What we're dealing with is institutional, and unless systems are put into place that will ensure accountability, we can expect racially biased police practices to continue.
Activists take the risks, while advocates are professional tinkerers with the system. What's necessary is for those who are advocates to support those who are activists and to envision themselves as activists.
When we pull back the curtain and take a look at what our 'colorblind' society creates without affirmative action, we see a familiar social, political, and economic structure - the structure of racial caste. The entrance into this new caste system can be found at the prison gate.
The sprinkling of people of color through elite institutions in the United States, due to affirmative action policies and the limited progress of middle-class and upper-middle-class African Americans, creates the illusion of great progress.
The uncomfortable reality we must face is that California, like the nation as a whole, has treated generations of African Americans and Latinos as largely disposable.
Globalization and deindustrialization affected workers of all colors but hit African Americans particularly hard.
The very rights that we supposedly won for African Americans in the civil rights movement no longer exist for those labeled felons. That's why I say we have not ended racial caste in America; we've merely redesigned it.
When people have been hurt over and over, and rather than compassion or understanding you're given lectures about how it's really all your fault and that no one needs to make amends, you can lose your mind.
If you take into account prisoners, a large majority of African American men in some urban areas, like Chicago, have been labeled felons for life. These men are part of a growing undercaste - not class, caste - a group of people who are permanently relegated, by law, to an inferior second-class status.
The fact that our legal system has become so tolerant of police lying indicates how corrupted our criminal justice system has become by declarations of war, 'get tough' mantras, and a seemingly insatiable appetite for locking up and locking out the poorest and darkest among us.
Prisoners do matter when analyzing the severity of racial inequality in the U.S. Yet because they are out of sight and out of mind, it is easy to imagine that we are making far more racial progress than we actually are.
Martin Luther King Jr. could have argued that separate water fountains were too expensive, a waste of money. He would have been right about that. But cost was beside the point.
Public housing officials are free to discriminate against you on the basis of criminal records, including arrest records. And so, you know, what you find is that even for these extremely minor offenses, people find themselves trapped in a permanent second-class status and struggling to survive.
Thousands of people go to jail, go to prison, every year without even meeting with an attorney.
Prosecutors frequently overcharge, load up charges on individual defendants, knowing that three strikes laws and harsh mandatory minimum sentences will force people to plea bargain and essentially convict themselves because they're terrified of doing a life sentence for a relatively minor crime.
People return home from prison and face legal discrimination in virtually all areas of social and economic and political life. They are legally discriminated against employment, barred from public housing, and denied other public benefits.
I believe it is possible to bring an end to mass incarceration and birth a new moral consensus about how we ought to be responding to poor folks of color and a consensus in support of basic human rights for all. But it is going to take some work.
In my view, the most important lesson we can learn from Dr. King is not what he said at the March on Washington but what he said and did after the march. In the years following the march, he did not play politics to see what crumbs a fundamentally corrupt system might toss to the beggars for justice.
I am still committed to building a movement to end mass incarceration, but I will not do it with blinders on. If all we do is end mass incarceration, this movement will not have gone nearly far enough.
I am a criminal. Coming to terms with this aspect of my identity has helped me to see more clearly - with blinders off - the ways in which I have been encouraged not to feel any connection to 'them,' those labeled criminals. I see now that 'they' are me, and I am them.