The quotation below, from the Atlantic video "Mass Incarceration, Visualized" helped illuminate how entangled and truly systematic racist policies are in the United States. It also highlighted how we have chosen the response of labeling individuals (especially Black individuals, particularly Black men) as criminals, sending them to prison (a punishment), instead of addressing underlying economic, social, or mental health issues that very understandably result from an inherently unfair system:
"The underlying issue is: we've chosen prison as a way to respond to that problem of crime. And there are a whole variety of ways that we could have chosen to respond to that problem of crime. We've chosen the response of the deprivation of liberty, and we've chosen chosen the response of the deprivation of liberty for an aggrieved group whose liberty in the United States was never firmly established to begin with."
The visual that accompanied this quotation displayed many alternative responses to crime, especially non-violent crime, including: mental health treatment, community service, drug courts and rehab, house arrest, parole and probation, halfway houses, and others. In many cases, non-violent crimes especially are only manifestations of deeper issues, and a punitive response sets the individual and group up for additional conflicts, not having addressed his or her needs in any concrete way. Worse still, as mentioned in the video, the children of incarcerated parents suffer significant economic and mental health burdens, potentially setting them up to perpetuate the same struggles.
Pulling the lens back to view economic deprivation as well as the deprivation of liberty, policies such as redlining intentionally withhold critically-needed loan funds to Black families and businesses. Without the ability to buy homes or start businesses, economic sustainability is nearly impossible. With school revenues being tied primarily to property taxes, communities unable to create sustainable homes and business are also often unable to provide strong educational opportunities for students. Black Americans, especially poor Black Americans, are living in a system that is designed for them to fail.