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APARTHEID LIVES ON….. IN AMERICA

Recently, while reading Nelson Mandela’s autobiography “Long Walk To Freedom,” a very tragic thought came to mind and that was: Apartheid is still alive and kicking right here in the U.S.A. If anyone has ever read about Apartheid in South Africa (the systematic segregation and oppression of Blacks), or simply heard about it, I’m sure there is no denial of how horrific this system was. Infact, it was one that ran a parallel image to the racial disparities Blacks faced here in America. The similarities between these two systems continue even until today.

 

While African-Americans gained partial “visual victories” against Laws like Jim Crow in the mid-1900’s, Blacks in South Africa would not gain these victories until 1989 when President F. W. deKlerk, due to the persistent struggle of the ANC and the masses of Black South Africans began to dismantle Apartheid. However, it wouldn’t be until 1994 that democratic elections would be instated among Blacks there. “One Man One Vote” became the right demanded by the oppressed.

 

After studying Mandela’s book I’ve come to see that Apartheid lives on disguised and unseen from the people in this society. While I’m personally familiar with the Texas Department of Corrections (TDC – which will be analysed in this article), and recognize it as one of the most racist prison systems in the U.S., it is not the only prison living on the long legacy of atrocities and oppression. This ideology is shared all through the U.S.A. The semblence of rehabilitation has been abandoned by the American government. Punishment and cruelty is open and blatant. It’s obvious that the mass media constantly broadcast crime, violence and fear of terrorism to manipulate the people in society into believing that such a repressive system is needed. However, this cycle is a purposeful scheme to preserve a classist and racist regime in America and we would be fools to think otherwise. Let me unravel the legacy of Apartheid thriving in America.

 

Under the Apartheid prison system inmates were classified in 1 of 4 categories: A, B, C, and D (A being the best and D the worse. Political prisoners were automatically placed under level D upon arrival). In TDC there are levels 1, 2 and 3 (1 being the best and 3 the worse). Through punishment these levels act as a behavior control system. On the best level of both systems inmates were able to receive money from their families, buy books and food. They had slightly more freedom to move around and mingle. The chance to buy food was a great benefit considering the Apartheid diet consisted mainly of “mealies” (corn kernels). It’s a benefit for prisoners in the U.S. also as meals, for example like in Texas, are constantly flooded with undercooked pork and horded of beans and potatoes. Level D’s were allowed only 1 visitor and could write and receive only 1 letter every 6 months. Through the U.S. Penal Institutions the repressive rules vary, some allow prisoners to only write between 5 and 10 people. Under the Apartheid system officials were adamant on keeping political prisoners separated for fear that they would incite rebellion in the other prisoners. Many U.S. prisons prevent inmates from writing to each other for similar reasons. In Texas, level 2 and 3 inmates mirror the restrictions of the Apartheid prisoners as level 3’s can only get 1 visit a month and level 2’s only 2 visits a month.

 

The wide hypocricy of this rule, specifically to those on death row, is upon being sentenced to death a jury of 12 agreed that the prisoner could not be rehabilitated in anyway. Contradiction is weaved in the fabric of the Judicial System in America. While rehabilitation is truly not desired or expected, when faced with punishment by the extraction of privileges, and in many cases by force, inmates do reform their behaviors. Unfortunately, the downside to these methods, which are void of counselling and treatment is, it brews anger in the inmates towards the system and society which supports, thus keeping the cycle of violence going and the doors to prisons revolving.

 

Visitation was a divide and conquer method. Visits in both systems were held in small cubicles where you are separated from your loved ones. Prisoners had to talk through holes drilled in the glass, or cage wire (some prisons today have installed phones). Robben Island, where Mandela and his comrades were imprisoned, stood several miles away from the shore of Africa. Most prisons are built far into the country to dissuade family and supporters from reaching the prisoners so easily. Texas, being the biggest state in the U.S., is home to nearly home to 130 prisons, many being scattered in the wood and empty terrains. With so many prisons, Texas has even rented out housing to prisoners from other states, thus another example of how the Industrial complex is an Imperialist venture. As Mandela noted, “The remoteness of the prison made the authorities fell they could ignore us with impunity. They believed that if they turned a deaf ear to us we would give up in frustration an t the people on the outside would forget about us.”

