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Bloom Into Your

Best Self. . .

February 2019


Walk A Day In My Culture. . .


Systemic Oppression (Part Three)

The Legal System
Welcome back, I hope you have been enjoying the systemic oppression series I have been doing. Today is part 3 of the 4 part series I am doing on this topic. Next month we will conclude this series with the final system that I feel oppresses Black people, but for now let's focus on today's topic, which is the legal system.

The legal system comprises of so many different parts, so I felt the need to address some subsystems within the legal system that I feel are oppressive. If I simply talk about the legal system as a whole, it will be easy to get lost in the shuffle and not see why I feel this entire system has some very oppressive qualities. So today, to help really break down the oppression of this system, I am going to talk about 3 areas under the umbrella of the legal system that I feel are oppressive.


Many of us know that African-Americans are more likely to be incarcerated than other races, this has been a well-known fact for years. But not only are we more likely to be incarcerated, we make up more of the prison population in America than we do in the general American population. Why is that? Why is it that Black people are more likely to be sentenced more harshly and serve longer sentences than our white and non-black counterparts for the same exact crime? Because the system is oppressive.

Think about it, the generations of slavery that we suffered was in essence forced incarceration. We were forced into slavery (incarceration), not because of our actions, but because many White Americans felt it was right at the time simply because of the color of our skin. It is very hard to unlearn years of that mentality. The mentality that Black people deserve to be wrongfully incarcerated. It's even harder to unlearn this mentality when we now have "laws" in place that almost justify the incarceration of Black people. But even the laws are oppressive, because they are not equally enforced.

Many African-Americans may make the mistake of breaking the law, which lands them in prison, but I say again the law is oppressive. And I can hear you now: "Well if you break the law, you have to deal with the consequence Narissa!" Yes, this is true. I couldn't agree with you more. BUT here is my counter. White-Americans, Asian-Americans, Latino-Americans, and any other American can break the same exact law, and their consequence is not as harsh. Why is that? Why aren't the laws as harsh for these races? And don't tell me they are the same, because if they were the statistics would be very different. Do your research on prison incarcerations according to race if you don't believe me.


When an African-American finds themselves in legal trouble, or simply needing legal support to fight an unjust situation, it is hard to find adequate, unbiased legal representation. I say adequate because many times when a Black person finds themselves in a situation needing a lawyer, cost can become an issue. We all know lawyers are not cheap. So in many cases the options that are left are appointed lawyers, aka public defenders. These lawyers are often overworked and underpaid, which can be a recipe for disaster when needing a lawyer to give their all to your case.

But let's say an African-American can afford a lawyer, this is where my unbiased comment comes in. Many lawyers are not of color. This can be detrimental if you are Black, your lawyer not culturally competent, and they have preconceived ideas and stereotypes about the Black community. This may seem like a harsh generalized statement, but this happens on a conscious and unconscious level more than we want to admit. And it happens often.

Pushing the envelope even further, let's say that all of those hurdles are overcome so to speak. You have a lawyer that gives their all to your case and they are culturally competent. What about the jury or the judge? What does that representation look like? Again, many judges and jury participants are not people of color, making it even more difficult for the Black person in court to experience the diversity and cultural understanding that may be needed in their case (see cultural tidbit section). So unless every judge and jury member has undergone true cultural awareness and sensitivity training, it is very likely that their bias will seep into the court room. And that bias can result in what I mentioned a few paragraphs ago. . . "Black people are more likely to be sentenced more harshly and serve longer sentences than our white and non-black counterparts for the same exact crime."


This subsystem seems to be the revolving horror story for many African-Americans. The police are oppressive, and unfortunately nothing is changing for us as a community, even in 2019. This was evident a few months ago when I was watching the popular TV show Empire with my husband. The director did a wonderful job of portraying how it feels to be Black in America regarding the police. I remember what I said to my husband like it was just last night because this is how real and heartfelt the scene was:

"I'm so glad they showed that!" I told my husband with excitement. "I think it is so good that they have used this platform to speak to this issue so that America can see how we feel and what we go through."

