Does being young and Black in America predetermine an encounter with the prison system?

Increasingly, the answer is an unfortunate yes.

In America in general and in New York City in particular, prison is inextricably linked to the lives of young Black men and women who by all accounts are non-violent citizens.

Black Ink Crew shows that American incarceration policies are specifically designed for violent offenders. Law enforcement is not meant to enforce meaningful laws or protect Black citizens. It is in existence solely to disrupt the everyday lives of Black men, women, and families, who commit no harms to society that should compel the heavy hand of the white night stick. Latino populations also feel the heavy hand of white injustice, as they are also increasingly policed and incarcerated for absolutely no law enforcement reason.

O’Sh*t is one of these men, whose life has become entangled with the prison system for absolutely no law enforcement reason. He initially became entrapped in the courts when the police stopped him in a vehicle. For all we know, the only crime he committed was the fictitious crime of driving while Black.

During the stop, the police found a gun in the glove compartment of the vehicle. The gun doesn’t belong to O’Sh*t. In fact, it is a military-issued weapon that belongs to the woman whose car he borrowed. She happens to be in the U.S. military. As the car is not his own, he was unaware that a weapon ever existed in the car. There’s also the question of why does a police officer need to search the vehicle for a routine traffic stop? Of course, that point is conveniently left out of white media.

For a Black man in America, a simple misunderstanding like “This gun isn’t mine. It belongs to someone who fights for the U.S. military” is enough to disrupt one’s entire life course. It becomes reason to brand a Black man as a delinquent criminal. And as Michelle Alexander and the New Jim Crow points out, once a Black person is branded as a criminal, they are legally discriminated against–prohibited from voting, prohibited from having a job, prohibited from living in certain areas, and prohibited from fully participating in society – mass disenfranchisement.

Useless charges on non-violent people do not make our streets safer. They only disrupt the lives of Black men, his families, and communities.

In this episode, O’Sh*t goes to a routine check with his bailbondsmen. The bailbondsmen are already upset that O’Sh*t checks in only once every two weeks when he is supposed to report every week—another way that white men unnecessarily police and monitor Black men’s lives.

The bailbondsmen erupt into a fit and re-arrest O’Sh*t over what appears to be a modicum of what they call “an uncontrolled substance.”

This arrest comes as quite a surprise. We have heard countless discussions in white media about how “drugs” should be decriminalized and how some “drugs” actually are helpful to people. We even see vignettes of white toddlers who are able to enjoy their privileged lives due to their experimentation with marijuana, though in these cases whites are adamant that the use of “an uncontrolled substance” is strictly “medical.”

For all this talk about decriminalization of non-violent offenders in America and in New York City, on Black Ink Crew we begin to understand that these policies do not apply to Black communities.

This treatment of O’Sh*t gives me little confidence that white law enforcement have any plans to stop locking Black men up for absolutely no law enforcement reason. Instead, these police officers have every intention to continue to disrupt Black men’s and women’s lives to feed their prison industrial complex home business. Black Ink Crew gives us an up-close view of how this system of oppression works against Black men, women, and families.

If O’Sh*t has to go back to prison, he won’t be able to be by his fiancee Anya’s side when she gives birth to their first child, his third.

Sky is also recently dating a man in jail, who got locked up for driving without a license. Again, a non-violent offense in New York City that is accompanied with jail time. If these two examples are packed into one episode of Black Ink, how many other instances are there of Black men and women whose lives are affected by unnecessary policing of non-violence?

Sky intends to try to make the relationship work, despite her new beau’s unfortunate encounter with white law enforcement. The Season 3 premiere also gives us a short sneak peek from a future episode, where Sky herself might face years in prison.

These brushes with white law enforcement on Black Ink Crew are an example of how everyday Black men and women, attempting to run a business and work in America, in other words trying to just live, upon all the challenges those ventures bring, have to also deal with white law enforcement for absolutely no law enforcement reason.

America continues to lock up non-violent Black men, while white murderers are free to terrorize Black communities for as long as they shall live.

How long will these white crimes against Black humanity endure, not just on Black Ink Crew but in the lives of Black men and women everyday and everywhere?


  1. America in 2015 is not different from America 1714. Once a Black man is labelled a criminal – for absolutely no law enforcement reason – now it is legal to treat them as not human. In the same way when an African in 1714 was labeled a slave there were no longer human. That is America. This is the so-called Land of the Free. Hehe! Yeah right!

    • This is America – Land of the Brave. If white folks were so brave, they would fight for the equality of all because they will be so brave they would not be afraid of competing without cheating! Putting Black men in jail for non-violent offenses and then labeling them as criminals is cheating. White privilege is cheating because it does not only deny Africa Americans from gaining access to the opportunities in their own country, it goes much further than that; white privilege goes so far to prevent, disrupt, and deny Black humanity. This is all what America is – a country so stooped in barbarity. And they call is civilization. Hehe, yeah right!

  2. Some would see O’Sh*t and say, “well he could have taken more personal responsibility to keep himself from getting into jail”. As in taking personal respoonsibility to keep from getting thrown into jail because he decided to take a friends care, an American Soldier’s car, for s spin?
    O’Sh*t really. The joke that America is.

