Orange Should Not Be The New Black

Orange Should Not Be The New Black

The Dignity campaign for incarcerated women needs your support.
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If you haven't yet seen Ava DuVernay's award-winning, Oscar-nominated expository documentary, "13th" (2016), it's on Netflix, and you should watch it as soon as possible.

Through the powerful medium of cinema, DuVernay examines how history has influenced and shaped the cancerous institutional racism and mass incarceration that has plagued the United States, home of the supposedly 'free,' for centuries.

The film's synthesis of graphic and monumental footage, lyrical rap, shocking statistics, and thought-provoking interviews delivers a touching and impactful blow to its audience, encouraging viewers to approach reality with a new conscious and informed perspective in the hope for some kind of national change.

The movie focuses primarily on the incarceration of African American males, noting that 1 in 3 black men have a lifetime likelihood of imprisonment, and that although this demographic makes up 6.5% of the US population, black men account for 40.2% of the prison population (The Bureau of Justice).

However, the population of women in prison is also increasing, in fact, between 1980 and 2014, the population grew by 700%, which is a higher rate than men (#cut50). A 2017 Prison Policy study found that out of the 219,000 incarcerated women in the United States, over 60% have not even been convicted, meaning most of them simply lack the funds to get themselves out of jail.

A separate report found that 80% of imprisoned women are either pregnant or current mothers, and are therefor almost always separated from their family and their children. Additionally, around 86% reported themselves as victims of sexual violence, and 76% were found to be victims of domestic abuse.

Proper women's health care is a fundamental human right and necessity to overall quality of life, but the prison system is stealing this away from those females who find themselves behind bars. Too often women in jail undergo mass traumatization that renders them unable to re-assimilate to life outside bars, or does so much harm to them that they develop crippling mental disorders which could cost them their lives.

In the past few months, a new movement emphasizing the need for incarcerated women's' rights has evolved called 'Dignity'.

The campaign, supported by a partnership between , #cut50, the We Are Here Movement and the National Council for Incarcerated and Formerly Incarcerated Women and Girls, with the support of the Grammy Award-winning artist, Alicia Keys, aims to rally support and draw attention to the newly introduced 'Dignity for Incarcerated Women Act', backed by Senators Cory Booker and Elizabeth Warren.

Although the act addresses serious issues that often go unnoticed when it comes to criminal justice reform and offers solutions for a significant amount of the abuse and mistreatment women in prison face, there hasn't yet been a congressional hearing scheduled for it. The Dignity movement has started an online petition to apply pressure on Senator Chuck Grassley, Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, to get the problem and the act heard.

One of the most popular TV shows in the past five years, especially for us millennials, is Jenji Kohan's 'Orange is the New Black', which can be found conveniently on Netflix. 'OITNB' is a comedy/drama which follows protagonist, Piper Chapman (Taylor Schilling), as she faces time in an all-women's institution for a transportation of drugs she was involved with in her past.

Piper, accustomed to her, privileged, upper class 'life-in-a-bubble", takes a while to assimilate to the diverse, tense, and cut-throat nature of the prison, but the more aware and cognizant she becomes, so does the audience.

While the show does an exceptional job of emphasizing the humanity of each prisoner, accentuating how each woman has their own story and deserves respect and fair treatment, what's really impressive is how it contrasts these character developments with how immorally the treatment of the guards and how inhumane their living conditions are.

Yes, it has lots of humor, but the show still deals with serious issues anywhere ranging from sexual orientation, racism, religion, to rape, drug abuse, and obviously mistreatment and lack of fundamental human rights within the criminal justice system.

The show brought attention to many social justice issues and has coincided critically with many current movements in the US with the material in its episodes, however, arguably even more impactful, is the continued support for these causes by the actresses of OITNB in real life.

Prominent cast members Taylor Schilling, Danielle Brooks, Uzo Aduba, Yael Stone, Samira Wiley, and many others all consistently promote campaigns for social justice (whether that be through LGBTQ, racial, or gender equality) on their social media and through appearances at demonstrations and events.

However, in keeping with their show's theme, I believe it's time that some of these incredible women should again use their celebrity for the greater good by standing behind this Dignity campaign and the fight for the rights of incarcerated women like the ones they fictitiously represent.

Because at the end of the day, orange should not be the new black. And if a woman does find herself behind bars, she deserves quality health care and treatment while she's suffering.

This cause definitely needs more awareness. Stemming from the broader concept of institutional racism, which makes it harder to chip away at, the more people who join together to work towards change the better chance we have of something actually being done on a legislative level. Hundreds of thousands of women's lives are at stake and it's important that we don't forget about them or let them struggle in silence.

Cover Image Credit: picshype.com

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Islam Is Not A Religion Of Peace, But Neither Is Christianity

Let's have in honest converation about the relgious doctrine of Islam

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Islam is not a religion of peace.