I remember being simply over joyed at what I was seeing on the TV screen. I felt that it was great to air this on a local channel and a popular show, because so many people easily forget how this system oppresses Black people. I was glad that the network supported this brief, but powerful, scene on their show (see cultural tidbit). It got me to thinking even further about how oppressive the police can be.

As Black people we are often profiled while driving, while in public, and to be honest while in our own neighborhoods. The police are not safe for Black people and I personally wouldn't want to call them if I needed them. I get tense when a cop pulls up behind me or if my husband stops talking while driving because a cop has pulled up behind him. I immediately start to pray if my husband mentions that his brother had to call him back because he was pulled over by a cop. Why? Because there is ALWAYS risk of me or my loved ones losing our life, simply because the police have a negative outlook on Black people. You may feel like I am being biased because I'm a Black woman, but think about this with me.

Why is it that we are often gunned down or harassed more than any other race? If police are able to de-escalate non-black people, but kill African-Americans without attempting to de-escalate first, there is something wrong and oppressive with that picture. If police are able to ignore someone speeding or texting and driving in plain sight, but they pull over a Black person for a "routine traffic stop," that is oppressive. The sad thing, is that a majority of the time, it is the police who introduce African-Americans to the previous subsystems I talked about earlier. When getting pulled over by the cops, that is normally the interaction that leads us to being incarcerated and struggling to find appropriate legal representation. Again I say, this is a subsystem that is very oppressive.

Today I didn't want to give you some great tip on what to do to fight systemic oppression, or what to do to be more culturally aware regarding the oppression of the legal system. I simply wanted you to read, take it in, and begin to think critically on your own about these things. I hope that was accomplished. I hope you thought (and continue to think) further about these systems. I hope you can think critically about the things that are wrong and oppressive about the legal system and find a way on your own to bring awareness to this issue. Because as I always preach, to be truly culturally aware, you must take some action steps on your own. Until March. . .
A Friendly Reminder

I just want to remind you all again that I am on maternity leave and due next month around the time that my newsletters are normally is released. Please be patient with me if I don't send out the newsletter next month as scheduled. If this happens that most likely means that my husband and I have had our little blessing. But don't worry, I DO NOT intend on no longer writing my newsletter when our bundle of joy comes. I may simply take a TINY break or not send the newsletters out exactly as scheduled. I hope you all can be understanding and patient if I disappear for a moment, and trust that it really will just be a moment. I appreciate the support from all of you over the years. And please know that even with this transition I plan on continuing to bring you culturally aware content that I hope you continue to find useful.
Snippet For Next Month's Topic

Because you all voted for me to cover an extra system that I feel is oppressive, it will be a complete surprise next month on what the last systemic oppression topic will be. So I have not included a snippet to keep you guessing. Let your mind run wild with all the unfortunate possibilities of the many systems out there that can be deemed as oppressive to the African-American community.
Cultural Tidbits

This month I want to stimulate your learning in a different way, so I have only included one article for you to read. Everything else in this section are videos for you to watch at your leisure. Take a look below. I have given a brief description of each video, along with the length of the video so you can pick and choose what is right for you.

Take a read at this article below written by Robert Wright. He gives his take on the problem with the racial makeup of court room juries and how this affects individuals who have a legal case against them.

Take a look at the 1:44 minute video below, which is from the scene in Empire that I described in the newsletter. Taraji P. Henson does an excellent job expressing how Black people feel regarding the police.
Some of you may find this video hard to watch, I did. It was emotional for me because the sad thing about the video is this is really how things are in the black household. I remember my mother having this talk with me, I have had clients share how difficult having this talk with their kids was, and sadly my husband and I will need to have this talk with our baby sooner rather than later. Although is difficult to watch, I encourage everyone to watch it. The video is 5:31 minutes long.
Watch this video below to see how Jamil Jivani talks about his experience with the police and what he feels needs to happen to make a change. This video is 10:34 minutes long, take a watch.
Listen below to how Danielle Outlaw talks about the need for change in the police force. She is the chief of police in Portland, Oregon and her perspective as a cop is needed. The video is 16:40 minutes long.
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