Family Farm Defenders (Kansas Chapter)

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Mass Incarceration and Food Sovereignty

  Mass Incarceration and Food Sovereignty
(Draft--but would like to start a dialog on this.)
One in three Black American men is incarcerated. 
The impact on Black Food Sovereignty is decimating. 
The New Jim Crow as Michelle Alexander brilliant and compelling writes in The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, like the Old Jim Crow, keeps us impoverished, unemployed, hungry. and not able to vote in a "democracy" apparently based on voting.
"In a 2003 study, sociologists Christopher Uggen at the University Minnesota and Jeff Manza at Northwestern University concluded that during the preceding three decades, seven senate races and one presidential contest – the 2000 election pitting George W. Bush against Al Gore – would likely have gone the other way if not for felony disenfranchisement."  So many Black people have been disenfranchised due to the criminalization of Black people that if those felons could have voted they would have changed elections.  This disruption of "democracy" is a continuation of the Jim Crow practices of the past and the outright disenfranchisement and exploitation of slavery and colonization--all obtained through the power of force--the police and criminal justice system which is in fact, injust. . Rand Paul: One in Three Black Men Served Time -- Time to Re-Enfranchise Ex-Felons | The
 This article above from Bill Moyers, no radical, points-out that the criminalization of Black folks was achieved through the war on drugs which was largely a war on Black folks and the poor.  Then our Congress and State legislatures disenfranchised ex felons even thought they had served their time.  They also have taken away many of their other rights in what most people think of that I have shared this with as "double jeopardy," penalizing people twice for a crime, and basically unfair but largely the law of our land. 
This mass disenfranchisement has dis empowered Black and po'folks successfully shaping our democracy into an oligarchy.  Bill Moyers, no radical,  also recently writes  about how we have a greater concentration of wealth now in the US than ever before, a greater divide between the rich and poor and greater numbers of poor people--increasing the demand for food stamps--which the US House of Representatives just cut by $40 Billion Dollars--in the greatest recession since the the Great Depression.
It is difficult to believe that this all could be unintentional;  I am looking for the research on this.  But clearly the criminalization of Black people and their subsequent disenfranchisement has created a  state with second class citizens based on class and race that calls into question the premise of democracy in the US and points even more toward an oligarchy ruling our country (and beyond) in their supposed interest.
Without the power to vote we lack the power to create and influence policy on our own and the people's  behalf, further weakening us not only in areas of food sovereignty but in all areas. Based upon this as well, we have clearly "deligitimized" any notion that we live in a democracy.  We live in a democracy by the powerful and rich and predominantly white--which is generally known as an oligarchy, ruling class or more recently the 1%. 
This 1% apparently keeps the rest of us, the 99%, divided by nationality and constructed artificial national borders, class, race, gender and other manipulations that appear crafted to "dived and conquer" that old adage.
With respect particularly to Black food sovereignty,   unemployment and poverty determine hunger--incarceration and subsequent disenfranchisement, like the old Jim Crow creates unemployment--which since the 1960's has remained 2x the rate for white Americans.

Only a small few can overcome their conviction to get a job afterwords. That is the way the new JC works.

Unemployment =hunger.

As well, federal and state laws prohibit former convicted persons who have served their sentences even, and their families from ever receiving food stamps--more hunger.  Our brilliant and fierce colleague Dara Cooper, a Brooklyn based activist and
director of a community health initiative addressing equity, healthy food access and healthy living options in Central Brooklyn writes about this in her well received article at; and and

Poverty impacts nutrition in other ways as well; the poor of course are not only hungry but malnourished and subject to more disease. 
This mass criminalization, incarceration and consequent diminishing of Black political power has also directly impacted Black land ownership, farming and gardening.  I need to research this connection here. 
Finally the poor and Black are subject to worse health care. Thus mass incarceration brings no or poorer health care along with it.  Mass incarceration consequently constitutes no less than a war against Black and other people that it targets. It constitutes genocide and reduces our power to organize and advocate for ourselves.
Furthermore, the psychological impact of incarceration is incendiary; it destroys and dis-empowers people and communities.  I t creates mental illness and turns people against each other.  Few can recover and our communities thusly attacked, are reeling and stunned, rendered powerless. In conjunction with the disenfranchisement one can only conclude that this powerful country with its ginormous war machine is being run by and for a few, the 1%, the oligarchy, based on race, class and for a privileged few.
It is not only a national strategy but a global one targeting poor people and people of of Black African and other descents.
This very much reminds one of South Africa--former and present. ( My recent visit there showed how Black leadership --as here too--had changed little there. )
The impact on our children's health is deadly; I would suggest it is genocide.

So mass incarceration is decimating Black civic engagement and political power and  Black rights as well as those of poor people and Latino people, Indigenous people, and certain groups of Asian people.  It also directly impacts Black food Sovereignty, both through our inability to shape and influence food and farm policy (nor can most whites--that policy is shaped by the ginormous corporations --about 12--who actually appear to govern our food and farm policy) and our basic human right to sufficient amounts of healthy, nutritious, culturally appropriate  food as well as our right to farm, and our right to labor with dignity.

Finally, we must note that as Black people we are part of the human diaspora.  Today the social construct of race is being used to "kill-off" some people (better yet engineer it so they kill off each other), but race is a social construct.
If the powerful, the oligarchy, the 1% is successful (or perhaps they have already succeeded) in dis-empowering us, as resources continue to shrink and their "hunger" for power and resources and slave labor continues and grows, they will go after others as well, including those currently in the social constructed group of "whites" and finally their own selves. 
Unless we are able to transform our power realtionships and institutional structures, one can only conclude that the future of this country and humanity is bleak. 
Gustave Spaeth, the former Dean of the Yale School for the Environment and again no radical, has concluded after a career of trying to transform policy through traditional channels, that we the people need a grassroots, bottom-up, inclusive and egalitarian movement for sustainability and justice. See his books on this topic.  He predicts that by the end of this century we will be living in essentially a trash can because we will have trashed our environment. reports that we will have trashed social justice as well and that the majority of US citizens will be Indigenous, Black, Latino and Asian and so too will the poorest of US citizens be. 
This will mirror already existing global demographics.

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