“You can’t separate peace from freedom because no one can be at peace unless he has his freedom.”
I conclude the semester feeling overwhelmed with emotions. There have been many nights where I sit up at night and think about court-influenced youth. Although I have not started mentoring yet, I feel that I have learned so much through the course readings, activities, and videos watched both in and out of class. My soul has not been at peace since viewing Kenneth’s story 15 to Life.
What is absent from so many conversations about people of color and incarceration rates is the larger picture of American society that sets certain individuals up to fill positions in our prisons. This was a concept discussed in class, and in light of the current climate of our nation, and trending topics such as #criminingwhilewhite, that continues to plague my thoughts about the inequities and inequalities that exist for people of color.
I think about Kenneth, who committed one crime at 14, who helped his mother break her addiction from drugs, who taught fellow inmates in prison, and who ultimately experienced rehabilitation during his time spent incarcerated. I think about how differently the situation would have been if Kenneth were White, if he was afforded the opportunity to make mistakes much like his White counterparts. My heart aches for the many stories just like his where young people of color who the government deems as incapable of making adult decisions (such as the right to vote) can be tried as adults before a court and sentenced to spend the entirety of their youth behind bars.
My closing thoughts reflect upon the above quote by Malcolm X. I question why I can’t feel at peace as the semester ends. And the answer is that I, we, people of color, don’t truly experience freedom in this place. When Black bodies are devalued, and lives are diminished and destroyed, the reality is that freedom is not afforded to everyone, and until this changes, we will never have peace.