By Kevin Reese
I was born in 1986 in the middle of the crack era. I was born into a world of uncertainty, a world of confusion, poverty, missed education, and in this world I got lost. Lucky for me, and due to reasons yet to be determined, I’m now found.
It has taking 27 years, an ocean of losses, few peaks and many valleys to find what I have found. I have found knowledge of self, meaningful relationships, meaningful friendships, and a meaning to life. The catch 22 is I simultaneously found my purpose in life when I found myself sitting in a jail cell where I have been sitting for the last decade.
This geographic location has become the landing spot for a huge number of people who were born into the same world as me before they find themselves. So I want to pose the question: Why us?
Why does this society think that it is okay to lock other human beings in cages? I understand the idea of consequences for our actions and the notion of setting people aside for a period of time to give them time, space and opportunity to find themselves, but is prison the best this society can come up with? The unfortunate situation that landed me in prison, although it ended tragically, was never rooted in tragedy.
I was a rebellious teenager doing things that I thought were normal in order to gain my independence, and with the limited understanding I possessed at the time, I believed money equaled independence. After all isn’t this country founded by rebellious people who wanted their independence?
These same people resulted to wicked deeds and desperate measures in order to obtain that independence, i.e. kidnap, enslave, rape, kill and oppress millions of people. For those deeds these men are called trailblazers, heroes, and patriots. On the other hand, when men and women from my community result to desperate measures to gain some form of independence, we are demonized and called criminals. Why us?
Why is it that when the youth from my community go through their teenage experimental and rebellious phase they are called troubled, menaces to society, savages and thugs and viewed as a problem that has to be controlled and destroyed? While kids from different demographics, social classes and economic backgrounds are allowed to be teenagers and make dumb decisions like selling drugs or committing crimes. Studies show that suburban kids sell just as much — if not more — drugs as the kids from the inner city, but these suburban kids are not being hauled to the prison plantation by the droves like the kids from the inner city. Why us?
There is a war going on and mass incarceration is one of the many weapons that our enemy is using to destroy us. Why us? Because since its conception in 1776, America has never been without her slaves. She is built off the idea of exploitation of certain classes of people for the advancement of others. With this sobering reality, this is the reason why we need to be urgent, active, and vigilant in our fight for liberation. We need to educate ourselves, and separate ourselves from the negative narrative that is being written about us.
So the next time you see a Black boy or man being killed in the streets or sentenced to prison don’t say, “Well, that’s just how it goes.” No, that is not how it goes. It is how we have allowed it to go.
Instead ask ourselves, “Why us?”
Kevin Reese resides in Lino Lakes and welcomes reader responses to [email protected].