Last Wednesday on January 6 we started the day celebrating the victories of Senators-elect Warnock and Ossoff in Georgia for all they symbolized and the change they could bring and, also, A4J’s modest role in those victories having supported the brilliant and tireless work of Stacey Abrams. Our investment in mobilizing largely Black and brown communities across Georgia is the same kind of investment A4J made in the work of Desmond Meade to restore voting rights for Floridians who were formerly incarcerated.
All the while – and frankly over the past four years – our current president was inciting a violent insurrection against our nation, fueled by white nationalism and white supremacy. We all saw what happened at the Capitol building. We’re still processing.
What we know at A4J is that until we reckon with two things: the legacy of white violence and the legacy of Black disenfranchisement in its many forms (slavery, Jim Crow, lynching, white terrorism, Red Shirts, KKK, poll taxes, Grandfather clauses, militias, and yes, mass incarceration) we cannot achieve true democracy. We know from Danielle Sered that to create a world without mass incarceration we must reckon with violence.
Last week’s events at the Capitol building highlight that we must pay special attention to white violence and its foundational role in our democracy. It has determined who is deemed a human being or property, who can be a citizen or undocumented, and who is considered redeemable or given a life sentence. The historical answers to these questions are the current predictors of incarceration rates in our country. The past is ever present.
This simply cannot stand.
While we experienced the spiritual whiplash of dueling images of progress and regress in the span of hours brought by the events of January 6, we remain undaunted in our commitment to reinstate the humanity and citizenry of this entire nation. We are renewed in our clarity that mass incarceration is a covert form of white violence. It does not always present as brutal men and women storming the halls of our nation’s Capitol, but achieves the same ends en masse.
We remain steadfast in our work, making no separation between ending mass incarceration, achieving racial justice, and fulfilling the promise of our democracy. And we haven’t a moment to spare.