You already know the deal.
After dealing with the the school system, you know the deal. After struggling with the economic system, you know the deal. The way you were treated through the criminal justice system, from arrest, to detention, to court, to your bid, and then home tells me you already know the deal.
Election day didn’t change America…it revealed America.
We know CO’s who were Trump before Trump. We heard the name calling before, echoing off the cinder blocks and through the air ducts. We knew how this country felt about us, despite the efforts of a merciful few…and a few politicians looking to save money for taxpayers while appearing to care about us. We knew…and now the world knows.
So since you knew, you are not surprised. And since you’re not surprised, first of all, don’t act like you didn’t know. You can protest, but leave the violent confrontation to someone else. You know better, so do better. And it’s not an “I told you so,” moment, ‘cause all that does it get folks on the defensive, trying to prove their progressive credentials.
No, it’s time to ask the question, “Now that this stuff is out in the open, from the Big House to the farmhouse to the White House, how will you and I live?” “How will I make this country better for my children and grandchildren?” “How can I make America great for the first time?”
Here’s my list:
(1) I’m praying, not so much because I am religious (I am) but because I need to remind myself that there is something greater than the madness which just unfolded. Looking at the enlarged picture of the moon, taking time to look at the sky, the trees, listen to birds, reminds me that there is something Greater than any political party. When we had “yard” on my block, I never played basketball (I stink anyway). I found the places where the grass grew through the asphalt and cement. I grabbed a blade of grass each day to remind me that the world was bigger than my block, and that there is a force greater than CO’s playing God. And stopping to breathe in the air–as well as picking up a few blades of grass today–reminds me that there is still something greater, and the new administration does not have the last word on my humanity.
(2) I’m checking up on my friends still on paper, still struggling with their reentry, and those ridiculous sanctions that make it harder to find work and housing, education and citizenship, and any other foolishness they deal with to remind them of their “status” as an “ex-offender.” I won’t call them an “ex- anything”, I’ll call them by name, and help them know their humanity. I won’t look at them as animals, thugs, felons or anything other than the man or woman God created them to be. I’ll talk with them, commiserate with them, cry or anything else with them that helps them adjust and cope…not to the reality of the “new America” but the revelation of what we were like all along.
(3) I’m ramping up my work to dismantle mass incarceration, and replace it with more humane and just forms of dealing with human behavior. That includes investing time as a volunteer in schools, prisons, jails and the barber shop. That includes joining protesting voices outside the White House, and inside the classroom. That includes writing my a$$ off to anyone who will listen that the world hasn’t ended, and the struggle continues. I’m renewing my membership in JustLeadership USA, the nation’s leading organization of formerly incarcerated persons in the belief that, in the words of founder Glenn Martin, “those who are closest to the problem are closest to the solution.” I’m having students read Nicole Gonzalez Van Cleve’s Crook County so they can see firsthand what it’s like to move through the front end of the court system with degreed professionals in coats, ties, dresses and robes calling you a “mope” or a “monster.” I’m giving, and telling my friends to give to organizations like Equal Justice Initiative, ScholarChips, LiveFree and other groups leading the charge against unjust sentencing, unfair treatment, and alternatives to incarceration,
And (4), I’m going to check myself. I’m going to see where I have contributed to a nation that allows foolishness to flourish. I’m going to go back over my list of those who were hurt by my incarceration..indeed, by my behavior that led up to incarceration…and make sure I’ve made things right with them. No sense going after liars and cheats in government if I’m one myself. Gotta clean house in my personal administration before I go after a political administration. I’m not perfect, but I can be a lot better. And this country can, too. I’m working on it.