Stop Punishing Us for Being Poor

Last weekend my husband and I had a chance to check out Ava Duvernay’s documentary 13th on Netflix. There’s only one word to describe how I felt after watching: PISSED.

Maybe it was because I’d just watched the video below that exposes the fact that thousands of people in Chicago are stuck in jail, because they simply can’t afford bond.

Or maybe it was because of the fact that 13th highlighted the story of Kalief Browder. Browder spent three years (without a conviction) in Rikers Island for allegations of stealing a backpack. He endured beatings from prison guards and inmates. After three years of imprisonment, Browder was released in 2013 and all of the charges were dropped. In 2015 Browder committed suicide. And you know what hurts the most? Browder’s family couldn’t afford his $3000 bond. All of this could have been avoided for $3000. It may not sound like much to some, but in developing communities it can set a family back tremendously.

All over the country in Black and Brown communities, people are punished for being poor. While our food choices consist of fast food and liquor stores, thriving neighborhoods have options that consist of whole and organic foods. Our neighborhoods are plagued with gun violence, abandoned buildings, red light cameras, and limited school choices.

When I was 12-years-old my mother moved us from the Roseland community to a south suburb. I resented her. Today, I thank her. My mother wanted to give me a better school option. Thanks to her decision I attended a blue ribbon school and was stretched beyond measure. In retrospect it made sense why some of my classmates were using a relatives address to attend our school. They lived in Chicago, but wanted a better school choice. Is that a crime? Absolutely not.

The crime is punishing people for being poor. It’s a crime to set bail at $3000 for individuals who barely make 12k per year. It’s a crime to tell Black and Brown communities to pull ourselves up from our bootstraps when we don’t have boots to begin with. And it’s a crime to limit our education to our zip code.

High quality education for EVERYONE.

P.S. It’s also a crime for student loans to call my phone and ask if I can make a payment of $8000 in full? Really?!?! They tell you to go to college and punish you for not being able to make the payments, because even if I do pay the minimum monthly payment the interest will actually cause my loan to INCREASE. Can’t win for losing.

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Tanikia Carpenter

Tanikia is a lifestyle writer & blogger from Chicago. Her work has been featured on the TLC network, ESSENCE, and Huff Post LIVE, just to name a few. Tanikia is a regular contributor to Black & Married With Kids and the columnist of JET Magazine's "Giving You the Gospel". She is also the author of "When God Said Yes" & "The 30 Day Man Fast".