Photo by JKönigTwo days ago I talked about black families with Dr. Kris Marsh on the Mark Steiner Show. In briefly examining about how we got “here” I noted how important the prison industrial complex was, and while I really focused on the impact this had on the number of “eligible black men” I also acknowledged that the percentage of black women who were incarcerated was itself rising.
This week, Justice Strategies, a nonprofit social justice research group released a report that suggested not only that the number of people going to prison is increasing–something we already knew–but that the number of parents going to prison is increasing. Something most of us didn’t know, or at the very least haven’t thought about. While a white child today has a 1 in 25 chance that his parents will be imprisoned by the time he/she turns 14, a black child today has a 1 in 4 chance. And this rate is largely driven by the stark increase in the incarceration of black women.
Everyday I go to work, I see an ad that emphasizes how important it is for black men and women to marry, that emphasizes how important it is for black men to be a father to their children. These ads are but one of the reasons why I created the current Black Visual Politics class I teach this semester. No discussion about black family construction, about black parenting practices in the aggregate, is complete without a discussion about the role incarceration plays in structuring black life practices.