they do what they can to avoid it.This can create a dangerous situation for a police officer to walk into, given that their only intent is to prevent harm, or to assist in the punishing of those actually guilty of causing harm. Their own person is at risk of being harmed by performing this function that society deems as something necessary, and society does not think it’s guardians should be sacrificed or harmed, so it grants that these guardians can protect themselves against harm. This is all in accordance with the Harm Principle as stated earlier, “self-protection.” This line of reasoning also assumes that the guardians do not harbor biases against particular groups of individuals and act in an impartial manner with all people. This of course is an ideal world and is horrendously far from reality. As soon as we remove the things that we have assumed for the sake of argument, we will see that much that is considered crime is a response to socially imposed harms and that these groups suffering the socially imposed harms are also targeted by the supposed guardians of our society. Furthermore, because these guardians are granted the liberty to exert force to protect themselves and to execute their social function, they can justify unjust and undue harms as necessary to complete and fulfill the expectations of their roles. The result is the problem of police brutality and murder that we are now witnessing plague our country.
Third, punishment for acts considered to be crime in the United States tends to take the form penitentiary confinement. Aside from death, this is considered to be the ultimate restriction of liberty that an individual can experience and thus the harshest punishment. Again, in order to justify this system, it has to be assumed that that the guardians do not harbor biases against particular groups of individuals and act in an impartial manner with all people. However, the data shows that this is not the case. There is a disproportionate and disparaging representation of minorities and people of color in the penal system of the United States. Making matters worse, the US has 5% of the world’s population, but boasts 25% of the world’s prison population. In addition, the number of prisons are ballooning and so is the prison population, which reveals that the penitentiary system is not solving the problem. At best, it is like attempting to place a bandaid on a gushing wound. A more precise definition is that it is a treatment that is not suited to the cause because the cause of the problem is being ignored. This leaves us with one of two options; either the United States does not know or want to know what the real problem is, or the penitentiaries are not about punishment and rehabilitation. If it is the former option, which I do not think is even possible given the mountainous research that has been conducted over the last few decades, then we need officials who are intelligent enough to perceive and understand that the problem is not that people are choosing to commit ‘crime,’ but the reason they do so. If it is the latter option, which I am more inclined to agree with, then we have to expose what the true reason for the prison system is to understand why it is failing at its purported reason for existing.
The Prison System relegates humans to slaves. Much of the argument that we hear from the public is couched in a colorblind language and an individualistic ideology that is characteristic of the United States, “they committed the crime, they deserve the time, and all that happens to them while they are serving that time.” The arguments further express that since these individuals are incarcerated and they are consuming state resources that they should work for their keep and pay their own way. Again, in principle this all makes sense, but for it to truly be justified the system must be fair and impartial both before prison and after the person is in the penal system. However, that is also not the case. I have already argued that the manner in which particular groups are targeted for prison is unjust and undue, and now I am fleshing out the reason why they are targeted for prison and exposing the unfair and undue treatment they receive while in the system.
The State of Washington has written into law that all municipal buildings must be furnished with products produced by prison labor. The corporation responsible for the fourth largest prison factory system in the United States, which is located here in Washington is Correction Industries Inc. This law guarantees C.I. a virtual monopoly on particular state purchases and guarantees a revenue stream. Most private prison companies, like Corrections Corporation of America and GEO Group sign contracts with the states in which they operate guaranteeing a specific amount of inmates that is to increase over time so that they can continue to increase their profits from prison labor. Corporations are bound by law to increase their bottom lines to provide their stock holders with increased returns on their investments. Pulling all of this together in a rather blunt manner, as if it was not already apparent without my stating it explicitly, the motivation for the penal system, given all this, is not punishment and rehabilitation, but rather, profit.
Fourth, the School-to-Prison Pipeline is a serious concern because the data reveals that minorities, people of color, and those with mental disabilities are over 50% more likely to end up as a slave in the Penal System. Students from these groups are about 75% more likely to be punished (suspended or expelled) while in school. Of those who are punished they are 75% more likely to enter the Juvenile Detention System. And of those who enter the juvenile system, they are 80-95% more likely to enter the adult penitentiary system. These are very disparaging and upsetting statistics when just taken alone, but when included with the entire system of harm wrought against particular populations, what is revealed is a system constructed to to populate our prison system with slaves that is targeting our children.
The Criminal Justice System is not failing, it is functioning in precisely the manner that it was designed to function. The problem is that we are allowing it to continue to function in this manner. The problem is that we continue to permit this colorblind language and to accept the false justifications for this system that is failing us as a people. We are being lied to. We are being harmed. And we should not stand for this any more.
That is why the people, who after not being heard in the Metropolitan King County Council went off and occupied the court room. That is why we all testified against the creation of the supposed ‘Justice’ that they are proposing to build. Justice does not mean punishment for crime. What justice means is to provide for the flourishing of the human population. What the state is doing right now is not justice.
I have been busy crafting songs focused on #SocialJustice issues for quite some time now, but I need some help getting the words out there. People need to hear this and if you can think of anywhere for any or all of these to land to get to the ears and minds of the people who need to hear it, please share them or let me know where.
It’s not about numbers, and it’s not about money.
It’s about making a difference in people’s lives.