Christianity is also not a religion of peace.

But, most people in both religions are generally peaceful.

More specifically, bringing up the doctrine of Christianity is a terrible rebuttal to justify the doctrine of Islam.

That is like saying, "Fascism is not a good political ideology. Well, Communism isn't any good either. So, Fascism is not that bad after all."

One evil does not justify another evil. Christianity's sins do not justify Islam's.

The reason why this article is focused on Islam and not Christianity is the modern prevalence of religious violence in the Islamic world. Christianity is not without its evil but there is far less international terrorist attacks and mass killing perpetrated by Christians today than by those of Islam.

First, let's define "religious killings," which is much more specific than a practicer of a religion committing a murder.

A religious killings are directly correlated with the doctrines of the faith. That is different a human acting on some type of natural impulse killing someone.

For example, an Islamic father honor killing his daughter who was raped is a religious killing. But an Islamic man who catches his wife cheating and kills her on the spot is a murder, not a religious killing. The second man may be Islamic but the doctrine of Islam cannot be rationally held at fault for that killing. Many men with many different religions or experience would make the same heinous mistake of taking a life.

Second, criticizing a doctrine or a religion is not a criticism of everyone that practices the religion.

It is not even a criticism of everyone who make mistake while inspired by the religions. Human are willing to do heinous things when governed by a bad cause. Not every World War 2 Nazis was a homicidal maniac but human nature tells them to act this way in order to survive in their environment. It is hard to fault a person from traits that comes from evolutionary biology and natural selection.

However, commenting on a philosophy, ideology or a religion is not off limits. Every doctrine that inspires human action should be open for review. The religion may be part of a person's identity and it holds a special place in its heart but that does not mean it should be immune to criticism.

Finally, before going into a deconstruction of the myth that Islam is a religion of peace, there needs to be a note about the silencing of talking about Islam.

There is a notion in Western Society that if a person criticizes Islam, then that person hates all Muslims and the person suffers from Islamophobia. That is not the case, a person to criticize religion without becoming Donald Trump. In Western Society criticizing fundamental Christians is never seen as an attack on all Christians because there is a lot of bad ideas in the Bible that Christians act on. Therefore, criticizing Islam should have the same benefit of the doubt because the Quran has many bad ideas in it.

The Quran advocates for war on unbelievers a multitude of times. No these verses are not a misreading or bad interpretation the text. Here are two explicit verses from the Quran that directly tell Followers to engage in violence:

Quran 2: 191-193:

"And kill them wherever you find them, and turn them out from where they have turned you out. And Al-Fitnah (disbelief or unrest) is worse than killing... but if they desist, then lo! Allah is forgiving and merciful. And fight them until there is no more Fitnah (disbelief and worshipping of others along with Allah) and worship is for Allah alone. But if they cease, let there be no transgression except against Az-Zalimun (the polytheists and wrong-doers)"

Quran 2: 216:

"Fighting is prescribed for you, and ye dislike it. But it is possible that ye dislike a thing which is good for you, and that ye love a thing which is bad for you. But Allah knoweth, and ye know not."

There is no rational way to interrupt these passages in a peaceful way. The whole premise of both passages is to inspire followers that war against the unbeliever is justified.

The first verse advocates for genocide against non-believers for the mere transgression that a society worships a different god or worships another god along with Allah.

The second passage is arguable more dangerous because the first passage just advocate that fighting may be a necessity, while the second passage encourages it. The second passage claims that war on the unbeliever is a good thing under the eyes of Allah.

The reason why these passages are dangerous is because they directly incite religious violence. For most followers of Allah, these passages are ignored or they convince themselves the passages means something they do not. However, for a large numbers of followers that view the text of the Quran as the unedited words of Allah, these texts become extremely dangerous. These passages become all the rational they need to wage war on non-believers.

This is dangerous because there are millions of followers of Islam worldwide that believe every statement in the Quran is true.

Therefore, the Quran becomes a direct motivation and cause for its followers to attack non-followers. Rationally one can understand where the Islam follower comes from, if a person truly believes that Allah or God himself wrote these words then why would you not comply.

Especially when there is verses in the Quran that says the Follower who does not fight the infidel is not as worthy of a Follower that does wage war against the non-believer (Quran 4:95). Finally, when male Followers are told that their martyrdom fighting for the faith will be rewarded with an eternity in paradise with 72 virgins for personal pleasure. If a Follower truly believes all of this is the spoken word of Allah then there is more rational why a person would commit these atrocities then why they would not.

Men and women are radicalized by these passages on a daily basis.

No, it is not just the poor kid in Iraq that lost his family to an American bombing run that indiscriminately kills civilians but also the middle classed Saudi Arabian child or some Western white kid that finds the Quran appealing. If radicalization were just poor people, then society would not have much to be worried about. However, Heads of States, college educated people and wealthy Islamic Followers are all being radicalized and the common dominator is the doctrine of Islam.

