Prison is for Poor Black Men, Right? Not Educationally Privileged White Women.

I just read this article. It’s quite good. I was glad that I had read it. I also feel conflicted. I, too, am a woman and a I, too, went to graduate school. As a well-educated woman who is not (on the basis of gender and educational privilege, as opposed to, for example, race) a member of the main population targeted by the oppressive system of mass incarceration in this country, I feel very confused about things like “Orange is the New Black” and even this Cosmopolitan magazine article.

It is really helpful that the oppressive prison system is coming more into the attention of the wider culture. In both of these cases, it is through the vehicle of someone female and white and privileged, someone who is not supposed to be in that situation. Prison is for poor Black men, right? Not educationally privileged White women.

So, when educationally privileged White women get swept up into the prison system and they get out and write articles and books about it, people pay attention. However, this situation is going on all the time and our country, in general, turns a blind eye to it. It disproportionately oppresses and disenfranchises Black men. I don’t know if a poor, educationally-under-privileged Black man writing a book about the prison system would turn into a major television program or if a poor, educationally under-privileged Black man writing an article about the prison system would end up in GQ. It feels really complicated.

Yet, this person’s situation is just as deserving of attention (she got a felony conviction for elbowing a man in the face when he had violently grabbed her breast; the man was a police officer) and this person using her situation to draw attention to the incarceration situation in our country is a good thing.