2. On Personal Philosophy, The African Diaspora & Juvenile Detention
September 5th, 2020
By Amir Dawud Akram
For Shaun Leonardo
Do you ever mentally separate yourself in the midst of a conversation and ask “Why is this person talking about this?” It seems as if though they have some extremely urgent need to explain their perspective on an issue that does not look like it really has anything to do with them or yourself directly. I have caught myself falling into this mindset many times before, and I have trained myself to now think, “Amir, if you do not humble yourself, respect this person and listen with your fucking heart, you are being an asshole and you are doing yourself a disservice”.
Please listen to the words I write with your heart. Having a young person in an environment that identifies or treats them as a criminal will lead to this person feeling intense pressure to adopt self-destructive tendencies and hate-filled ideas. Have you ever felt peer pressure before? Even when it is not accompanied by threats of physical violence, authoritative punishment or social ostracization, it is a notably compelling force. In the places where youth are locked away to “learn their lesson”, one simply becomes an animal surrounded on all fronts; tasked with the mission of surviving no matter the cost.
In American culture, especially in the past few years, being a “savage” has been popularized and glorified in the media, however in prison culture and detention centers savagery has been regarded as a necessity for a long time. One could most easily describe this as a need to be in touch with animal instincts because of all the danger they are surrounded by in those types of spaces. It is an understated fact that these spaces (that are predicated by intimidation, correction, and oppositional thinking rather than understanding, rehabilitation, and collaborative learning) are akin to schools or clubs because of the socialization that takes place in them. A youth learns how to act in order to get what they need or want out in the regular world, so why would they not do the same thing in juvie?
If you still want to think this shit is understandable and just, please just give it break. You can see the plainly dismal and corrupted nature of this institution if you put your personal hang ups and fear for disturbing the status quo to the side. Think whatever you want. Feel whatever you feel. Those things can stay between you and god for all I care. But please, for your own good, seek the damn truth, and recognize an issue as an issue. It will make your life easier. And if you critically thought about juvenile detention yourself, and listened to a delinquent kid brave enough to talk about his feelings and experiences in honesty, you’d think it’s fucked up too!
So, let’s not ask, “Why is this person talking about this?” when one discusses an industrial complex that eats up confused and vulnerable kids, and spits out dangerous and angry people. Let’s just shut the hell up, and listen with our hearts.