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Race War and Voting Rights

kate.mulligan's picture

"As many as one-third of all black men spend time in the criminal justice system. Upon reentering society, many discover that, among other things, imprisonment has robbed them of their voting rights. Only four states...allow inmates to vote. In fourteen states, a felony conviction equals lifetime disenfranchisement" (City Kids, City Schools, 302).

This quote stood out to me because it seems to be the natural progression of the school-to-prison pipeline. From a young age, the voices of black boys stop being heard. We stop listening to them, stop caring what they have to say. We start punishing them more for acting out. Eventually, we'll send a third of them to prison, and when (if) they get out, they won't be able to vote to change anything. It's an extreme measure to make sure that those that are currently in charge will stay in charge, that those who don't have a voice continue to not have a voice. It's a huge number of people who have lost a crucial means of change, and therefore aren't able to fight against this.

It's also a way to tell people that their ideas and opinions still don't matter to us, have never mattered to us. That's why they went to prison, and it's why once they're done with prison they still never fully regain the rights of a citizen.


jccohen's picture


Your response to this grim narrative paints a correspondingly stark picture of what "we" do - and here I think you're using "we" to mean people who are part of dominant/mainstream culture and have some attitudinal and decision-making clout in our society - in relation to what "they" do (or cannot do).  Do you see this as a situation in which "we" and/or "they" can exercise some agency, take up some opportunity to make a difference?   What might this look like?