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Criminal is the new nigger

July 5, 2018

by Calvin Edwards

Calvin Edwards (James Lee)

There is a branding within our communities that is honored, praised and promoted – a branding that has been adopted out of ignorance and is more dehumanizing than the word nigger. Yet, this branding has been promoted and ingrained into the psyche of many within our communities to the point that it has been accepted and even worn as a badge of honor, not unlike the derogatory “nigger” terminology.

The branding I’m referring to is the mark of a beast, a killer, a robber, a drug dealer or, simply, a criminal. This is to say that many of us have deemed it fashionable to not only carry ourselves as but promote ourselves as criminals.

But what is a criminal? A criminal is simply defined as one who commits or has been convicted of a crime. However, within this simple definition lies a more profound identification.

According to the U.S. Constitution, “the criminal” is the only classification of human being that is still deemed legally eligible and permitted to be exploited as a slave. This fact is clearly stipulated in the 13th Amendment, which reads: “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States or any place subject to their jurisdiction.”

So as it stands, and has stood since Jan. 31, 1865, it is illegal to enslave “niggers” within the United States, but perfectly legal to enslave “criminals,” no matter their skin color or social status. Since this revision of slavery, privately owned slave plantations decreased, while state, federal and corporate owned prisons with “industrial complexes” (slave plantations) increased.

It is now to the point that Georgetown law professor Paul Butler, author of “The Chokehold,” could write, recalling a 2011 statement by Michelle Alexander: “There are more African Americans in the justice system than there were slaves in 1850.” That’s not counting all the other ethnic groups that provide cheap labor for the U.S. “justice” system of today.

According to the U.S. Constitution, “the criminal” is the only classification of human being that is still deemed legally eligible and permitted to be exploited as a slave.

Therefore, it should be well understood that slavery was never abolished but expanded and disguised under new terminology. What were once referred to as slave plantations are now prisons, while slaves who were once Africans or African Americans and referred to as “niggers” are now anyone who has been duly convicted of a crime and is now referred to as a “criminal.”

So why are so many of us glorifying criminal acts? Or taking pride in being labeled as criminals? Is being a criminal – killer, robber, drug dealer – truly something for us to be proud of? Is this what we really want to do with our lives?

Are we inspiring our youth to become criminals – and slaves – by promoting criminality? How is it that so many of us actually praise individuals for committing crimes such as murder, when if someone committed that same crime against any of our loved ones we would hold that person in contempt?

“There are more African Americans in the justice system than there were slaves in 1850.” That’s not counting all the other ethnic groups that provide cheap labor for the U.S. “justice” system of today.

Still and yet, we sing along with music lyrics that celebrate the killing of our people. We repeat “homicidal hooks” that hang in the minds of our youth until they become “bars” that lock away their brightness and beat down those of them who aspire to become more than criminals and slaves.

It’s puzzling how back in the day when Africans were first set free in the U.S. and faced a climate of extreme poverty, racism and discrimination, many of them committed crimes such as stealing to survive. However, engaging in such criminal activity was not a “lifestyle” to be promoted, but a means to survive that one kept hidden for the sake of retaining their freedom.

But, in this day and time you can see a total opposite. We now have accomplished rap artists denouncing their titles as rappers and confessing to be trapstars, gangsters and killers – criminals. Street level drug dealers are starring in documentaries for Nat Geo and various digital publications, showing the world their drugs and money stashes, along with the blueprints on how, when and where they commit crimes on a daily basis.

Are we trying to move backwards? Are we trying to get locked up? After all the fighting, struggling and sacrifices “African Americans” made to obtain their freedom, it’s mystifying how in certain social circles getting locked up or having lost your freedom is considered a sign of strength that is to be honored and even admired! It has almost become a rite of passage within different sub-communities.

We now have accomplished rap artists denouncing their titles as rappers and confessing to be trapstars, gangsters and killers – criminals.

Moreover, the rewards and praise one receives for his or her criminal activities in certain parts of our society have young men and women posting evidence of themselves or their friends committing such crimes as assaults and even murder on social media sites. Also, such approval from widespread audiences within our citizenries or sub-cultures has urged rap artists to rap about such unsolved crimes in attempts to attain acclaim from those audiences and validate their authenticity.

In many cases, these same posts and “reality rap” lyrics have been the exact same evidence used to convict these young men and women who were searching for the acclamation of their “hoods” and our “streets.” This is a prime indicator of the effects that the glorification we as a society put on criminality have on our youth. As it was said by Kahlil Gibran, “(A)s a single leaf turns not yellow but with the silent knowledge of the whole tree, so the wrong-doer cannot do wrong without the hidden will of you all.”

