Revolution #214, October 24, 2010

"Ghetto-American" Writes from Prison:

Police Brutality, Crime, and "Systematic Oppression"

Editor's Note: The following is a letter from a prisoner. We greatly appreciate receiving these letters and encourage prisoners to keep sending correspondence. The views expressed in letters from prisoners are those of the writers, and not those of Revolution.

I'm writing to you regarding the "National Day of Protest to Stop Police Brutality, Repression and the Criminalization of a Generation" to share my personal experience and views. First however, thanks to both PRLF and the Revolutionary Communist Party for taking such a bold stance against the enemies of true freedom, justice and equality. Thanks for providing a path to the very one thing that those of us who've been unfortunate enough to have suffered the blunt and harsher sides of this system seem to be in short supply of—hope.

As a product of the "Ghetto American" inner city. I've known hopelessness and despair intimately ever since I could count the number of Mommy's hypodermic needles I'd find stashed in the house. Sadly, I was just too young and too naïve to understand the staggering weight of systematic oppression that made her want to exchange her reality—troubled as it was—for the kind of peace and happiness that was induced chemically and intravenously. For $30 at a time, my mother would drift away, leaving my little sister and I to deal with the real world alone.

So we were raised primarily by our grandmother, the most loving and compassionate woman I've known, who believed staunchly in "the Lord" and the pretty packaging America presents itself in. For me, there wasn't a greater presence in my life than her, so imagine the pain, shock and finally rage I experienced as a 12-year-old who witnessed a police officer brutally fling my loving grandmother to the floor of her kitchen as they moved in to take one of her sons in for violating parole. My uncle had been argumentative, not wanting to go to jail, so one of the officers wrapped an arm around his throat and began to squeeze firmly upon it. My grandmother, who had been silent through most of the intrusion into our home, could suddenly not stand it anymore. Maybe it was because about a year earlier we'd attended the funeral of my sister's uncle who had been choked to death by a cop. She stepped in front of the officers who were then forcefully moving my uncle toward the door, and cried, "Y'all stop choking that boy!" She was then promptly dumped on the floor and then, to add further insult to injury, charged some bogus misdemeanor and made to spend a night in jail while we were hustled over to my granddad's house. The next day, after she was released, all she said was, "The girls were so nice to me and made sure I was alright."

My grandmother always stressed to me the importance of achieving a good education and would tell me how she knew I'd be the first of our immediate family members to receive a high school diploma. I mean she would really speak of me getting that diploma like it was a Master's degree! It wasn't until I was much older that I considered her as a person other than my grandma, who'd grown up as a Black female in the south during the tumultuous '40s and '50s, when the possibility of a "good education" seemed as fantastical as piloting a space ship to Mars.

When I was promoted to Middle School, because of this, my grandma made sure I was placed in a "good school," one in which there were just as many white students, if not more, than little Black ones, the way the schools had been for me up until that point. In my first year at Middle School, as a 6th grader, a teacher who had been vindictive and spiteful to me from the start, recommended me to be placed in a class for the "emotionally handicapped" and that I be placed upon a psychotropic medication for bipolarism. My grandma, only wanting me to continue to be accepted at this school, promptly agreed to the arrangement.

From then on I was placed in a class where I would remain for my entire three years in Middle School that contained us kids who were social misfits and scholastic pariahs in which we, the outcasted and ostracized, came to revel in. We were given easy work and everyone expected us to act as morons, so we usually did. There was a brief moment during my first year at high school where I attempted to do normal classes like everyone else, but it proved to be too much effort for me and soon I was signed back into the comforting confines of the E.H. class where I remained until my weary grandmother signed me out of school completely. She had had to go with me in front of the school board every year since 6th grade to talk to school officials into letting her emotionally dysfunctional grandson back into their school until she grew tired of it. At 16 years old, I became an official high school dropout.

Since I'd become so resistant to being educated, my grandma surmised that it was time I go out and earn myself a living, i.e., by getting an actual job to which I agreed—not just because I was under her roof, but because it did make sense to me. Between us three—she, my little sister, and I—the household lacked a breadwinner for we existed simply on grandma's disability check and a meager state-provided child support check. Almost immediately I was hired as a laborer for a construction crew of brick masons and began to pay my grandma $40 weekly while I blew the rest on expensive clothes and weed. Meanwhile, my sister had become so disruptive in school she was court-ordered into a group home whereupon she swiftly escaped. I impregnated a girlfriend and all the time, hope was slowly leaking, bleeding out of my grandma before my unseeing eyes.

I was content with our dysfunctional existence, or at least accepting of it. Around us, there seemed to be much of the same thing going on with everyone, with the odd exceptions here and there but they were nearly invisible. Soon, I was abruptly laid off from work for unknown reasons (but probably because the boss, or his son, had gotten word of how I used to smoke weed during lunch breaks, an increasing habit of mine at the time) and being out of work, as well as out of school at 17 was, for me, not as ideal as you'd think. I grew sullen and depressed and got into minor confrontations with other youth in my neighborhood.

One day my cousin came up with a scheme to rob someone to which I reluctantly agreed. However, during the commission of the crime, my cousin shot and killed the person and with much ceremony—to add to my grandmother's humiliation—we were both charged with Murder and Armed Robbery, under the then-new law aptly titled "The Hands of One is the Hands of All." I pled to 28 years, while my cousin went to trial and received Life plus 30 years in the end.

The hands of one is the hands of all. This is also the charge I cite against my country because surely there were more unseen hands on the trigger that killed that man. Do I think that my cousin and I were wrong? Undoubtedly so. BUT. So were those who were charged with the responsibility of ensuring our proper growth and development as children. From the age of 12, when I was given up on and placed in E.H. (Emotionally Handicapped) class, until the commission of my crime, my path became certain to lead to the penitentiary. I feel strongly now that had I known what I was up against, had I had some kind of preparedness, I would have been more equipped to take on the challenges of American society, especially those specifically aimed at us "Ghetto Americans."

Thanks for allowing me the opportunity to be heard and keep up the good work.

Sincerely, your brother in the struggle.

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