  3. People are allowed to be irresponsible, but does that make them criminals? I hear a lot of idiots call these Black men irresponsible here and there. Irresponsible? I know a lot of white irresponsible men. And they are not in jail. I have seen a lot of white kids sell and smoke drugs at every corner of my neighborhood. But they are not in jail?? My brother is in jail for being at a party where white boys were using drugs. He is in jail. But I keep seeing his white party friends selling real estate in my neighborhood. And they ask me about my brother and how he is doing! As if they care? America – land of the free? Yes, for white people. What a civilization? This one will go down in history as the most barbaric people the world has ever known. It’s absolutely ridiculous!

  4. Yeah sister Afiya X. I know what you mean meen. It’s a war here in America against Black men. What did we ever do to white men some 3000 years ago. I would really like to know. Did we sodomize them? Why are they so angry with Black men? Why are white people so angry with Black men? I would really like to know!

  5. White America loves to beat our heads of Black men and personal irresponsibility! It’s the American anthem. Its just that being irresponsible, as in not taking care of your child because white people threw your ass in jail, is so much better than systematically killing other people who don’t look like yourself – Native American Genocides, Slavery, Mass Incarceration, Terrorism. Yeah, I will pick irresponsibility over those animalistic behaviors any day. Why? I have always been more civilized. I descended from the people who gave the world this thing – civilization. If others can re-learn it again from us, I bet all’a you, the world would be a much better place – not this sh*thole they turned it into.

  6. America, is it a Civilization or is it Barbarism? The violence that African Americans suffer, I will argue is not just a result of racial difference, which white people mostly see. It’s more. The history of the West, compared to the rest of the world is one that is steeped in violence against others who are different. Look at the WWI and WWII – just Europeans killing one another in a conscious attempt to wipe one another off the planet. Look at Adolf Hitler? Are you really surprised?

    There is a pattern of behaviour here. One day the argument should confront the nature and psyche of Western Values more. The arrow of time points in a direction that continues to show that America must confront its violent past and present the way it is, with a deep understanding from a painful look in the mirror that they are by nature violent. That would be a start to ending the racial problems in America and indeed the world.

    American history, like European history, is an extremely violent one. That is the dialogue we should be having and then the issues about Mass Incarceration of Black men in America will become clear. Much clearer.

    America needs to ask itself if they want to walk on the sacred paths of Civilization, like the Ancient Egyptians did, or whether they want to continue on this path of barbarism. No history will remember the American history, or the American Experiment as they like to call it, and its treatment of Native Americans and its enslaving of Africans in America, Jim Crow, Rockefeller Laws, the War on Drugs/Blacks, etc. as a history of modernity and freedom. History will no doubt remember this land as the most barbaric people that ever walked the planet.

    But there is hope!
    American can change. For a start, in order to build a brighter future. I doubt it can change though.

  7. America since slavery has been at war with its Black men. No place else in the world would tolerate this. Says who? Me? Who am I/ Just a Black man in America, yes!

  8. Oshit lives in an extremely tough world. America is the Black man’s war zone come to think of it. This is ridiculous.

  9. Ooooooooo, the poor black man, required to follow rules and laws of society, yet, he is persecuted for not doing the ONE thing asked of him, OBEY THE LAW! Lol, I love the way that you incriminate the subjects of your bleeding heart outburst, with the very words meant to defend them! Equally as hilarious are the pseudo-intellectual comments left by devotees of so called “black culture” and their attempts to portray America as an “anti-black” state. Why is it that blacks can always find the energy to cry, riot, play basketball, and commit felonies, yet, never have the motivation for self-improvement?

  10. Dindu Nuffin – most of them didn’t ask to be apart of that sick society they currently live in. I do agree, “Why is it that Blacks can always find the energy to cry, riot, play basketball, and commit felonies, yet, never have the motivation for self-improvement?” Maybe Blacks should become more violent as whites and whites of the diaspora to get things moving more quickly. But from your comment, I doubt you actually live over here like I do. Are you getting most of your info from websites, white news, or social media??? I wish ALL, both natural born and stolen Africans would dump this anglo saxon way of thinking and not be too afraid to separate and do our own thing regardless of how “primitive” you other monkeys may think… Just sayin.

  11. @Dindu Nuffin: Do you know how corrupt and manipulative we Black folks would have to become to get to a place where we can “self – improve”??? W/ a the policies and laws set up the way they… we mind as well start shooting and ravaging like the white and Chinese! Chinese are only doing what is acceptable to to Euros… they want to fit in and not be burden like we are. Nuffin if you can get how this system is set up over here to keep Blacks in OUR/their places, I’m just wasting my breath w/ you (which I’m a assuming is already happening). I’m not about that crying… I’m about that action. And I’m not about to jig, dance, sing, shoot a ball through a hoop, or belittle my people to make it over here… hell we help BUILD THIS COUNTRY AND THE “white” HO– USE the dictator sits in. Obama I respect be he is a puppet after all. Black man in the office here in THIS country, means it’s the end of the world or a ploy of some sort HA HA HA.


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