For, criminality is not only glorified in small pockets of our society, but on a national and international scale. Crime is big business, whether it be for the government employees who work in the many fields of our criminal “justice” system – police officers, lawyers, judges, correctional officers, wardens etc. – the companies that make millions off the slave labor that criminals-prisoners provide by working in the prisons, or the news media, writers, producers, actors and many other workers in Hollywood who get paid off the inspiration, portrayal and occurrences of true crime stories.

We all stand in line for a slice of the devil’s pie – including those of us who are the end-users and customers of criminal by-products. It’s our support and demand for crime that helps it to be such a big business and an attraction to our youth.

Criminality is not only glorified in small pockets of our society, but on a national and international scale. Crime is big business.

But, where is the attraction in a grown man or woman having to depend on their parent(s), loved ones or significant other to purchase a 24-cent pack of Ramen noodle soup? Where is the glory in having to remain locked in a cage for 21 hours a day unless you go out to work in a building or factory for 10-12 hours to make 15 cents to 71 cents per day, if that?

While the government officials, privately owned prison corporations, big businesses such as IBM and other benefactors – the new slave masters – rake in billions a year off the cheap slave labor provided by a fat portion of those of us convicted as criminals?

We all stand in line for a slice of the devil’s pie – including those of us who are the end-users and customers of criminal by-products. It’s our support and demand for crime that helps it to be such a big business and an attraction to our youth.

For that reason alone, it should be well understood and put forth that achieving the rank of a certified gangster or criminal comes at great expense. Like the African slaves who were freed in the Americas in 1865 still faced segregation and discriminatory injustices, along with the high probability of losing their freedom due to the targets placed on their backs – which was the color of their skin – those with felony marks on their records today are targeted and face many of the same hurdles upon their release.

According to an article published in The Crisis, a journal published by the NAACP, “Those labeled as criminals are faced with 48,000 different legal restrictions. Those with certain felonies on their records are barred from over 800 occupations nationwide.” In addition, those with certain types of convictions are banned from renting housing in certain communities.

Like the freed African slaves of America who were still not deemed fully human, but two-thirds of a man, or “niggers,” men and women with felony convictions are no longer viewed as citizens, but felons, offenders, convicts or criminals.

They are no longer afforded the same constitutional rights as U.S. citizens. For example, in my state of Missouri, they may no longer have the right to bear arms, and the right to vote was just granted back to felons – criminals – within the last 12 years. That’s over five decades after those who were considered niggers were deemed intelligent enough to vote!

Furthermore, in at least one state, felons – criminals – are prohibited from selling state lottery tickets. Or in other words, they’re not even deemed fit enough to work as a cashier at a gas station! Yet, they’re deemed fit enough to work in state and federal prisons as factory supervisors, graphic designers, computer programmers and many other high level positions for over 19 times less than the present minimum wage rate!

Like the freed African slaves of America who were still not deemed fully human, but two-thirds of a man, or “niggers,” men and women with felony convictions are no longer viewed as citizens, but felons, offenders, convicts or criminals.

With all this oppression and opposition faced by those convicted of a felony crime, and the value criminals hold within the 21st century slave trade system, there’s no wonder why almost 70 percent of the nearly 700,000 men and women who are released from prison each year are sent back to prison within five years of their release.

Likewise, with all the promotion and glorification of criminal lifestyles, on top of the poverty and poor schooling that plague many portions of our public, there’s no question why so many of our youth are still turning to crime and packing jailhouses beyond capacity, in wait to become the next generation of further disenfranchised people who help perpetuate the modern day slave system – known deceptively as the justice system.

With all this in mind, I believe it’s time for us to start breaking these chains of disenfranchisement by starting, if not continuing to work diligently towards changing the laws that deem any human being less than human and restrict them from enjoying the same liberties and rights afforded to any other member of society. Secondly, but equally important, it’s time for those of us who have deemed ourselves “less than” by embracing the identity of a criminal to learn who we really are, instead of being happy or content with being what centuries of slavery and mis-education has trained us to be.

For, “the criminal” is ultimately in all actuality “a member of a socially disadvantaged class of people,” which is one of the exact same definitions as for the word “nigger.” So, unless you consider it cool to be identified with such a degraded class as nigger, let us no longer accept, promote or take pride in being identified as anything that spells out “criminal.” For, “Criminal” is, unequivocally the New Nigger!

Calvin Edwards, aka James Lee, is the author of “Whispers in the Mind of a Ghetto Child: Poetic Writings by Calvin Edwards,” now available on Amazon. Send our brother some love and light: James Lee, 364770, Jefferson City Correctional Center, 3A-201, 8200 No More Victims Rd, Jefferson City MO 65101.

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