By Atlas Agbaara
“Now, then, in order to understand white supremacy, we must dismiss the fallacious notion that white people can give anybody their freedom.” Stokely Carmichael.
Since the beginning of American History, African-Americans or Blacks (whichever you might fancy) have been the pioneers of almost any and every facet of human endeavors in America. This statement wouldn’t be at all fallacious if one were to mention “fashion” and “crime”, as they’ve seemed to sadly collide when speaking of America’s “Justice” System. From the first arrival of Africans to America, we’ve found them chained and shackled, tormented and torn, slaughtered and disregarded, somehow…in the same breath, or the lack thereof. No room for error, yet every breath a black man took was a crime. No room for breathing, yet his very existence depended on his ability to perform hours and hours of unpaid, excruciating slave labor. A day was for working, a breath was for working, a breath was a crime, and existence depended only on his ability to keep working towards something.
The highlight of this article is the unwanted, soul-capturing, mind-depleting cuff. This one isn’t “cool”, by far. This band isn’t the popular “Rustik” one, not at all. In fact, unlike it’s ancestor, which was oftentimes rusty, this new shackle America has bestowed upon the African-American population is a new form that drives currency and labor…much like…”fashionable” accessories. This ball-and-chain, commonly referred to as “The Ankle Monitor”, is found on the ankle of offenders, utilized by the court systems to track clients for various offenses. While wearing this electronic shackle, clients or “offenders” are carefully watched for drug usage, alcohol consumption, and curfew adherence set by particular entities.
Today, systematic oppression looks a little bit different and is called something much different. I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing someone who actually wore one of the devices and this is what he had to say:
” Wearing an ankle monitor is like being in double-jeopardy slavery, if that makes sense. It’s like the modern day form of slavery, only more “today”. I have to pay ten dollars per day for this device, which is $300 a month. I can do 8 hours of community service a week, to appease the costs of the monitor, but it’s hard to find a job that will have enough money and hours that will allow me to do community service. Just think. If I make $9/hour, right? 27 hours per week. That’s $972 a month, before taxes…$300 of that is going towards the court system. Then I have filing fees…Then I have to eat. I have gas. I have a child. I have rent. I have toiletries. I have a phone bill, I can’t get food stamps because of my income. So I can’t get a free phone. Man…it’s just a lot. For the longest, I haven’t had a job because no one will hire me with pending charges. There should be laws against that. How can someone really make a solid effort to getting their life back and getting it together, with no one in society willing to help? I went through the whole list of people and jobs that said they hire felons…no luck. I just feel like the system is made to trick me. White boys don’t go through this.”
He then shook his head and we sat for a moment. I then walked through, with him, the possibilities that perhaps it’s not only Black men who experience this new form of “toying with someone”. He gave me a perspective that I’m not sure I can completely disagree with. “I see white boys walk in and out of court, every time I go, same crimes…they get breaks. I walk in and have to come back to court. 12 years, 7, years, 5 years, on a first offense.” I can’t say that I disagree with that statement. It seems that, in Tulsa, our white counterparts are charged less severely for the same crimes, and often times…not at all. It seems that they’re given more warnings, in lieu of Black men having an inherent ability and desire to want to kill, steal, and destroy. I’m a black man. I don’t wake up and want to kill or steal or destroy anything or anyone.
The very characteristics of the whole ankle monitor process, if one weren’t solid in their convictions and strength source, could do the exact OPPOSITE of what it’s intended to do. I’ll refer further to our conversation to bring about my point.
“Sometimes I don’t know that it’s not a set-up, like they’re waiting on me to mess up. I have to be home at 9pm, unless I’m working. But I won’t lie, they’re not naive either. They know there’s people that still smoke weed or drink, and some of those people might be in my family. That makes it harder, if you’re trying to clean your act up. The thing is…I don’t think they want me to self-correct. They want me to mess up so I can go back to jail. That way they get money from my bond, my ankle monitor time, and then when I go back the private systems make even more money, cause my time is probably extended. Then when this (ankle monitor) goes off because it needs to be charged, I’ve been fired from jobs because of me needing to charge it or the officer’s need to speak to me about something. Instead of calling, they sent an alert, and the ankle monitor chimed. I was fired from my job because a customer had a concern about a “felon” working with their food and they knew what the sound was. Like…how am I supposed to get ahead? It’s like every time I hear anything that chirps or chimes…I start to get really really anxious and nervous. It’s all I think about, everything seems so negative. It’s like being in jail but not in jail. It’s like walking through life in a hamster ball, and every time it rings…it’s like some little kid kicking the ball…shaking me up.”
This was the shocker to me, this was the…”wow” for me. America, Oklahoma, Tulsa…has to do something about this. I can’t say that this isn’t/wasn’t intended to be “the new form of slavery” or a new curve to it all. Are whites charged with less time for the same crimes as blacks? Are black men more likely to go back to jail? Who’s more likely to get an ankle monitor? Why is it that black men fill the prisons at a more frequent rate?
I feel that white people in Tulsa have the benefit of being engaged in a culture that says “We have the moratorium on all right and wrong, and anyone and everyone else…well…that’s just too bad.”
Feel free to submit any thoughts on this article I’ve written to the Black Wall St. Times.