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Lampish Fitt In the black commentary on race

Alcatraz, The White Rock

Alcatraz Prison Racism

Alcatraz has been and will remain a symbol of systemic white oppression of the black community.

It’s becoming obvious to me, Lampish Fitt, that we’ve got a serious case of inequity and disenginuity in the black and white community–this time when it comes to  incarceration.

Consider the notorious prison Alcatraz. According to Alcatraz racial statistics culled from 1933 to 1962, a full 79.4% of all inmates were–that’s right–white.

Here I sense a distinct case of racism.

Now, I recognize that many black folks are concerned, and rightly so, regarding the inequities of the contemporary incarceration scene. With so many black folks incarcerated, and so many white folks running free and continually spreading their vile systemic and systematic racism, most white folks are acquitted if it means that their spot in the prison system can be filled by a black person.

But during the time of Alcatraz, the reverse was true: whites wanted to make sure that the finest and most notorious prison in America, the place that all criminals wanted to end up because of the stature it could afford them, Alcatraz was by and large a haven of injustice for black folks.

Consider that from 1932 to 1964 just 17.9% of the inmate population at Alcatraz was black.

What are we to make of this? The fact is that white folks didn’t feel that in most cases black folks were good enough for Alcatraz.

Even the wardens were pro-white. “This is a white man’s prison,” Warden Johnston said in 1933. And he meant it. 

“Don’t bring no niggers in here,” Johnston said. You had to twist his arm to get him to concede to blacks doing hard time in the rock.

Another example of systemic racism, one that’s crept along under the porch of injustice and has presented itself in the guise of prison justice.

The real travesty here is the assumption that white folks are better criminals than black folks.

Are white folks the greater criminals? Can’t black folks commit crimes just as heinous, if not more so? 

Not according to Alcatraz. It was simply not believed that black criminals could commit crimes as well and with as much depravity as white folks.

I, for one, am disgusted by this portion of American history, as I am with every portion of American history.

What sickens me worse is that today the pendulum has swung the other way. Blacks are incarcerated simply because white folks are scared of black folks and don’t want them on the streets. So black folks are rounded up in groups of 50 or 100, tried, convicted, and sentenced to jail time. And the more the merrier. It’s so bad that sometimes eight or ten black folks are shoved into a prison cell meant for two, at most three, honkies.

While I recognize that Warden Johnston would not appreciate so many black people in his prison, were he around today I believe he would condone the mass incarceration of black folks, maybe even support a “black Alcatraz,” just as isolated, separate but equal.

Johnston was just one in a long line of racists holding up this American joke system of justice.

Not only these things, also remember that of the four wardens who served at Alcatraz, not one is black. 

This must give us pause. For a nation so infused with the spirit of systemic racism must be sure to betray its hand from time to time. Yes, imagine a black man in charge of Alcatraz.

Well, you can’t. And why? Because were a black man in charge of Alcatraz, the statistics would have shifted in favor of the black populace. Alcatraz’s notoriety would have reflected upon the glory and greatness of black crimes, instead of white.

But white folks can’t get it right. When they run prisons, they either don’t have enough black folks, or have too many.

I, for one, think it is high time to cry out with our brother Martin Luther King Junior in this wilderness of oppression: free at last, free at last, thank God almighty, we are free at last.

Let the truth be heard, shout it from the mountaintops, and let every street corner bleed with the blood of liberty.

Still, I must pause and ask myself: Lampish, are we free? My friend, until black incarceration redounds to the glory of black folks, I should say not.

Ima keep it in the black,

Lampish Fitt

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