*The following post is part of JCJ’s Awareness to Action: 21 Days Toward Racial Justice campaign.*
Discussion questions after watching the film:
- The documentary points out that terrorism against African Americans turned into something more legal and socially acceptable over the years with mass incarceration. When those who are unfairly targeted are “over there” in prisons, hidden away from the public eye, does that somehow make their situation less relevant to us? Why is it easier to turn a blind eye when discrimination and injustice are more subtle yet right in front of us?
- Bryan Stevenson says, “We make them their crime. That’s how we introduced them. ‘That’s a rapist. That’s a murderer. That’s a robber. That’s a sex offender. That’s a burglar. That’s a gang leader.’ And through that lens, it becomes so much easier to accept that they’re guilty and that they should go to prison.” In regards to African Americans, how does society “make them their crime”?
- Why is it so easy to buy into the “mythology of black criminality”? Do we as Americans subconsciously or even consciously view blacks as inherently more criminal?
- As Jews, we are taught the holiness of supporting the fallen and healing the sick. Does this extend to treating drug abuse and drug dependency as a health issue rather than a criminal issue?
- The documentary sheds light on corporate and capitalist influence on the American legislative agenda, especially pertaining to the justice system and the prison-industrial complex. How has this impacted the black community? Is this just?
Quotes from the film to think about and discuss:
- “The United States is home to 5% of the world’s population but 25% of the world’s prisoners. Think about that.” – Barack Obama
- “A little country with 5% of the world’s population having 25% of the world’s prisoners? One out of four? One out of four human beings with their hands on the bars, shackled, in the world, are locked up here in the land of the free.”
- “The United States now has the highest rate of incarceration in the world.”
- “Justice too long delayed is justice denied.” – Martin Luther King Jr.
- “We decided to deal with drug addiction and drug dependency as a crime issue rather than a health issue.”
- “We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black. But by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt their communities.” – John Ehrlichman
- “There are thousands of people in jails right this moment that are sitting there for no other reason than because they’re too poor to get out.”
- “So many aspects of the old Jim Crow are suddenly legal again once you’ve been branded a felon. And so it seems that in America we haven’t so much ended racial caste but simply redesigned it.”
- “The opposite of criminalization is humanization.”
- “People say all the time, ‘I don’t understand how people could’ve tolerated slavery. How could they have made peace with that? How could people have gone to a lynching and participated in that? How did people make sense of the segregation, this white and colored-only drinking? That’s so crazy. If I was living at that time, I would have never tolerated anything like that.’ And the truth is, we are living at this time, and we are tolerating it.”
- “When black lives matter, everybody’s life matters.”