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Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, United States
Daily life in USA, often mundane,usually interesting. I am looking at the world through the lens of Middle East, Palestinian occupation and media deceptions.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

United States: Racism is 2012

I came across this article today in AlterNet, a news aggregate about Tanya McDowell, a homeless single mother, who was prosecuted for grand larceny, in connection with sending her 5 year old son to kindergarten at a school that was in a better district than she was entitled to.

Ms.McDowell was floating between a homeless shelter, a friend's home and her vehicle when she registered her son using her friend's home address.  This school district in Norwalk Connecticut, had twenty five similar cases but decided to press charges for the first time against Ms. McDowell, apparently thinking that an impoverished, homeless single-mother, who happened to be Black would be easily prosecuted.

Clearly, Ms.McDowell was under an unlucky star.  Shortly before her court case was to be held she was arrested  and charged with selling drugs, public support for her dwindled and she accepted a plea bargain of a 12 year sentence, with 5 years on parole.  The penalties for the charges against her were so overwhelming that she took the plea deal, hoping to only have to spend the minimum of five years away from her son.  Her son is staying with his grandfather.

Once a person is charged with a crime her whole world is changed.  Nobody seems to recall the presumption of innocence, the prosecution refused to sever the drug charges from the grand larceny charges.  Women are the fastest growing prison population.  Those who have never been arrested are shocked and dismayed by how they are treated.  First, everything you say is considered a lie.  The police put on this facade that they know everything there is to know and what they know is that you are guilty and you deserve many long years in prison.

The process is unlike anything you've ever seen on teevee. The police will use excessive force, lie to you, refuse to apply Miranda Rights.  Then you are subject to the frisk.  You will stand naked, you will bend over, if you are a woman with heavy breasts you will be required to lift them for inspection.  You have to shake your hair out, put your tongue out,  stand on one foot so they can see between your toes.  There may be rude commentary at every step of this outrage.  They take your clothes, if they let you keep your shoes they want the laces.  Then they turn you loose into a strange world of locks and cages; strangers that bark at you with fear aggression, the mentally ill, old, young and powerless, just like you.

When people, the talking heads on cable news channels and other pundits declare that racism is dead in America and point to the election of Barak Obama as their proof, don't you believe that for a nanosecond.  Racism is alive and well in America, just ask Tanya McDowell, in her Connecticut prison cell.

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