YouTube video

Kathy Kelly, coordinator of Voices for Creative Nonviolence, talks about
race, poverty and the social,
political, and economic conditions that persist in African-American
communities across the US.

Story Transcript

PEPE ESCOBAR, ANALYST, THE REAL NEWS NETWORK: Could you talk a little bit about how does a system that calls itself democratic imprisons one in nine Blacks from the ages of 20 to 34? Is this a concerted, repressive policy to take, let’s say, theoretically dangerous elements from the streets? Is this racism? Is this economic war? Or all of the above?

KATHY KELLY, VOICES FOR CREATIVE NONVIOLENCE: One of the most terrible expressions and impositions of racist policy in the United States is borne out through the imprisonment, the spiraling rate of imprisonment of African-Americans in this country. I think it comes close to a new enslavement of people. And I think it’s very, very deliberate. And what kinds of jobs are tied up with having a high population of, quote, “criminals”? Sure, you’re going to have architects that can design prisons and new franchises that can build and maintain prisons, and there are jobs for wardens and jobs for military people—they get out of the military, they can become security officers. And you’re going to have all kinds of people that were farming the land who no longer can be farmers, so they can go and work in the prison-industrial complex. And there are lots and lots of people who have their hands in the till, making money off and profiting off of the prison industry. And I haven’t even started talking about all the corporations that employ prisoners. So it’s a very incestuous and self-reinforcing system that has developed in this country. Well, why? Why did people put up with this? I think it certainly had to do with racism, with the war on drugs being a way that people could get themselves elected, because they’d say, “I’ll be tough on crime”; but also because United States people, I think, by and large, have tended to abdicate their adult responsibilities to think, “Who are the criminals in this country? Who really threatens you and your children on an everyday basis?” The manufacturers of nuclear weapons, those who promote weapons proliferation, biological, chemical, nuclear, and they’re developing, storing, selling, and using these weapons all around the world. That’s a major threat. Those who produce acid rain, who are making the planet possibly uninhabitable. Those who develop firearms and ammunitions to distribute anywhere where there’s, you know, a store that will sell this kind of stuff. All kinds of major United States corporations whose executives are in the salons of highest power who will never see the inside of a jail. I don’t want them to go to jail either; I’d like to see them rehabilitated. But I don’t want to see another generation of young children—and children are not criminals—whose score is on test, IQ scores, determine how many prison beds are going to be constructed in states all across this country. Again, I’m myself not so focused on who is the right candidate. When I think about democracy, I’m thinking about education, and we’ve all got responsibilities to try to educate our neighbors and get people focused on the most important policy issues. It’s, you know, when we feel that a candidate is perhaps being viewed as an antiwar candidate, for instance, and doesn’t have an antiwar policy, then we’re all responsible to try to say, “Hey, what’s missing there?” and try to help people understand why the policies that are being articulated might in fact prolong the war. I haven’t seen risk-taking and bravery in anybody’s campaign other than that of Dennis Kucinich, and his was kind of short-lived. And I think certainly Nader has steadily tried to bring to attention some of the most important issues that we face.


Please note that TRNN transcripts are typed from a recording of the program; The Real News Network cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.

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Kathy Kelly ( is a co-coordinator of Voices for Creative Nonviolence (  She has been living in Kabul for the past three weeks as a guest of the Afghan Peace Volunteers (