Disclaimer: The following has been published with the expressed consent of our comrades from Supporting Prisoners and Acting for Radical Change (SPARC) and the original post can be found on their site here.
Comrade Outlaw has been held prisoner since the age of 19. Despite the incredible injustice he has faced, Comrade Outlaw has continued to develop his political work and revolutionary theory within the Virginia state prison system. Our theoretical differences are far overwhelmed by our solidarity with SPARC, Comrade Outlaw, and every prisoner and activist struggling with the repressive state apparatus on a daily basis. We have nothing but admiration and support for the work of Comrade Outlaw.
Readers may contribute to the fundraiser to assist him following his release here.
His work presented here details how he analyzes the crisis faced by Black men in Virginia (although certainly throughout the entire nation as well). Wherein Black men are forever excluded and ‘otherized’ from being-a-person. The Black Body is not only criminalized but fully conditioned as the social inferior of the White man. Comrade Outlaw’s narrative is both captivating and enlightening. A must-read for those hoping to understand the modern struggle of prisoners and those against the ever-present empire of Whiteness.
The following is the full unedited work as presented by SPARC. All work is the original content of Comrade Outlaw. This is not an official statement of organizational endorsement and all views contained are solely those of the author and do not reflect entirely upon the views held by Anti-Imperialism.com or the Revolutionary Anti-Imperialist Movement.
Black men in Virginia are in a crisis. Their territory has been invaded, reclaimed, reconquered by white men. We must not underestimate the depth of this crisis, nor childishly deny the very existence of this crisis. Black men must once and for all assert our right to exist in dignity and decency as human beings on planet earth. We must stop wasting white men’s precious time with idle complaints about how “naturally” unrighteous the white man is. For all of our pretentious moral criticisms of the white man only represent a weak attempt on our part to simply walk in the white man’s shoes. While we’ve been passing ethical judgments on the white man, flaunting our supposed morally superior nature, the fact is white men continue to rule the world. And black men have been more so than not participating in maintaining and strengthening an immoral social system that not only keeps white men in power all over the planet, but also said participation raises serious doubts about black men’s claim to be morally superior to white men. For quite some time now, black men have not been living as conscious human beings on planet earth. We’ve always existed in a more restrictive reality, a confined space called “white man’s world”. In this white man’s world there simply is not enough geographical space for black people to exist on equal human footing with white people. Black men are only allowed to be sub-human “boys”, white men’s inferior sidekicks and lesser-half buddies or non-human, emotionally void thugs, pimps and G’s. Even superhuman kings and Gods, never fully-human equals.
The reality of how and why the power to control our collective human destiny remains in the hands of white men evades the blank stare of people mesmerized by the hollow symbolism of Obama. Has Obama’s election altered this racial injustice in any fundamental way? What business does a black man have waging war in Afghanistan? Is he carrying out the collective will of blacks in America? Has an Iraqi ever lynched and castrated a black man? Kept his burned and charred genitals as a racial souvenir? If Obama’s presidency was not essential to the long-term objectives of white-male power his term in executive office would be what it has always been, nonexistent. After all the centuries of subhuman and barbaric treatment, what makes a black man worthy of being captain of what has always been a white man’s ship? It’s no coincidence that the first black person to achieve presidential office in America is a black man. White men also granted newly freed black male slaves the right to vote in 1870 under the 15th amendment while denying the same political right to women, black and white alike (women were not allowed to vote until 1920 under the 19th amendment). This act of white male political philanthropy solidified the white male/black male bond (at least in the minds of black men). A brief look into the long history of white male/black male relations in America reveals that white men have always successfully appealed to the masculine impulses of black men whenever “the nation” needed us. And for disturbed emotional reasons black men have, more often than not, faithfully rallied to the side of white men, always to their benefit, never failing to arouse their superior sense of oppressive amusement. And why not? It was white men who, through the “civilizing” effects of chattel slavery and Christianity, saved us from the tragic fate of African savagery, right?
“Just look at those wild black barbarians on television, those barefooted, unclothed, dirty, poor, hungry, violence-prone, pagan worshipers in Africa, Haiti and Jamaica! We were right to be buffalo soldiers for white men against those marauding Indians! We were right to help slaughter those ungrateful Filipinos in 1898! We were right to defend the white man’s democracy from those communist Vietnamese! Dem Clintons is good white folk!”
But see the black man’s fear-based tirade in defense of white male power always ends with black men rediscovering their common sense. Black men quickly realize, or rather remember, that the only reason we “respect” white men is because of the terror and violence white men have so willingly brought down on our collective heads.
