Racism is different in prison. There are at least three kinds of racism in the US. First is the kind most of us are familiar with on the outside: color blind people who would never use the N-word and who might even thoroughly examine their prejudices and micro-aggressions against others, but would never put their body or their time on the line to have the back of someone who’s getting beaten or killed. The second kind is the overt nazis, the tattooed aryan gang members who have bizarre and reprehensible ideas about who is responsible for their class position and personal hardships. Prison is full of these folks, but I have heard many stories of them jumping in when a guard is kicking the shit out of a black guy, or starving them in a torture cell. Under certain circumstances, they are ironically, better allies than the most conscientious of liberals. The third kind of racism is the systemic racism that continues these institutions of white supremacy that we have inherited from our history of slavery and genocide. Prisoners of color often seem to be able to understand how to leverage an uncomfortable cooperation with the second kind of racism to take on the third, and we try to join them in that.
Coordination across racialized gang lines has been a feature of most recent major prisoner’s movements. It was in the list of demands coming out of Georgia, the Agreement to End Hostilities from gang-identified leaders in the California hunger strikes, and in the background of other activities. It isn’t accurate to use broad brush words like solidarity, or unity to describe these things, though in some instances, prisoners do use that language, like in the 1993 Lucasville Uprising where prisoners spray painted “convict unity”, “black and white together” and even “convict race” on the walls of the occupied cell block. Strategic coordination against common enemies seems more likely. There have also been prisoners who reject that strategy and condemn outside supporters who adopt it. But IWOC hasn’t had a terrible lot of conflict about this, as of yet.
Read more | “Organizing the Prisoner Class: An Interview with IWOC” | Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee | It’s Going Down