 

Wars were waged on a deeply rooted mental plane. Harassment became a weapon to inflict mental anguish. Prisoner’s mail, under Apartheid, was constantly scrutinized and censored with razors and sometimes flatout denied to them. The same is experienced today, just without the usage of razors. Grievances against decrepit living conditions were never investigated and corrected. Prisoners were considered sub-human and they were to suffer their sentences out. The living quarters of prisoners then were extremely small and overcrowded, ill-equipped, insect ridden, plagued with leaking ceilings, sewage back-up and more. Today you can find these exact same conditions at prison units all across the U.S. Prison administrations have always been guileful when humanitarian organizations and officials would visit the prison. On those days better clothing would be issued, the prison would be cleaned up and even better meals served to carry out the illusion with success. These are common tactics still used by U.S. prisons to deviously pass their inspections. The list goes on and on and as it goes it only paints the picture of the twin systems of atrocities.

 

While Mandela and fellow ANC members were on Robben island they took a stance against their oppressors. This wasn’t done through violence, but a persistent defiance through not submitting to the sub-human conditions. Advocates of the present unequal system propagate how these prisons aren’t so bad or how ones did the crime and must do the time. Others find solace in making references to how there are prisoners harbouring under far worse conditions in underdeveloped countries and how U.S. prisoners should be thankful. These same people want to be congratulated as citizens of the most advanced country in the world, yet their comments don’t meet that bar; and they wonder how/why this society continues to decay. If people in this country continue to rate it by the worst of other countries this country will never rise to the best it can be. Mandela made a passionate statement about struggling against these conditions when he said: “The campaign to improve conditions in prison was part of the Apartheid struggle. It was, in that sense, all the same: we fought injustice wherever we found it, no matter how large or how small, and we fought injustice to preserve our own humanity.”

 

I reciprocate those thoughts, but until prisoners, along with the concern and support of society as a whole, decide to take a fervent stance, the well-being of this country will remain in the face of peril.

 

The similarities of Apartheid does not stop with Prisons, it extends right into the make-up of society. Today, under the Bush administration, the Apartheid regime has come into play full force. Under Apartheid, the South African government could oust Black residents from their homes simply by declaring that area a “White Area.” The legacy of segregation has been long lived through urban ghettos. There was 2 Laws-the 1967 Terrorism Act and the Ninety-Day Detention law which waived the right of habeas corpus and empowered any police officer to detain any person without a warrant on grounds of suspicion of a political crime. We have the same Law today called The Patriot Act! Blacks, and other people of color, often face harassment and abuse under many different laws. Then, banning laws kept Blacks from visiting people or placed them on house arrest. Today, we have the same and youth are targeted in their communities, many times simply for fitting a stereotypical description. In November of 1992, as plans to instil a democratic government were taking place, evidence was unearthed of the Apartheid government being involved in the murders of political activist. Most famous was the slaughter of ANC members by a group called Inkatha. This group was rumoured to be funded by the South African government to carry out these slaughters. Haiti experienced this same fate as the U.S. helped carry out a coup there, but the U.S. government has been an expert on assassination since murdering Black leaders in the 60’s under FBI program COINTELPRO:

 

There came a time in South Africa’s history when the conditions there could no longer be tolerated and the ANC was not only successful in creating a militant faction, Unkhonto We Sizwe (The Spear of The Nation), but they mobilized the people to overthrow their heinous oppressors. Unfortunately, we Blacks in the U.S. cannot say the same; and the jingle of the shackles still accompany our every step. The ANC realized that, “at a certain point, one can only fight fire with fire, “and that “the oppressed is often left no recourse but to use methods that mirror those of the oppressor.” Today, we see too many of our so-called “freedom/justice fighters” taking orders and allying themselves with our antagonist. They have added to extinguishing the fire of revolution that our true liberation fighters once stated. Many prisoners have suffered the same ailment and thus can’t get the over-seers boot off their throats.

 

What the ANC had was the willingness to suffer and sacrifice, even if that meant death, but the doses of materialistic morphine that America administers to its citizens have part of the masses subdued while the other half is so bombarded by poverty and violence that the struggle to just stay clothed, fed and protected is the most demanding aspect of their lives. Through the ruling class painting the picture to the middle class Americans that their problems come from those below them they have been successful in deflecting the fear and discotent or middle class Americans, and their possible opposition. “By dividing each, they’ve conquered both,” as Frederick Douglas put it.

