Monday, January 4, 2016
Currently, Arizona is one of only a few states that actually enforces racial segregation within its prison housing locations. This means that Caucasians can only bunk up – or cell – with other Caucasians and so on and so forth. There are a few exceptions to the rule for people like myself who are actually classified as ‘other’. I can. For any reason, be housed with any race.
Over the years that I have been in prison, a part of me has always believed that it was the administration’s higher powers who continued segregation in hopes of preventing the races of coming together. If all races saw themselves as equals then surely, they would be a force to be reckoned with. By allowing the races to be divided, race wars typically result – or at least, a war between one particular race, and not the others. Since Arizona prisons are my only experience, I can tell you that this is exactly how it plays out. Though I am not a supporter of segregation, I know it began long before I was alive and so, I have had to conform to the ideologies of this particular correctional system.
This past month however, The Arizona Department of Corrections, has in effect, began planning to integrate the races in their housing assignments. I was secretly elated at this news. I admit that at times, I believed it was surely nothing more than a pipe dream, but I was wrong. I was so wrong in fact, that tomorrow marks the 1st day of racial integration in my particular unit.
Over the past week, I have been silent to those around me. People who I have considered close to me have begun to let their true colors come out. All of a sudden, I am seeing how racist some of these men are. I can somehow understand how men, who have been incarcerated for many years (like myself) would become set in their ways. That is not the case however. Instead, I am seeing men in their 20’s, who have been in prison for only a few years, (some even less) suddenly having an issue with being housed with races other than their own. It’s incredibly disheartening to me and at the same time, thought provoking. Were these racist thoughts/beliefs simply latent inside them? Is prison so intensely conforming that it can change people’s logical thinking in such a short period of time? Unfortunately, I don’t have the answer to this question but it is curious just the same.
It’s no secret that the skinheads have accepted me in their own way and of course, they make it clear that I can absolutely live in a bunk or cell with any one of them. Anyone else of color however – is unacceptable. It begs the question of: why me? Is it possible to be selectively racist? I suppose we can all be somewhat racist, given a person’s character, but what is it that convinces people to drop their bias and accept certain individuals?
I have listened to guys go on and on about how they would live with a Black, but not a Mexican American or a Native American. Some claim they will not live with a Black but only a Mexican American. Inside, I wonder how these men came to these conclusions. Are we not all human beings in this world? Haven’t we gotten past this stage of history? I suppose not. I guess we instead simply choose to remain silent in our beliefs because after all, it is 2016.
So here I am. I am in a melting pot of cultural bloodlines and I find myself guilty of the exact same thinking.
For example, if a form were to come around with various races on it with check boxes next to each and I was forced to choose (1) to bunk, or cell up with, then I myself would choose Caucasian. In my case, I don’t know if that decision is racially motivated or not. My choice would be tied back to my association within this environment. It just so happens that I have more close acquaintances/associates/friends who are Caucasian. Does this mean that I am racist against Blacks, Mexican Americans, Native Americans and Asians? In my heart and soul – it doesn’t. But maybe I’m wrong. Perhaps this is exactly how others will see it.
Time will tell how this all plays out. One thing is for certain though, I am glad that my journey in this chapter of my life is almost over.