Black men are only capable of feigning momentary blindness to the fact of white men’s overbearing presence on our lives. Indeed, black manhood is structured around an acute awareness of an all-pervasive, oppressive, white male power (as exemplified by the pentagon, the police, army, navy, marines, NSA, FBI, ATF, DEA, Dept. of Homeland Security, NASA, Exxon, Shell, CBS, NBC, ABC, CNN, CIA, Corrections Corporation of America, American Correctional Association, Federal Reserve, Wall Street, American Medical Association, the courts, NRA, AT&T, MCI, Global Tel-Link, VISA, Mastercard, Walmart, IRS). A complete listing of white-male power, wealth and influence is unnecessary and would only further diminish the already comparatively weak standing of black men’s legal institutional resources (it must not be forgotten that “the law” has always been been the will of white men expressed in legal form). Of course, black men’s pathetic obsession with “small business” pursuits is actually a fear-based maneuver on the part of black men to avoid giving the appearance of being a threat to white men’s world-wide big business affairs. And although the bulk of black aspirations have been outlawed, consigned to the realm of illegality, black male control fares no better in this arena either because it is dependent on white male power (e.g. the international transport of narcotics on white male-owned planes and boats on white male-dominated territory; airspace, airports, boatyards, naval ports).
Forever reminded of our powerlessness it’s not uncommon, although odd, to hear black men frequently claiming allegiance to, or association with, various institutions of white male power. Statements like “all I wear is Louis Vutton”, “you’ll never see me sippin’ on nothin’ but Hennessy” or “if you ain’t ridin’ in a Cadillac then you ain’t nobody” all reflect a disturbed satisfaction of black men having a symbolic second-hand share in the prestige and wealth of white men. The average rap video is nothing more than a celebration of white male power, culture and wealth. What black owned and operated corporations finance the ostentatious displays of material wealth and happiness in these videos? Who supplies these rappers with the luxury cars, mansions, precious metals, fine wines and G-4 private jets? Last time I checked “Jacob the Jeweler” isn’t black. Driven into a miserable existence on planet earth, black men have found life more fulfilling in the fantasy world of rap videos. In the meantime black men, in our fear-stricken state, reason that white men will always have a disproportionately greater share in the joys of human existence at our expense. And so we suffer, not on planet earth, but in that racially predetermined reality called “the white man’s world”. A place where black men are concentrated en masse on the worst parts of planet earth, rarely venturing beyond the geographical confines of the black ghettos and projects except to go to jail or prison. A place where black men kill and brutalize other black men in reassuring to white men that we pose no threat to their system of law and order. A place where black men have learned, by force, to live with all kinds of rules and restrictions on our human freedom, a condition which we have sugar-coated as proof of our being morally superior to white men with their supposedly “unrighteous” ways (sometimes one even encounters black people who have totally erased the existence of white men from their consciousness for the sake of pinning “the problem” on less-terrifying things and persons, either god or the devil, though most often other vulnerable and oppressed black people).
In summary, the white man’s world is a prison for black men, literally. Prisons allow for the concentrated placement of masses of people using minimal amounts of geographic space, just like ghettos, projects and jails. Why do you think we’re always “in here”? They came over for land, remember? The unspoken truth is that black men have always been in a state of relative peace in prisons until recently. Prison was once the only racial/social space (outside of the black church) where black men could collectively assert our manhood without too much fear of retaliatory white male violence, albeit, ironically in the image of white men. See, in prison we too exploit other men. In prison we too turn other men (mainly white) into our “boys” and “bitches”. In prison we too conquer territory, whole prisons and jails occupied by black men. We are the racial majority “in here” and we’ve always made that clear to the minority of white men who’ve entered these walls. In my twelve years of imprisonment I’ve encountered numerous black men who recounted stories of how they themselves or other black men they knew raped, sexually dominated, and/or otherwise robbed, extorted, killed and assaulted white men in prison. Historically, because of our numerical majority “in here”, due to white men never wanting to “own” this space, prison has always been the uncontested domain of black men. A world within the white man’s world where we do the racial-fucking, where black men are “on top” just as white men have always been “out there”. But herein lies the fundamental problem with black manhood. Between being utterly afraid and terrified of white men on the one hand (signified by our collective acceptance of imprisonment and deprivation of liberty as a natural, normal occurrence of black male life) and yet wanting to emulate and imitate white men in their unjust exercise of power on the other hand (signified by the oppressive and exploitative social relations we’ve established and practiced amongst ourselves in prison, which are patterned according to the way racial, sexual and economic relations are structured “out there” in the white man’s world). Somewhere between that paralyzing fear of white men and our disarming admiration of white men lies the unfortunate truth that black men are no more willing than white men to bring about a free, just and equally humane state of world affairs. Black men have not been firmly for an end to capitalist exploitation, we ourselves aspire to be capitalists. Black men have not been fighting with women, black or otherwise, for their right to a fully-human anti-sexist existence. We praise god for “endowing” us with sexual organs that are in like image of white men’s as this provides us some basis for white male empathy and mercy over and against “our” common female sexual inferiors. Because prevailing black manhood is a rough carbon copy of white manhood, a subordinate imitation, we have a “built-in” acceptance for oppression and injustice. We in fact collaborate with such.