 

Apartheid doesn’t have to exist today. We must remember that Struggle is not an overnight process or victory. We have to be it in the long run with a firm commitment to win. This means years of dedicated educating, organizing and sacrifices. African-Americans have not achieved liberation. We suffer from the same atrocities as we always have, it’s just implemented in a more advanced way. Mandela laid the blueprint out for us to follow and while we’ve taken extraordinary steps within oppressive America, until we mimic the ANC struggle we still will have a long walk before getting to true FREEDOM!

SLAVE AND SOUTHERN LEGACIES

The states in the south of amerika have passionately held on to some old traditions. The racism that was pervaded in this kountry has not been eradicated, nor, through the establishment of covert and institutional schemes to carry racism on, does there seem to be plans to eradicate it.

 

While racism existed in every crevice of this kountry, it seems that the southern states took it to new levels. The first Africans were brought to Jamestown, Virginia as slaves in August 1619 and the southern states embraced and propagated this sadistic process like it was no tomorrow. Perhaps because slavery and the racism that followed to keep it implemented was so centred in the south, southerners entire mentality towards themselves and others were warped beyond ordinary reason. Martin Luther King Jr. talked about how an oppressor’s mind can become just as traumatized as the oppressed. Acts of such monstrosity cannot come from wholesome or sane minds. This “difference” in mentality was exhibited through the civil war when the United Southern States, known as the Confederacy, tried to break away from the rest of the U.S. colonies. That was just in 1865.

 

December 18, 1865 signified the day the 13th Amendment was ratified and slavery was abolished. However – Texas, a state that tried to proclaim itself a republic, did not acknowledge that law. It took special commissioned troops to travel to Texas, two years later, to enforce this new law. This is why blacks in Texas don’t celebrate their Emancipation Day until June 19th (instead of January 1st, 1863 which in actuality was just a lip service day of Emancipation. The 13th Amendment wouldn’t be TRULY ratified until December 18th, 1865). This was the day the troops enforced this new law in 1867.

 

Texas has lived on its own legacies of the old south. From 1890 – 1980 there were 5.000 DOCUMENTED lynches in the U.S. Nevertheless, lynchings were still happening in Texas in 1998 (the Jasper incident). This is not just an expression of individual racism, but an expression of amerikan racism that was once embraced as a way of life. Lynchings still go in many other states as well.

 

Prisons are the most visual legacy of slavery. Infact, in the 13th Amendment proudly proclaims:

 

“Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for a crime whereof the part shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, nor any place subject to their jurisdiction.”

 

That speaks for itself; along with the tradition of calling prison guards “boss man” (ie-master, overseer) to the bare necessity system. An example of this bare necessity system is the feeding process. Prisons, once known as farms, are just like old slave plantations, and do function just like farms. They make their own supplies (from clothes to hygienic products) and even breed animals. One of their favorite animals is the pig. Inmates are fed high doses of pork (which is often improperly cooked due to the feeding time rushes to feed an entire prison). Why? Because the pig is a low maintenance animal that grows fairly large, living off of basically anything. It’s a cheap product to feed prisoners with. By driving spending down the Prison Industrial Complex keeps its profits high. Feeding slaves (prisoners) pork is an old tradition. Slaves harvested the animals on plantations, but were only given the pig discard-head, feet, guts to live on. Black people, in survival mode, made the best of it and spiced it, pickled it and baked it. Blacks cooked the food so well that even the greedy slave masters would creep out to the old decrepit cabins for a taste. Now the world knows platters calls “Soul Food” (which, in part, is the above foods cooked to perfection).

 

·On a more dreadful note, southern states lead this kountry in execution.

 

·1/2 of the U.S. death row population (almost 3.600) is in states of the former confederacy

 

·5 out of every 6 people executed in the U.S. have been put to death in the south ·southern states accounted for 84 % of all death sentences imposed on juveniles since 1973. Texas, Florida and Alabama account for half
·In a kountry where Blacks make up approximately 13 % of the population, Blacks make up 42 % of the death rows ·Texas itself accounts for over 310 executions since 1976.

 

WOW! What’s the south trying to tell us? Most likely that they are the true and living pulse of that this kountry is all about. This isn’t just a “Black” issue that we’re facing but a people issue because the above doesn’t represent EVERY amerikan. And for those that don’t know, ameriKa represents the true ameriKKKan mentality that we know. They promote it. It’s a white nationalistic supremist mentality. That is the definition of “white amerika”. Let’s just have an America. Can we just have an America or a just America? That remains to be seen. But, one thing I DO know – as long as we accept and tolerate the above our society, and every part of the world that it touches, will continue to literally… go south.