A BAG OF BOOKS by Sean Swain

[Segment from Final Straw radio show, aired 04Feb18]
Daniel Simpson is already home. He went home Tuesday. But, an experience he had a couple weeks ago is pretty illustrative, demonstrating how hateful, petty, and racist these prison fascists are.
Before he went home on Tuesday, Daniel was one of those prisoners who gets involved in every program he can. He was involved in education and I knew him from Toastmasters, which is an international organization that provides a forum for improving public-speaking skills. Daniel might be one of the funniest dudes I ever met.
One of the best speeches he gave at Toastmasters, however, was a serious one, recounting how former slave and later slavery-abolitionist Frederick Douglass was forbidden from reading as a child, and all that Frederick Douglass had to do in order to secretly learn to read. Daniel made the point, as a black man himself, how frustrated he felt that descendants of slavery take for granted the opportunity to read, how knowledge is power, and how disempowered folks not struggling to obtain information are dooming themselves.
Kind of ironic, but a couple of weeks ago, not long after Daniel delivered that speech about Frederick Douglass, Daniel headed to breakfast chow before going to class. He had a net bag over his shoulder full of books, one of them being the Autobiography of Frederick Douglass. Daniel was immediately approached by white staff who asked him what he was doing. He explained that he was coming to eat before he went to class. They asked him what he had in the net bag and he told them– books.
The staffer then laughed and asked Daniel why he had books when he “can’t read.” The white staffer, in the long history of oppressive and racist disempowerment, felt it was appropriate to assume that anyone black is illiterate– and should be.
Not that I need to point out that if the staffer had eaten less lead paint and was himself better at reading, he might not have to spend thirty years doing the miserable job of locking other humans in cages, or taking out his unhappy childhood on a population slightly more disempowered than himself. He wouldn’t have to spend his adulthood stalking around like a bully with a can of pepper-spray, dressed in a gray uniform so reminiscent of confederate soldiers whose legacy this baboon is all too happy to continue.
At any rate, Lieutenant Holt also approached and as she did, Daniel was told not to say another word or he’d get pepper-sprayed in the face. So, as the lieutenant asked questions, Daniel was in a Catch-22. If he didn’t answer her questions, he was in trouble. If he did, he would be assaulted.
Quick sidenote, but Warren Corruptional is the second-most violent Ohio prison in large part because white staff quite frequently pepper-spray black prisoners for the slightest and most-ridiculous reasons and then play “blame the victim,” tailoring their stories to make their assault victim appear at fault.
Looking at the stats, you’d almost think that black prisoners transferred to Warren with no history of staff assault suddenly got violent– like there’s something in the water. If you don’t believe the “something in the water” theory, then you almost have to take a critical look at staff.
So, threatened with assault by a staffer with a can of cancer-chemicals, Daniel didn’t speak. But really, he shouldn’t have to. He had an education I.D. and he was, after all, carrying a bag of books– not a bag of bombs. I would suggest to you that if someone white– like me –came to chow with a bag of books (like I frequently have), no one would have looked at the white prisoner twice.
But, Daniel, a model prisoner, did not have the luxury of white privilege. Being black and carrying books still provokes suspicion, just as it did in Frederick Douglass’ day. And just like the regime of those former plantations, the brutal forces of racist oppression still seek to disempower.
Books, in black hands, constitute “contraband.” Possessing them results in getting escorted to segregation.
On top of all of that, according to the conduct report– which might, through the magic of the interweb, get scanned and posted at –Daniel getting accosted and standing silently with books, and enduring abuse, constituted several rule violations including “creating a disturbance” and “disrespect to an officer.” So, according to white staff, a black prisoner getting harassed for carrying books is responsible for the “disturbance,” not the pigs who harassed him and offended the sensibilities of everyone who saw the event.
This is the real mentality of Ohio’s prison complex.
I saw Daniel go home on Tuesday. He was walked to the gate early in the morning, escorted by a white staffer who was openly sneering as Daniel strode toward the gate, taking with him nothing other than that bag full of books.
This is Anarchist Prisoner Sean Swain from Warren Corruptional in Lebanon, Ohio. If you’re reading, you ARE the resistance…

* * *
Sean Swain
DOC A243-205

Categories: books, Sean Swain

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