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Racist WaPo story, laden with mock ebonics, shames prisoners for having real food at Christmas

Racist WaPo story, laden with mock ebonics, shames prisoners for having real food at Christmas
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If you were the editor of a newspaper in the Deep South in — say — 1959, and you wanted to portray African-American prison inmates as lazy freeloaders (whilst maintaining culpable deniability by not actually explicitly mentioning race), you could hardly do better than today’s Washington Post story.

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From Adam Johnson’s FAIR.org article:

In case you were concerned that the story would not pander enough to racist stereotypes about greedy, lazy prisoners, the Post’s “‘I Been Eatin Like a Boss’” headline [me: yes, that quote was actually in the headline!] should set your mind at ease. The quote was allegedly taken from a prisoner’s personal mail  by a prison guard and selectively leaked to the Post, who decided to not only publish it without any context, but led the whole story with it, African-American Vernacular English and all. It’s unclear if it’s standard for prison guards to comb though prisoners’ personal mail to find choice quotes to advance their self-serving narratives, but the Post and the other outlets apparently found nothing suspect about this practice.

But the ebonics-shaming doesn’t end with the headline.  WaPo’s editors thought it appropriate to include more of the inmate’s private message:

“Ima end up fat i been eatin like a boss all week i just had steak, pie, chicken, potatoes, salad mac nd cheese rice all type of (things),” one wrote. “bro ibe workin out for (nothing)”

Nope — not a clue of what ethnicity is being targeted here.

First of all, what the f*ck are guards doing reading inmates’ private f*cking email?  That’s a separate topic in its own right.

Secondly — wouldn’t a paraphrase suffice, as opposed to a literal quote?  Why reveal an inmate’s race — particularly in a way that reinforces bigoted stereotypes about people of color? 

Thirdly — and arguably by far the most important — is the cruel idea that (1) inmates — who, by the way, may or may not actually be guilty of anything — don’t deserve to be treated as humans; and (2) inmates are being fed and treated better than they actually are.

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Although WaPo replaced the original photo that accompanied the article, the folks at FAIR.org were gracious enough to do a screen-capture of the original:

This photo was, to WaPo’s own admission, taken from one of DC’s most upscale steak houses.

However — a real-life actual “steak dinner” from a real-life actual prison looks more like the title photo above

Yummy!  Gee, is that genuine white bread?

The Medical Daily article elaborates further on the true day-to-day dietary conditions of prisoners.  Don’t read the entire piece unless you are ready to get very, very angry:

The meatballs hurt his stomach, the chicken patties are indistinguishable from the fish dishes, and the inmates have come to affectionately call the bologna “cow tongue.”

Prison systems have a lengthy history of poor food quality, raising questions of ethical standards, especially when it comes to the oft-used “re-rack system.” Under the re-rack system, 95 percent of uneaten food is not thrown out, but rather frozen and re-served up to seven days after it was first distributed to the inmates [emphasis mine]. Meals lack basic dietary necessities, and fruits and vegetables are absent from inmate trays unless otherwise asked for due to budget cuts.

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Do I respect the hardships that prison employees are facing due to Drumpfenfuehrer’s cruel shutdown?  Yes, of course!  But for the Washington Post, a paper I generally respect, to stoop to Jim Crow Era shaming of prisoners in general (and prisoners of color in particular) is disappointing.  Let’s hope that enough readers call them out, leading to them apologizing for this dehumanizing indiscretion.  And that we see true prison reform, particularly regarding this aberration that we call private prisons.  





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