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reflecting on the introductions of meiner and prison

rb.richx's picture

i found meiner’s introduction a repetition of things i already know (of), but it was sometimes excellent to have some of that knowledge reframed and connected. for example, i know the issues of the pic and of the school-to-prison pipeline; in fact, i’d say you cannot have a full understanding or definition of the pic without understanding the school-to-prison pipeline. but i have never thought to consider the person in the role of educator in these scenarios — i have only focused on the “victims” of the system (i.e., the students) and the system itself.

so, i examined this idea that wasn’t fully fleshed out — where was change supposed to come from? where had i previously thought it started? logically, the people who are aware of the pic and wish to alter it would not come all at once into the education system. we as activists must educate the educators who are, in a way, “victims” of the system as well.

my mother is an educator. she is white, heterosexual, cisgender, and abled, and she has an education from a poor, conservative area. she upholds the school-to-prison pipeline inherently as a teacher, and also in her lack of education on the pic. this is something i’ve known, and i’ve slowly tried to offer some of the liberal education and leftist ideologies that i personally find important. i know she and i will not agree on all of it, but i’ve found that she is slowly learning and altering some of the ways she holds a classroom.

and somehow, i didn’t put that together as the start of change in the pic. but that is how it starts. it is important in my, and i believe in meiner’s, opinion that educators recognize that there is an institutionalization inherent in their work and the effects that institution has on their students. once that knowledge begins to set in and make itself progressively more apparent, i believe that public “servants” such that educators are/opt into will find themselves unable to idle.



and then, there is a question of our role in the education of the women in rcf.

at first, i resisted the idea of myself as a traditional educator. i labeled myself as co-facilitator during our time on thursday, since i was contributing but letting the conversation happen as amorphously as it did. further, we are not teaching any sort of skill. we are bringing a reading and asking people’s opinions. but then i laughed at myself — that’s the system i’ve been a part of for the last four years as someone who doesn’t frequently have lecture-only courses. to distance myself from the concept of educator would then be to erase the professorship of many teachers i’ve studied under here.

naming myself as an educator, even one operating outside the academic institution, is the first move in understanding my position in the pic. what ideas am i bringing or reinforcing by this role? how can i, at the very least, not do as meiner/sudbury states is an issue of academia being present in prisons — “replicating the discourse of individual responsibility and the language of correction that prisoners learn (and sometimes internalize) as they are processed by the system” (right to be hostile, introduction, epistemologies and methodologies, p. 12ish)?

i don’t think there is an easy answer, otherwise we wouldn’t have a whole damn course on this topic.

nonetheless, i think breaking down and naming some of the ways we will be reinforcing the preexisting hierarchy is an important next process in then picking apart that hierarchy. i hope to continue this process, at least in my head. but the first thing that comes to mind is this:

already, and inherently through this course, i am complicit in making these women objects of my own education. “these individuals are already objects of research and voyeurism, and not in control of how they are perceived or documented, even if these practices of documentation and research are executed with the best of intentions” (14). perhaps we are not ‘researching’ these women, but our presence as a “praxis” means that we cannot distance ourselves from this completely.



next, i’m thinking about citizen, and the relationship of these women, us, the pic, and citizenship. meiner took the term civil death from ruth gilmore, whose piece i haven’t read, so i was grateful that there was a phrase that so encompassed the issue of incarceration, citizenship, and citizenship after incarceration (when that is even present). “in some states those with felony convictions are barred from voting for life and are prohibited from accessing welfare and housing benefits. they are denied access to careers and employments formally, through prohibitions on licensure, and informally, when employers simply discriminate on the basis of disclosed histories of conviction and incarceration.”(4) i was aware of these (appalling) facts before meiner’s introduction, but not with the framework of citizenship and its constant calling for the readers to face the blunt reality of anti blackness and other racisms while also feeling some of the complexities of that racism through art. i really liked meiner’s calling us to review anger and hostility, such as that is described to us through the reaction of serena williams. williams has not to my knowledge been incarcerated, but she has still faced this question of her citizenship, and had anger both placed on her and also criticized when expressed. her blackness and the blackness of the majority of the women i saw at rcf, and indeed of the majority of women imprisoned, is hard to ignore. how quickly would williams be put in prison over even the smallest of wrongdoings? or, to compare her to another celebrity name, how quickly would she be thrown to the ground like wiz khalifa having the audacity to ride his own hoverboard if there was a chance to do so? how quickly would the pic have her incarcerated given the chance, to strip her of her rights, to silence her and her anger as a black woman, and a black woman that other black women and girls look up to at that?

it is not important enough to recognize the anti blackness and the question of citizenship, it is important to notice how close black individuals are to having that citizenship effectively stripped from them and incarcerated just like the women at rcf.