ITHACA, N.Y. — Nearly 200 people turned out in Ithaca Monday night for a community read of Michelle Alexander’s book, “The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness.”
The first lecture, entitled ‘From Chains to Prison Bars,’ was lead by Sean Eversley-Bradwell of Ithaca College, and took on racial inequities of mass incarceration in for-profit prisons.
He told the audience that at a dinner recently, he was with five other black men — all prestigious doctors, lawyers and people with advanced degrees. They asked each other, “How many of us have you been pulled over at gunpoint by police?” They all recounted multiple experiences.
“That’s a reality of black men,” Eversley-Bradwell said. “What’s that say about the ways that we think about criminality? More importantly, what’s that say about humanity?”
Citing a line from the book, he said, “Mass incarceration is the largest backlash against the civil rights movement.”
According to the Prison Policy Initiative website, the following is a reflection of the incarceration rate of people in the country, as of 2010:
The inequities in the prison industrial complex — which Eversley-Bradwell said stems from people’s fight for more equity — seeps into every aspect of the social conditions of people of color.
“If you have felony conviction you can’t get access to federal housing. You no longer have access to any student loans, federal student loans. You can’t get access to social services programs…so housing, voting — you can’t vote, in New York State in particular, for seven years, nine years…so when they’re talking about the idea of the new Jim Crow, I think there’s an interesting math on why you use that language. How you find ways to disenfranchise folks literally an then rob them of any social services to sustain themselves…,” Eversley-Bradwell said.
That disenfranchisement is especially relevant considering the climate in the country this presidential election season, he said.
“When Donald Trump says law and order, we should know exactly what he’s talking about…and he’s telling you exactly what he’s going to do,” Eversley-Bradwell said.
But he doesn’t let Hillary Clinton off the hook, and he reminded the audience that policies enacted during Bill Clinton’s presidency allowed for some of the largest increases in incarcerated people in history.
He played a clip from the trailer for the documentary movie ’13th,’ which is embedded below.
The clip plays audio from Donald Trump’s speeches overlapped on video footage to show similarities between violence that happened during the Civil Rights era and violence at Donald Trump rallies.
Afterward, audience members were given the chance to react to what they saw:
“My first feeling was I was watching a KKK rally.”
“I also thought it looked like Adolf Hitler.”
“As a black African American, especially a black male in Ithaca New York, I’m mad as hell. I’ve had it. I’m so pissed…I’m just totally sick of the whole treatment I get…I think that’s what Donald Trump is doing…He’s really pushing for a race war.”
“This just made me so sad. I just feel like crying…what future do my grandkids have?”’
The next community meetup, ‘Roundup, locked up: what’s the point in knowing your rights?,’ is happening at 6 p.m. Nov. 14. It will be hosted by Edwin Santiago a mentor in the Ultimate Re-Entry Opportunity Program, and Ithaca Mayor Svante Myrick. The meetup is currently scheduled to happen at the Greater Ithaca Activities Center on 301 W. Court St., but organizers said they might move the event to a larger venue.