In Alumni in Action, Election, Harry Grammer, Special Topics

Trump. Prisons. Kids…and You.

As I sat in my living room over a year ago watching the local network news I began flipping through channels looking for something that did not remind me of the violence I saw in the news the night before. A documentary on HBO caught my eye and I turned up the volume. The documentary was entitled, “Fixing the System.” For the first time in history a sitting president visited a federal prison. That president was Barack Obama. As I sat in awe watching the President ask six inmates dressed in yellow jumpsuits about the legal system, their communities, regrets, and their families, I was amazed at how engaged he was in understanding the issues that lead men behind bars. After the show I was silently invigorated with hope that change was destined to occur in the justice system.

Fast-forward one year later I awaken to a headline, “Private Prison Stock Surges After A Trump Win.” Private prison stock had actually been dropping drastically after Pennsylvania Judge, Mark Ciavarella, was sentenced to 28 years in prison in 2011 for selling kids to private prisons by illegally sentencing young people for profit. Suddenly, after five years of hard work to close prisons Trump’s victory turns everything around in the middle of the night. We cannot underestimate the gravity this election holds. It is unimaginable what took 100 hundred years to correct may be untied overnight. Trump’s presidency brings a new definition to dangerous as within the last seven days there have been more than 400 hate crimes reported. The threat is real and people that aim to do harm are getting organized and we must take this seriously and confront it now. What is happening is not symbolism nor is the fear society has over-exaggerated. Frantz Fanon argued in Black Skin: White Masks the psychoanalytic interpretations of very real events. He argued that when in his dreams a colonizer pointed a gun at him it was no Freudian symbol, or phallic metaphor. His interpretation was that it was a real gun pointed at his head. Trump is in essence a real gun pointed at the heads of people of color. His rhetoric on ridding black neighborhoods of crime, exporting millions of undocumented individuals, placing Muslims on registries points to his desire to recolonize what has been decolonized in the home of the free and land of the brave. Not to mention he has directly (and admittedly) sexually assaulted women and has plans to suppress women’s rights.

Just this morning I was speaking with a 17 year old young man named Jordi from the Lennox area of Los Angeles. Jordi attends high school at our charter school in Culver City for probation and foster care youth. I asked Jordi what his thoughts were on our new president-elect. And he replied, “Everyone in my neighborhood is talking about it and very scared. They want to deport us all. But this is time to come together and build a strong community with all minorities.” Children have a deep awareness that most adults cannot access so easily due to the compounded complexes we have accumulated through various levels mental colonization. Jordi’s answer to my question may seem rudimentary but in his expression while trying to find the right words to explain I heard more than he was saying. Somewhere in his words he was telling me that he knew he must act to bring humanity together for safety and peace for the people.

So what can we all do at this time of possible impending peril? How do we act?

  1. Get out of your comfort zone. Many of us have lives outside of areas where disaster strikes. Poverty, racism, and police brutality happens on the other side of town and not in your world. Come to grips with reality and know that it is real for a great deal of Americans that are affected by it. Volunteer at homeless shelters, foster care group homes, jails, community centers. Talk to the people that are affected by oppression. Build compassion for their struggles and support in every way you can.
  2. Become part of a movement against oppression. Find out which organizations are making a difference around a cause you feel connected to in disconnected areas of your city. Join their volunteer team, become a board member, and/or donate funds to the cause. Many grassroots organizations have a high need for support. Get involved!
  3. Build community. Be a conduit for change by bringing people together. Host an event in home or in your community. Educate friends and family about the issues that affect disconnected neighborhoods. Give voice to the voiceless.
  4. Be the change. I know this sounds cliché but it is the most effective way to break systems of racism, bigotry, and hate. We must first do a systems check on ourselves. Are we part of the solution or part of the problem? Only when you know that you are not part of the problem can you then contribute to the solution with pure intentions.

In these changing times we have a responsibility to respond. We can no longer sit back and pass the baton to governmental systems. “We The People” are the first three words of the United States Constitution. It does not read “You The Government.” This means if the people are progress to a more peaceful union then each person must pull their weight to ensure we have Freedom, Justice, and Liberty For All.

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