“We are a society that has been structured from top to bottom by race. You don’t get beyond that by deciding not to talk about it anymore. It will always come back; it will always reassert itself over and over again.” – Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw
I was released from prison in October of 2018 and have been home now for a year and eight months. I remember counting the years and days of my confinement with a heavy heart, now I count my days of freedom with pleasure and gratitude. We measure time in many different ways but for me these are the most precious of times, not only because I am free, but because I am experiencing history for Black Americans in my own backyard.
The police killing of George Floyd combined with the Covid-19 pandemic has laid bare the festering sore of indifference for the most marginalized groups of people in society. This legacy of slavery and white supremacy that America has perpetrated for far too long needs to be addressed and dismantled.
(Roz at the Justice for George Floyd protest at the Barclays Center, Brooklyn 29 May 2020, at Rage Rejoice Rise event at Middle Church 26 February 2019)
For the last several days and nights of protest, Americans are confronting the systemic racism in our country with a vengeance, we are coming out in numbers, strong and powerful. We are tired of the blatant injustices put upon black shoulders each and every day of our lives for centuries. We are tired of being left out of the conversations. We are tired of being portrayed as menacing, threatening, dangerous, lazy and no good. We are tired of our Black men and women being killed by the police. I mourn for George Perry Floyd, Freddie Gray, Philando Castile, Alton Sterling, Breonna Taylor, Sandra Bland, Laquan McDonald, Tamir Rice and all the other men and women whose lives were taken. I mourn for the known and unknown and not just about police brutality but for the racism that permeates our world and provides a platform for this injustice that dictates that it’s ok to murder Black people and their lives have less significance than whites.
I am saddened and outraged by our history of lynching/killing/executing black people, the knees of white racist America has been on our necks too long and change is in the making, justice has been denied for far too long. We have suffered with our children having the most inferior schools and educators, our neighborhoods are food deserts with liquor stores on every corner, our communities are without adequate resources available for mental and physical health care, we are discriminated against in housing and job opportunities and are unproportionally herded into the criminal justice system because of the color of our skin.
We are in dire times with a demagogue president who continues bombarding the media with deliberate seditious rhetoric, who campaigned against the Central Park Five in 1989, and was furious about Colin Kaepernick taking a knee to protest in silence. Who reportedly tweeted “when the looting starts, the shooting starts,” the racially charged statement that dates back to the civil rights era and is known to have been invoked in 1967 by a white police chief Walter Headly during hearings about crime in Florida city.
“The challenge of the 21st century is not to demand equal opportunity in the machinery of oppression, but rather to identify and dismantle those structures in which racism continues to be embedded.” – Angela Davis
This pandemic spotlights the indifference towards the black population and the poor in our society who are dying at three times the rates of whites. The movement that is sweeping this country is one that has finally reached its time. This has been the perfect environment for change, with the pandemic that occurred and Floyd’s unnecessary death at the hands of police. Now is the time for change, now is the time for open discussion and now is the time to reimagine the world we want to live in. We can’t change what happened in the past, but we can determine what happens in our future. We can get this right!
V-Day Beyond Incarceration Project Manager
READ Roz’s ongoing blog series, DISPATCHES FROM BEYOND INCARCERATION
SUPPORT black led grassroots groups, engage in racial justice work and system change. We encourage you to research who is doing the work in your immediate community, follow their lead on how you can best help, and use social media to amplify and support.
Roslyn Smith, V-Day’s Beyond Incarceration Project Manager, has been writing blog posts as part of V-Day’s 2019 Spotlight on Women in Prison, Detention Centers, and Formerly Incarcerated Women.
In her newly expanded blog, Dispatches from Beyond Incarceration, Roz writes an ongoing series about her experiences as a formerly incarcerated women, including short and long dispatches on prison reform and prison abolition, often highlighting news articles around the experiences of incarcerated and formerly incarcerated women, pieces highlighting what she’s thinking about, what she’s worried about, including interviews with formerly incarcerated women, stories from prison, visions of a world without prison, how violence against women leads to women coming to prison and then the violence they experience there, all the while highlighting important data and facts that shed light on incarceration and our commitment to restorative justice models. You will hear from women whose lives have been profoundly impacted by the prison and detention system on issues as far ranging as: trauma and abuse; shackling; transgender experiences; dignity; health and mental health; experiences of long term inmates; the youth/school to prison pipeline; the experiences of mothers and children navigating the immigration system; higher education in prison; and reentry and technology.
Read more from the Dispatches from Beyond Incarceration series here