how many of them are there on the basis of unreliable evidence, too? and without the national media attention and global campaigns that figures like mumia and troy davis have had behind them, what is their experience?
is it any different than physical torture?
Racial Imprisonment, Mumia Abu-Jamal (who is mumia?)
As many of you know, the U.S., with barely 5% of the world’s population, imprisons 25% of the world’s prisoners. As Michelle Alexander (whom many of you will hear from in this conference’s evening program) has noted, the numbers of imprisoned Blacks here rivals and exceeds South Africa’s hated apartheid system during its height.
We shouldn’t take this analogy lightly, for the South African apartheid was the epitome of the racist police state, second only to Nazi Germany in its repellent nature. Moreover, much of its energy was consumed in a de facto war (or, at the very least, in military-espionage jargon, a low-intensity conflict) with the Black majority that criminalized almost every feature of African independent life, restricting places to live, work, study and even love.
This speaks to how blind we are in this country to the scope of the problem (much less its resolution), and how it has been normalized in social and political consciousness, in part because the corporate media neglects or slants such a story; for if they can fail in reportage leading to a hot war (here I mean Iraq) they certainly can fail in reporting the parameters of a low-intensity conflict that crushes Black lives. Perhaps the words of a non- American (I hesitate to call him a foreigner), but long an observer of this country, can give us some insight. At 71 years, South Africa’s great musical gift, Hugh Masekela gave an interview in which he made note of the post-apartheid South Africa: “The majority of the population only got the right to vote and a lack of harassment from the police. But any further changes would be bad for business. Same like here in the United States – the fruits of the Civil Rights Movement are very minimal.”
I quote Masekela here not merely because of his celebrity (nor because I love his music), but because he, like millions of Africans, lived under the madness of apartheid, (even though he escaped it by later moving abroad) and therefore knows it intimately. He therefore is able to recognize its elements in American life. But why is apartheid seen as so repellent and the U.S. prison industrial complex (PIC) seen as benign?