Seattle Black Feminists

2014 Social Justice Film Festival

Photo taken by me @ UW

Photo taken by me @ UW

The films look amazing and insightful! One that is sticking out in my mind is 15 to Life: Kenneth’s Storywhich highlights the story of a now 26-year-old, who received four life sentences when he was just 15. The most disconcerting thing about this case is that these crimes did not lead to any physical harm or homicide — no injuries — so this is a non-violent crime, which makes it even that more tragic and inhumane.

Since school’s been in (but since it’s not one of my required texts for class) I’ve been very, very slowly reading The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness. Michelle Alexander talks a lot about non-vionent crimes, prison sentencing that has happened in the ‘War on Drugs.’ Her most important argument is about the way Black men are treated once they’re released — that they’re locked up for years and years, and then reduced to second-class citizens with no real statuses or rights — to vote, to find jobs, housing, and all of those areas the legalized Jim Crow establishment ensured. Alexander speaks strongly suggesting that it’s not the amount of time Black men spend being incarcerated, but it’s what happens when they’re released. Alexander even discussed a 2002 study that happened here on non-violent crimes and their consequences, that was conducted by UW, in the section of the book Unconventional Wisdom.

In 2002, a team of researchers at the University of Washington decided to take the defenses of the drug war seriously, by subjecting the argument to empirical testing in a major study of drug-law enforcement in a racially mixed city–Seattle. The study found that, contrary to the prevailing “common sense,” the high arrest rates of African Americans in the drug-law enforcement could not be explained by rates of offending; nor could they be explained by other standard excuses, such as the ease and efficiency of policing open-air drug markets, citizen complaints, crime rates, or drug-related violence. The study also debunked the assumption that white drug dealers deal indoors, making their criminal activity more difficult to detect… Seattle residents were far more likely to report suspected narcotics activities in residences–not outdoors–but police devoted their resources to open-air drug markets and to the one precinct that was least likely to be identified as the site of suspected drug activity in citizen complaints… In racially mixed open-air drug markets, black dealers were far more likely to be arrested than whites, even though white dealers were present and visible.

Later, she goes on to say:

The study’s author’s concluded, based on their review and analysis of the empirical evidence, that the Seattle Police Department’s decision to focus so heavily on crack, to the near exclusion of other drugs, and to concentrate its efforts on outdoor drug markets in downtown areas rather than drug markets located indoor or in predominantly white communities, reflect “a racialized conception of the drug problem”… This racialized cultural script about who and what constitutes the drug problem renders illegal drug activity by whites invisible. “White people,” the study’s authors observed, “are simply not perceived as drug offenders by Seattle police officers” (P 126-127).

Well, I wouldn’t go so far as to say that Seattle is ‘racially mixed’ in the way it sounds here, but in addition to what Michelle Alexander says, I think just as equally important is the actual prison term. People languish in prison and it takes away years of one’s life — physically, mentally, socially, emotionally in addition to the disenfranchisement they face when they’re released. I won’t go too much more into this, but I will say that the entire festival appears to have a very compelling line-up — including Natural Life, another film about youth who have been sentenced to life without parole, and War Against Women. Here is the link to the event: Social Justice Film Festival

When: October 18th through 30th

Where: UW Seattle

Time: Varies — Check each listing

Cost: Varies. So far between $5-10 per film

BTW, when I went to the Seattle Race Conference last year, I signed up to receive information on a local organization and abolishing the ‘New Jim Crow’. I haven’t done a deeper investigation, as far as examining its politics, but here’s the info if anyone’s interested: No New Jim Crow Seattle


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