Annie Banks is an organizer/artist in Berkeley, California, on Ohlone territories. Annie is an active member of the California Coalition for Women Prisoners and the Anti Police-Terror Project and is a student at Goddard College. Annie has been a printmaker since high school. 

“The role of cultural workers is important in our movements for justice.” 

ON THE HARMS OF WHITE SUPREMACY TO WHITE PEOPLE, PART FIVE: VIGNETTE 4: LOSS OF LOVED ONES/POLITICAL REPRESSION.

ON THE HARMS OF WHITE SUPREMACY TO WHITE PEOPLE, PART FIVE: VIGNETTE 4: LOSS OF LOVED ONES/POLITICAL REPRESSION.

ON THE HARMS OF WHITE SUPREMACY TO WHITE PEOPLE, PART FIVE: VIGNETTE 4: LOSS OF LOVED ONES/POLITICAL REPRESSION.

Some of my best friends are in prison; I get at least five or ten letters a week from my loved ones who I cannot be with in person. One dear friend I have written with for three years and visited numerous times. I consider him family. We collaborate on art projects together, which often takes a lot longer than it would have to if we could just sit in the sunshine and work together, if he could just come over to my house and we could talk in person about our work together. Instead we write letters back and forth and half of the time his letters get thrown away or mine never reach him, due to interference by the prison guards and other staff.

All the people that I write with are visionaries in their own right, with brilliant ideas for how they would organize society differently. As Gil Scott-Heron expresses in the song, “Winter in America”,  “It’s winter in America/And all of the healers have been killed/Or been betrayed” (2010). These and other prisoners have been imprisoned for exactly that – for their brilliant political visions of a different world. They are also targeted as people of color, Black people, Indigenous people, and those few whites who challenged the system and were made examples of. Beyond the current state of U.S. incarceration, wherein “people of color make up 80 to 90 percent of the super-max prison population” and of which the total impact is named as genocidal (Magnani, L., & Wray, H. L., 2006, p. 36), there are many ways in which this manifestation of white supremacy is spread throughout Western society and not limited only to the prison system.

In a society where people of color are deliberately blocked from jobs, homes, voting, political positions, leadership roles, entire geographical areas, families, public spaces, professions, and more, the contributions of said people in these spaces are stolen from society. As stated in the article, “8 Reasons Why White Supremacy is Bad for (Most) White People”:

Because racism has created a situation where highly qualified people of color are passed over for important opportunities, the result is that many mediocre white people are holding extremely vital positions in society, such as teaching our children, leading community businesses and fixing our computers. While it does benefit the mediocre white people who get the jobs, it actually holds back the growth of American society, according to Tanya Golash-Boza, associate professor of sociology at the University of California, Merced (Chiles, 2015 April 15).

In addition to the knowledge that so many people are blocked from full participation in society and in our communities, there is also the looming fear for anyone who is aware of the current set up in society that their loved ones may be similarly taken from them. I know that I experience fears on a regular basis that my loved ones who are racialized as “Other” in America or Canada will be taken, disappeared or otherwise impacted by the state – imprisoned, killed, demoted, framed, beaten, demoralized.

While I am not targeted in the same way because of my race and class privilege, I have also seen evidence of the willingness of said governments to punish those privileged members of society who decide they will not tolerate the conditions of the contract of white supremacy. In fact, as a member of a group of 11 protesters, I am currently facing charges in relation to alleged actions on Inauguration day of this year and I was surprised when the usual leniency with which I am treated by our racist injustice system was not extended to me immediately. I have close comrades who are white and who, due to their political actions, have spent many years in prison – in some cases spending the rest of their lives behind bars. As Amilcar Cabral warned of imperialism, “it will kill its own puppets when they no longer serve its purposes” (Cabral as quoted in Sakai, 1989, p. 272). Additionally, as we’ve seen all too recently, those who would stand up to white supremacists also face extreme violence, even death.

References

Chiles, N. (2015, April 15). 8 Reasons why white supremacy is bad for (most) white people. Atlanta Black Star. Retrieved from: http://atlantablackstar.com/2015/04/15/8-reasons-white-supremacy-bad-white-people/.

Heron, G. (2010). Winter in America. [CD]. Charly Records.

Magnani, L., & Wray, H. L. (2006). Beyond prisons: a new interfaith paradigm for our failed prison system. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress.

Sakai, J. (1989). Settlers: the mythology of the white proletariat. Chicago: Morningstar Press.

NEW SERIES: Drawing inspiration: a series of interviews and prints made with movement mentors

NEW SERIES: Drawing inspiration: a series of interviews and prints made with movement mentors

Modern day slavery is real

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