The building of Red Onion State Prison and Wallens Ridge State Prison in 1998 and 1999 exposed this shameful truth. Before the opening of these two supermax prisons in rural white Appalachian-Virginia it was understood that prison is the black man’s world. However, events orchestrated by white men “out there” (corporate outsourcing of jobs to foreign countries, declining dollar values, ect) have prompted white men to engage in “indian-giving” and reconquer territory customarily reserved for black men (in violation of the de facto US Racial Treaty). Besides, black people have always been central to white people’s economic vitality. Reconquer? Yes, in every sense of the word; “to acquire by force of arms; win in war”. Red Onion State Prison and Wallens Ridge State Prison represent the overt reassertion of white male supremacy in Virginia in a traditionally black male sphere of power and influence; randomly beating prisoners, shooting prisoners, electrocuting prisoners with stunguns to death, sodomizing/sexually-assaulting prisoners, depriving prisoners’ food for days at a time. These are just a few of the cruelties committed by white male prison guards at Red Onion and Wallens Ridge against an overwhelmingly black prison population. Through this institutionalized racial torture and terror, this legally camouflaged racial violence, Red Onion and Wallens Ridge were established as the new racial center of power in Virginia’s vast penological universe. A prison population of black males numbering in the tens of thousands, with astronomical numbers to serve no parole and who must serve no less than 85% of our sentence, with absolutely nothing to lose, are held in passive submission owing to the presence of these two prisons. Our whole existence “in here” now just like “out there” black men do not speak nor think of freedom, of abolishing the institution of prison from our collective lives, nor filing complaints and grievances, nor overthrowing Keefe’s monopoly, nor of organizing against police brutality. We cower at the idea of showing, actually living and acting out any kind of unity or solidarity with one another as oppressed human beings. It’s against the white man’s law and will. There’s always available bed-space at Red Onion and Wallens Ridge(1). Flaunting their racial victory, white men at Red Onion and Wallens Ridge parade around the prisons never letting “the enemy” forget that white men now run things “in here” too. They are determined not to yield one inch of black men’s former territory (“stop kicking my door now!”, “hurry up and get out of my shower!”). The black man’s world is no more, all hope is lost. Broken and defeated, black men in Virginia are reduced to verbally reliving the glory days of black-male prison rule in Virginia, now symbolized by the prison utopia commonly referenced to by prisoners as “lowland”. Lowland (predominantly black-staffed prisons in the eastern half of the state) is our most wished-for destination, not home, not the streets. Until we get there, to that black man’s heaven, we comply, obey and pray.
Black Male Thoughts and Behaviors that Accommodate White Male Power in Virginia
- Black men in Virginia think that our refusing to consume pork, a forced staple food of our enslaved ancestors diet, is the one true expression of genuine opposition to white supremacy in Virginia; the only solid contribution to black survival. The supreme standard by which one’s commitment to black people’s well-being is determined solely by eating or not eating pork. We overlook all the other “pork” we are dying from; black-on-black violence, HIV/AIDS, economic exploitation, illiteracy, poverty, political and social indifference, imprisonment, and convince ourselves that white male oppression will be defeated at the point of a fork, a utensil.
- Black men frequently deny white men having any power whatsoever over our collective lives by adamantly declaring “I put myself in prison!” whenever someone criticizes white man’s (in)justice system. This attitude is nothing more than a psychological defense mechanism against black male political and economic powerlessness. Black men offer no rational explanation for why so many black men are “choosing” to put themselves in prison. Black male incarceration by “choice” (which happens to be the highest in the world) is not viewed by black males for what it is, a fatalistic collective surrendering of our human destiny to white men, but is somehow seen, insane as it is, as a proof black people being free from white racial oppression because we are now “choosing”, for mysterious reasons, to put ourselves in. Besides, black life would have no meaning without prison, it just wouldn’t be natural to be black living without the likelihood of imprisonment hovering over our lives, right?
- Instead of organizing collectively to put an end to being financially exploited and abused by white male-owned corporations like Keefe Commissary and Global Tel-Link black men would rather be used to be a continuous financial drain on family and friends. We allow white male capitalists to use our dollars against us because psychologically we can’t live without the symbolic prestige of their products. Hence, we are more of an asset to white men than we are to family, friends and ourselves.
- There is an old saying, “anything the white man doesn’t want a black man to know, he puts it in a book”. Here we are in 2012 with black males in Virginia ignorantly declaring that they don’t read. See, knowledge is power and for black males to value knowledge inevitably puts us, in one form or another, at odds with white power, a conflict black males obviously seek to avoid. In the final analysis, this is the source of black-male anti-intellectualism.
1. The other result of the re-seizure of a traditionally black masculine space (prison) by “real men” (white male guards in southwest Virginia and white male-owned corporations like Keefe Commissary) is that black men in Virginia prisons no longer possess “the balls” to engage in such “manly” pursuits as rape, robbery and murder of other prisoners, especially white prisoners, with nowhere near the frequency they did before the “erection” of Red Onion and Wallens Ridge.