Like many other communities, prison is largely self-segregated. Considering the psychodynamics within, this is not unexpected. One of the biggest surprises of prison life, however, is that so many on the inside are neither the racists they claim for themselves nor the ones portrayed by the media. Many come from fairly diverse neighborhoods in the free world and many others come in without exhibiting any strong racial biases or prejudices. For many, racism is essentially a concept, if not exactly learned, then exploited, in the joint by cats who themselves had their own views exploited by other cats who had been exploited, ad nauseum. It then becomes expected behavior of them by their peers, its truths reinforced by the racial discord them. Of course, this is somewhat of an oversimplification but, nevertheless, serves as an accurate model.
These attitudes extend primarily toward black males (black racism is the same, i.e., extending only toward white males). In other words, many white men are not opposed to having a black girlfriend except to pay lip service. These men go through life concerning themselves with the good opinion of other white men,men who themselves have feet of clay. It’s like the old joke about fat girls and mopeds: you know, they’re both fun to ride until a friend sees you. In my opinion, this is the height of hypocrisy and weakness. Why should I care about what another man thinks of whom I’m fucking? I mean, I’m not fucking him.
There are a lot of cats that would like to portray themselves as revolutionaries and political prisoners. The truth, however, is not so romantic as this. The majority of us that are in the joint today are here because we didn’t think of anybody but ourselves. Character change doesn’t happen overnight. It can take years; sometimes it never happens. I suspect, therefore, that in actuality there are only a handful of hardcore true believers throughout the prison system. The rest are only piss warm rooty-poots.
Men live in a perpetual state of fear: fear of one another, fear of finally being exposed as a coward, fear of not being able to perform to a woman’s expectations, and fear of not measuring up to society’s definition of what it means to be a man.As whenever a person plays a team sport, joins the military, ROTC, or becomes a part of any other large organized group,they are taught that to be different — in thought, word, or deed — is to stand alone. To assimilate is to always have someone at your back. This is the cornerstone of all gang philosophy.
This Us versus Them mentality permeates the prison system. Allegiances and identities are drawn along racial lines. This is further disseminated by the prison administration. By keeping us at each other is how 750 cops can control 4,000 inmates. Bridging the racial divide, in prison or elsewhere, isn’t something we can sit back and wait for the NAACP, the ACLU, or the Anti-Defamation League to handle. If they ever were to accomplish such a feat they would all be in the unemployment
line after breakfast.
We can’t wait on the media to change public opinion. It’s our animosity toward one another that sells newspapers. And we can’t wait on the government. Government is not about solving problems; it’s about upholding the status quo.
Solving America’s race problem will only be accomplished neighbor to neighbor, one person at a time. Why shouldn’t the solution begin in America’s prisons where so much racial animosity is fomented? Why shouldn’t it begin with you and me?
J.S. Slaymaker #634548
Route 2 Box 4400
Gatesville, TX 76597