By Talib Kweli
As the nation remains in the throes of an epidemic of police shooting deaths of young blacks, as well as the shooting deaths of nine people last week at a Charleston church by a lone gunman, it's important to reflect on the extent to which racism is indoctrinated, institutionalized and entrenched in our economic system, in our hospitals, in our courts, in our schools, in our prisons and elsewhere.
When we ask the question of how to change America's perception of black men, we must understand that the perception of black people in this society is based on the preservation of white supremacy — the same white supremacy that arose from the greed of the Atlantic slave trade, the same white supremacy that created Jim Crow, the same white supremacy that creates both the military industrial complex and the prison industrial complex. Just as we go around the world bombing brown people, our prison system is clearly a way to keep poor and oppressed brown and black people in their place.
To me, the prison industrial complex is the most dangerous pinnacle of racism. If we could get rid of the prison system, that would go a long way in tapping into the thought process that shapes the nation's negative perceptions of black men.
But it's much deeper than simply getting rid of prisons. The problem is the criminalization of a people. It's all of the things that go into our entertainment and media industries, into the criminal justice system, into how the police treat us on the streets and into politics. All those things are meant to criminalize us and make us feel like our lives are less valued.