Osama Bin Laden, one of the most infamous terrorist in history, was not a poor lad that was screwed by the United States military industrial complex. Bin Laden was the son of a billionaire, that received an education through college from great schools. There is no other just cause for Bin Laden to orchestrate such grievous attacks on humanity besides religious inspirations. A person can rationally tie Islam Followers gravitation towards terrorism to a specific verse. Quran 3: 51 tells readers,

"Soon shall we cast terror into the hearts of the Unbelievers."

Any rational person can tie Islamic passages like this directly to terrorism. It is not a complicated correlation to like Nazism and Jewish persecution to Christianity. The Holy Book of Islam directly encourages the Followers of Islam to inflict terrorism unto the non-believer.

So why do some many people deny these obvious truths about Islam and violence?

Political Correctness and the want to not be viewed as a bigot. The correlations here are as direct as the terrors of the Spanish Inquisitions and Catholicism and no one is afraid to retrospect and say, "Yes Christianity caused the direct murder of thousands of people". A person would not even be controversial if one stated that both World Wars has significant religious undertones. However if anyone states that terrorism and violence has a direct link with Islam then there is an outcry.

Even President Obama refused to use the terms Islam and Muslim when publicly talking about the War on Terrorism. I am a hypocrite also because I used the term Islamic Follower instead of Muslim in an attempt to sound more political correct.

That is a problem when society refuse to use terms that are correct in an attempt to not offend anyone. Imagine if scientist could not report their findings because the underlying politics. Society needs to be able to have open dialogue about this problem or else it will never heal. Society needs to throw away the worrisome about being politically correct and focus on identifying the problems and solving them.

The world of Islam needs to open themselves up to this criticism.

There can no longer be a closing of dialogue where the West cannot speak on the doctrines of Islam because they are not partakers (That applies to all organized religion too, especially the Catholic Church). People who draw Muhammed must no longer be threatened with attacks on their life.

When Islamic women and men speak up about the sins of Islam, they must stop being silenced. If humanity is going to take steps into the future with better technology and more dangerous weaponry, then we need to solve this problem with Islam and gradually to organized religion at all.

If not it will doom us way before we get there…

Thank you for reading and if you enjoyed this article follow my podcast on Twitter @MccrayMassMedia for more likewise discussions.

Cover Image Credit:

https://unsplash.com/photos/JFirQekVo3U

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Representation In Media Matters

I can finally see a character who looks like me and isn't stereotype.

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Growing up my parents made a conscious effort to buy dolls, books, and watch TV shows and movies with characters that looked like me. Both my parents were born in the heat of the civil rights movement, and let's just say the media was and still is controlled predominantly by white, straight, cis-gendered men. Hollywood (television & film) being one of the most successful exports for the United States. That being said, the media should feel obligated to represent the people that consume it, not just white, straight, cis-gendered men.

A prime example of how representation impacts community, was the release of "Black Panther." Personally, I saw the film THREE times and in two countries. I guess you could say I was a bit excited to see characters that 1) looked like me and 2) weren't the stereotypical rolls already portrayed in media. The film has broken several records: highest-grossing Superhero film in the U.S., first film since "Avatar" to spend five consecutive weeks at Top of Box Office, and top-grossing Opening Weekend for a film with a predominately Black cast. Clearly, there's a market for Black films. *side-eye @ Hollywood*

For the first time, Black characters were the heroes and kings and queens in a major blockbuster, not the villains or sidekicks. Also, the relationship between male and female characters weren't divisive and or used as an opportunity to belittle each other. Many of my family and friends raved about how they felt acknowledged by mainstream media. So many posts on social media praised the film and showed appreciation for its representation. More films and televisions need to be released to tell the stories of all minorities (racial, gender, sexual orientation, and religion) but their needs to be a change in the development and production departments to accurately depict these stories. There's a need for underrepresented populations to be in charge of their stories and the means of delivery.

This past June, I attended a conference hosted by the T. Howard Foundation, who focuses on diversity in media by providing college students with internships through partner companies such as but not limited to: Turner, Viacom, and NBCUniversal. During many of the panels, some questions included "how does it feel to be the only POC in the room? How do remain true to your own voice? Why are you interested in media?". The majority of answers to these questions all began with, "growing up I didn't see myself...". Authentic stories and portrayals come from the people who experience them.

No child should have to grow up feeling invalidated or that their experiences don't matter because they are represented in the media.

The reason I pursued a degree in Communications is that I want underrepresented populations to have media as an outlet to express themselves. We consume so much media every day and the landscape is rapidly changing. We have the opportunity to make sure the next generation isn't in the same position as we are now.

Cover Image Credit:

Photo by Steven Van on Unsplash

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