Criminalization Of Poverty In Capitalist America

3047 words - 12 pages

An anonymous poet in the 1700's wrote about crime: "The law will punish a man or woman who steals the goose from the hillside, but lets the greater robber loose who steals the hillside from the goose."[l]

When talking about "the greater robber" it seemed particularly appropriate in the midst of the biggest financial rip-off in history of this country to think about the billions of dollars the Savings & Loan criminals stole, and about how most of them have gotten away with it. I thought about the complete insanity of how this country defines crimes in society. If you steal $5 you're a thief, but if you steal $5 million --you're a financier.

Thirty percent of the wealth of this country is controlled by one-half of one percent of the people. Eighty percent of the wealth is controlled by ten percent of the people. I think that is a crime. In the dictionary, the word "crime" means "an act which is against the law." Crime applies particularly to an act that breaks a law that has been made for public good. Crime in one country, the dictionary continued, "may be entirely overlooked by the law in another country or may not apply at all in a different historical period."

That was interesting. What that really said was that concepts of "crime" are not eternal. The very nature of crime is sociopsychological and defined by time and place and those who have the power to make definitions; by those who write dictionaries, so to speak.

The more I thought about that and about those who write the laws, or at least define what law is, the more profound it became. I believe we all will agree that the United States is a nation of criminals. From its inception as a settler nation, exiled British criminals stole the land and lives from Native Americans and Africans. They justified their actions with making and defining the law of the land, for example defining Africans as 3/5 of a man during slavery. Hence the power to define is an awesome power. It is the power of propaganda. It is the ability to manipulate our ideas, to limit our agenda, to mold how we see, and to shape what we look at. It is the power to interpret the picture we see when we look at the world for the American people in general, and New Afrikans, in particular. It is the power to place the picture we see when we look at the world. It is the power to place a frame around the picture, to define where it begins and ends. It is, in fact, the power to define where our vision begins and ends, the power to create our collective consciousness.

That kind of social propaganda is not only tremendously powerful, but it is also mostly invisible. We can't fight what we don't see. Most people accept the images and definitions that we have been taught as true, neutral, self-evident, and for always; so that the power to paint the future, to define what is right and wrong, what is lawful and what is criminal, is really the power to win the battle for our minds. And to win it without ever having to...

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