By Chuck Morse
I just had a long talk with some local ex-cons about how much they deplore the recent protests against police violence. These guys (all of whom are Black) have spent huge amounts of time in the prison system and most are still linked to it on some level. I talk to these guys daily while I’m out walking my dogs (usually we talk about the weather or sports or whatever). They were ranting about people causing damage who don’t live in Oakland (i.e., “outside agitators”), lamenting smashed cars, etc.
When I told them that I support the protests, they just kind of growled. Whatever. We’ll chat about something else tomorrow. But, this reminded me of how wrong identity politics are. That is, the fight against police violence and mass incarceration is about politics—your values and what type of world you want—and not about your racial or class identity. Obviously these things are important factors, but the discussion needs to be much broader than that.
Although it’s changing, I live in sort of “service ghetto” organized around managing the poor and a lot of this is connected to the prison system. You can really feel the presence of mass incarceration, as a social policy, on the streets here . . . Of course, prisons are not just about locking up people up, they’re also about what happens to “free” people. This is all really vivid here.