Racism, Part II

Tuesday, November 1st, 2011 |

I’ve had somewhat of an epiphany lately regarding the problem with the guys I previously described as racist, rude and loud. This problem is immediately personified with a black guy in the bunk opposite mine on the beach.  Roland despises me and he has no problem showing it.  Over the last two weeks, he has made a significant amount of anti-Semitic and anti-Catholic comments that were said to others so that I could hear.

I don’t think it does any good to argue with someone looking for a fight. Arguing won’t accomplish anything.  But, it will accelerate the tension so I have been ignoring the comments. My thought is that these guys condemn themselves by their words and actions. Other campers can see through these things, even if they laugh while these things are being said. You can’t argue with bigoted morons and expect to get anywhere.

To isolate myself from this foolishness, I have been wearing my headphones listening to classical music and keeping my mouth shut. I think that this is the more Christian thing to do.  This may not be the “prison thing to do”, but it has been working for me lately and the problem is gradually getting better.

White-Collar Resentment

As I said before, there is a significant amount of resentment by staff and other inmates of the white-collar inmates. They know that we enjoyed wealth and success beyond our “case”, something they will never experience. They also believe that our crimes are more significant than their crimes which are mostly drug cases. I think that they believe that dealing drugs isn’t that big of a deal. I would expect most of these guys will go back to dealing drugs when they are released. It is the way they know to make money and they have no job skills.

The other obstacle for white white-collar guys is the prevailing belief by bigots like Roland is that they have been abused by institutional racism. It is the white man’s fault that they are in prison, and that they never had the same opportunity as whites. The problem, of course, is that this hasn’t been true for decades. We have a black president, black cabinet members, black Supreme Court justices, and every conceivable aspect of society is fully integrated. Those people of all races who have applied themselves have achieved success in our integrated society.

Racism

It is a human tendency to blame others for their problems, and not take responsibility for one’s own actions. I wrote previously that some older blacks are more likely to rely of the institutional racism issue than the younger blacks. The younger blacks are more likely to understand that they are in their current position because they made the wrong decision.

I’m certainly not saying racism doesn’t exist. It does. But, it is much less prevalent in society, especially by those that are educated and productive. I was called a racist by Roland for no reason other than his desire to provoke an argument. You would never see this behavior in any type of educated or professional environment. It is just that some believe that all whites, or all blacks, are racist against the other. I don’t get it. This whole prison thing is a real enlightenment.

 

Race Relations at Butner

Tuesday, October 18th, 2011 |

I feel compelled to write about a sensitive subject – race relations. I would like to say there are no problems between the races, and there aren’t overt problems per se, but there are underlying tensions. Most of the hostility I have seen is from black to white by both black inmates and staff. The Butner staff and inmate population is weighed heavily to the black. I overhear a lot of conversations where black inmates denigrate, and sometimes bully, the white inmates.

Black Use of the “N” Word

I had a very interesting conversation with four of my black cellies last night regarding a wide range of race issues. Two of the guys were 40+, one was 19, and the other was 31 years old. Interestingly, the two older guys blamed institutionalized racism and lack of opportunity as the reason for their economic and legal problems. The two younger guys blamed their personal choices. The hostility towards whites is, part and parcel, of their perceived institutionalized racism.

The “N” word is used frequently here – by the blacks. I made the comment to these guys that I didn’t understand why the word is used so much by the blacks.  After all, the word is viewed as inherently racist if used by white men. I told them that I never use the word.  My parents would have whipped me if I ever did. They told me that their use of the word typically means “bro”.  But, the biggest difference is this: Their use of the word ends with an “a”, and the profane version ends with an “er”.

I told them that I have never heard the word used (in either form) among my professional black friends and acquaintances. They acknowledged that their use of the word is more of a “street” thing. They also said that if they used it in front of someone black who resented their use of the word in either form, they would respect that and would not use the word in their presence again.

Staff Racism

My observation is that the black staff treats black inmates better than the white inmates.  White white-collar campers are treated the most poorly – again, this is my observation.  There seems to be a perception that the legal system treats white-collar crimes more leniently than the drug crimes.  In my opinion, the drug sentences are too harsh, but this doesn’t translate that white-collar crimes are treated too leniently.

Perhaps, the black staff resents the white-collar guys out of jealousy, and wanting to make the rich white guys “pay”.   Maybe, it is their chance to lord over those who have done better in life. Or, it could be a planned attitude to humiliate inmates, in general. One medical contract worker told me that she was told to be bitchy to the inmates. I don’t know for sure, and the reasons can be varied depending on the person. Anyway, it is one of those irritants that one must get used to. It requires patience.

I have a black female counselor, case manager, camp administrator and assistant warden.  Most of the medical staff are black. Therefore, I am the perfect storm for the black female staff. It gets frustrating. We are all in a difficult situation.  If it could I have my way, I wish race were never a problem and all were treated with respect.

The sad thing is that I don’t know this will ever happen. It’s too bad.