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The Caging of America

A Response

Since the colonial times, black people have been treated as objects with no mind, meaning or purpose other than to serve white people. Even our Founding Fathers owned slaves. “Thomas Jefferson enslaved over 600 human beings throughout the course of his life.” Even our first President owned slaves. “Of the 317 enslaved people living at Mount Vernon in 1799, a little less than half (123 individuals) were owned by George Washington himself.

Adam Gopnik wrote an article called "The Caging of America," in which he talks about our judicial system here in the United States and how it has changed these past 150-plus years. I think his comparison is effective and very impactful, because the minority has always been a target to the “justice” system of the United States; more so the black population.

Our judicial system is very biased against people of colour, and this is further proven by the fact that our current POTUS rose to power through hate, especially towards Hispanics, making us sound like we are dangerous people, and gullible people bought that immediately because they suffer from this horrible “mental illness” called racism (which is actually a choice, not an illness,) that doesn’t allow them to see that we are all equal and deserve the same amount of respect. The POTUS took advantage of this nation-wide ignorance and became the leader of the country.

Gopnik beings up this thing called "Correctional Supervision." He writes, "Overall, there are now more people under 'correctional supervision' in America—more than six million—than were in the Gulag Archipelago under Stalin at its height. That city of the confined and the controlled, Lockuptown, is now the second largest in the United States." I think what he means by “Correctional Supervision” is what I call “conditional living.”

Conditional living is when you live “freely” until you do something that they find “suspicious” such as minding your business while walking home with your hands in your pockets, which makes you a threat to society and the community around you because it means you’re concealing a deadly weapon, or when you go to the store, because it means you're on your way to steal something (as long as you’re of colour—if you’re not, you’re not a threat).

When you’re coloured, you only need “Correctional Supervision” when you’re outdoors doing literally anything. As long as you’re home, away from everyone else, you’re safe. It’s almost as if every “law enforcement” officer is trained to be quick to discriminate and place racial profiles against people of colour, and even quicker to pull the trigger at the sight of a man that is not his own colour.

In his article, Gopnik mentions Supermax Prisons, and a quick Google search that a Supermax Prison is “A correctional facility, or collection of separate housing units within a maximum-security prison, in the American prison system that is designed to house both inmates described as the most-hardened criminals and those who cannot be controlled through other means.” This pretty much supports my point, because they are putting these coloured people in a section that goes beyond “maximum security” in a maximum security prison. That is not something that should be happening in our country, but it does, and I think it's because we are following the judicial system used in the Enlightenment Era.

 think what Gopnik means when he explains the broken prison system is that the influence from the Enlightenment Era ideals of depersonalising individuals and treating them not as people, but as things who have committed wrongs, therefore losing their humanity and right to be treated fairly. 

The “justice” system has focused too much on punishing and stripping people of their humanity and individuality, as well as their worth as a person and society member, and hasn’t focused enough on helping these people get rehabilitative help in order to be integrated back into society; at least the ones who can be helped and eventually freed, such as those unfairly incarcerated for defending themselves or their families, even at the expense of an attacker’s life, or taking the life of a white supremacist, Nazi, rapist, or pedophile, or maybe something as insignificant as carrying an ounce of cannabis on them.

Speaking of cannabis, the Rockefeller Gopnik is referring to is former New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller. This guy “put even low-level criminals behind bars for decades.” This is one of, if not the best definition of unfair incarceration cases. It is not right to put people who've committed minor crimes in the same category as murderers and criminals guilty of similar actions.

I would say that Gopnik’s perspective on private prisons is that the system is very corrupt, and wants to privately benefit as much as they can, or, in his own words, “the interest of private prisons lies not in the obvious social good of having the minimum necessary number of inmates but in having as many as possible, housed as cheaply as possible.” This means that, as I mentioned above, the inmates stop being people, and turn into an economic burden that people running these institutions use for their own benefit, and maybe their own satisfaction.

The metaphor “If a pill cures a headache, we do not ask too often if the headache might have gone away by itself.” means that we just take a “pill” because we hear it works, or see surface-level improvements upon taking it, but we really don’t take time to see if there is another, more natural “cure” to the problem, or if it would eradicate itself with time. I believe that if we “translate” this metaphor into the issue at hand, it means that we as a society are quick to judge people by what the news tells us and don’t look at the background. We issue punishment without really thinking about what truly happened, and the repercussions. We should try to help people instead of throwing them in jail and forgetting about them.

I liked a specific sentence he wrote, being “Epidemics seldom end with miracle cures.” Because it’s absolutely true. We can’t sit with our arms crossed hoping this “justice” system will fix itself. Since the people in charge won’t do anything to help this get better, We the People should stand up for those who can’t stand for themselves and revolt when these injustices happen.

During his conclusion, he wrote, "Merely chipping away at the problem around the edges is usually the very best thing to do with a problem; keep chipping away patiently and, eventually, you get to its heart." This is a phenomenal idea and solution because sometimes we can’t tackle a problem head-on—because it has too many "layers" that protect the very bottom "root" of the topic.

The only way to solve such big problems is to tackle the smaller issues so the path opens up further.

We can’t stop fighting for our unfairly-treated brothers and sisters. We must stand up to the corrupt government in order to issue true justice.

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The Caging of America
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