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2pac, prisons and schools

Sharaai's picture

2Pac - Trapped

"There should be a class on drugs. There should be a class on sex education, a real sex education class. Not just pictures and diaphrams and unlogical terms and things like that. There should be a drug class, there should be sex education, there should be a class on scams, there should be a class on religious cult, there should be a class on police brutality, there should be a class on aparthy, there should be on racism in america, there should be a class on why people are hungry, but there not, there’s class on gym, you know, physical education, let’s learn volleyball. because one day…you know…there’s classes like algebra where I’ve yet to go to a store and gone xy+2 and give me my change back thank you. I think you can let me out, I’ve lived alone by myself. And the things that helped me were the things I learned from my mother, from the streets." --Tupac (Age 17).

The connections between schools and prisons has been on my mind, non-stop, for the last 7 weeks of this semester. Everywhere I go I see connections between them and stories and people I run into on the daily. For me, I am realized how normalized the connection has become for me. When I look back and think at the students in my high school, I was/am never surprised when students have ended up dropping out or incarcerated. While scrolling through the images on Serendip, it was incredibly sad and depressing to see all of these negative images of schools and then the obvious connection with prisons. Many of the images that struck me the most were ones that I confused for the opposite location. For example, Erin’s images of schools and prisons. I can clearly remember confusing the rows of students for rows of prisoners. 

For the media outlet, I am going to choose icouldntthinkofanoriginalname’s 2Pac posts, specifically, the song “Trapped”. I chose this because I feel like music and the spoken word are very powerful methods of communication that many can make connections with. Specifically with this song, 2Pac is talking about issues that can really resonate with his listeners and those who feel connected to him simply for his background. He is a man of color who has come from an inner-city background realizing this vicious cycle he grew up in. And I chose this song because I feel like his choice is one that many young men will listen to, one that can resonate with other trapped in the same cycle.

But when I think about students being trapped and the school to prison pipeline, schools perpetuate the cycle. I am learning that schools don’t do a very good job of avoiding this cycle. When reading Girl Time, one fact that struck me was that “only 26 states required alternative education assignments for students who are suspended or expelled.” This simple statement makes me realize that students are most definitely trapped. And even though there are some states with the requirements, what are they? I have a feeling that most schools don’t have “suspension alternative education” as a priority when these schools with the trapped students are face with so many difficult problems.

And when school suspensions are used, I am not positive on what school administration expects students to do with their time. I feel like this suspension is not helping them in any way but it is just holding them down. Worse of all, students who are “trapped” in the world 2Pac talks about are not in the most positive environment outside of school. He says “Can barely walk tha city street / Without a cop harassing me, searching me / Then asking my identity.” I feel that school suspensions are just perpetuating this cycle by barring kids from school. With laws like stop and frisk, these students will look more suspicious when they are walking around their neighborhood during school hours, which would add to the already 1,800 stop and frisks NYPD conducts every day. (Tuttle, 2012)

While visiting my high school over fall breaks, I couldn’t help but feel out of place and uncomfortable as I walked through the hallways. I kept thinking about how these were walls that so many people been in, that so many students have decided to leave as soon as they turned 16 and walls that some of us got through successfully. I began reflecting on my position when I occupied those walls and what my time there could have turned in to and what it did turn in to. As I said in the beginning of this paper, I can clearly remember students who never showed up to school due to a conscious decision or a school suspension. I can clearly pick out students who fell into the vicious cycle that 2Pac found himself trapped in. And then I think about how I made it through there without being trapped and what comes to my mind is the education I got in and out of the classroom. I clearly remember students being repeatedly suspended, even in situations where they had no say in their participation. The rule that struck me was when students would get in fights, no matter who started it or whether both people were actually fighting, the students would automatically get suspended for 10 days. This rule is an example of zero-tolerance negatively affecting many students.

I feel that those who got away were lucky enough to get themselves educated about how we would get trapped. For me, I was lucky enough to a support system that made me open up my eyes to the inevitable of being at Fitchburg High School. They educated me in ways that allowed to me step off the track that would bind me to the cycle. In addition to this off-the-book education, I faced people who didn’t believe that some FHS students just weren’t meant to step off of it. It was as those were the people who didn’t think students could be any better off than they already were. But that is where schools have the power to actually educate their students on subjects that will help them step out, instead of teaching them how to play volleyball like 2Pac says in the interview couldntthinkofanoriginalname quoted.

Another line that resonates with me is “Niggas commin' out worse off than when they went in.” and complete honesty and truth behind that line. Looking at many of the issues we have spoken about in this class and I personally throw myself into, I feel that Education is always a key factor, whether it is the presence or absence of it. With incarcerated individuals being released with no help or aid from the system that placed them there, why are they expected to succeed on the “outside”? In Sweeney’s book, she talks about the decisions to allow books in prisons and some of the process involved with it. We have talked about the idea of Pell Grants being given to prisoners while incarcerated and the argument involved. But with a society realizing that released prisoners have an incredibly hard time getting back on their feet after serving time, why has it been a consistent problem? Keeping in mind 2Pac’s lyrics and that this song was released in 1992, it highlights the fact that this issue has been talked about for quite some time but that not much has been done to make a change.