A Quick bit of Prison History

While researching initiation rituals, I came across some descriptions of prison gangs, which led me down that rabbit hole.

I remember in Frank Lucas’s biography, Original Gangster: The Real Life Story of one of America’s Most Notorious Drug Lords, Lucas’s discussion of the effects of prison desegregation:

I got arrested for conspiracy to sell drugs and sentenced to thirty months in the federal penitentiary in Lewisburg… Doing jail time was no big deal to me. But what made it a little complicated was that they had blacks and whites desegregated. Around the time I went into Lewisburg, they’d passed some law that made it illegal to segregate prisoners. So, for the first time in the common areas and in the mess hall, black folks and white folk were together. I’m not so sue that was a good idea back then ’cause, for the most part, blacks and whites in jail were like the Bloods and Crips today.

And at Lewisburg, there were more white boys. We were outnumbered at least three to one, which just added to the tension when they started mixing us up.

If I recall correctly, Lewis once spilled a lot of hot coffee on a white inmate who was threatening him, but otherwise claimed not to have many real problems–lucky for everyone involved.

Other people have not been so lucky.

According to Wikipedia, (with slight rearrangements for narrative’s sake):

Most prisons in the United States were racially segregated until the 1960s. As prisons began to desegregate, many inmates organized along racial lines.[10] The Aryan Brotherhood is believed to have been formed at San Quentin State Prison,[11] …  They decided to strike against the blacks who were forming their own militant group called the Black Guerrilla Family.[12] …

The initial motivation for the formation of the group in San Quentin in 1964 was self-protection against an existing black prison gang. …

After being formed in California prisons in the mid-1960s, the Aryan Brotherhood had spread to most California prisons by 1975. As some of the leaders were sent to federal prison, they took the opportunity to start organizing in the federal prisons. … By the late 1970s, there were fewer than 100 members, but that grew rapidly as they absorbed other racist and skinhead groups, with over 20,000 members in the federal and state prison systems.[22]  …

By the 1990s, the Aryan Brotherhood had shifted its focus away from killing for strictly racial reasons and focused on organized crime such as drug trafficking, prostitution, and sanctioned murders.[12] … For example, Gambino crime family boss John Gotti was assaulted while incarcerated in Marion Federal Penitentiary in 1996, and he allegedly asked the Aryan Brotherhood to murder his attacker. Gotti’s attacker was immediately transferred to protective custody and the planned retaliation was abandoned.[15][16] … 

Gotti also organized a business partnership on the outside between his group and the Brotherhood on the outside, which greatly expanded the group’s power on the streets.[22] … 

According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the gang makes up less than 0.1% of the prison population, but it is responsible for between 18-25% of murders in the federal prison system.[10][15] …

Prosecuting the gang has been difficult, because many members are already serving life sentences with no possibility of parole …

That’s one hell of an unintended consequence.

I wonder if anyone knowledgeable regrets desegregating the prisons.

Everything Adults say about Bullying is Bullshit

b4Dh8A1l

It really should come as no surprise that I was bullied in school, though I know a lot of people have had it far worse than I did.

From simplicity’s sake, I’ve reduced the bullying stories I’ve heard to three basic classes:

1. Sporadic or short-term bullying. This bullying lasts less than two years and/or involves fewer than five bullies. A typical case: “After moving to a new school, two girls were mean to me for about four months, but they got bored after Christmas.”

2. Long-term bullying. These kids are consistently at the bottom of the social totem pole, for years on end. They have few to no friends; most other kids are indifferent to cruel toward them.

3. Intense bullying. The bullied child is beaten; assaulted; raped; frequently told they should commit suicide; or frequently threatened with physical violence, rape, or murder.

My own experiences lie in Type 2. I can only imagine what a hellscape life has been for folks subject to Type 3.

If there’s anything I hate, it’s lies, and oh boy, do grown ups ever lie to children about bullying. The lie generally goes something like this:

“Everyone gets bullied in school! You just have to learn how to deal with it. If you ignore the bullies, they’ll get bored and stop. And besides, they’re only bullies because they feel bad about themselves. If you could just make them feel better about themselves, you’d become magic friends!”

“I hate like the gates of Hades the man who says one thing and holds another in his heart.” Achilles, Iliad 9.314.

From a recent article in the NY Post:

  • About a quarter, or 24 percent, of girls said they were bullied compared to 20 percent of boys.
  • A higher percentage of white students — 24 percent — said they were bullied than black, Hispanic or Asian students. Twenty percent of black students said they were bullied compared to 19 percent of Hispanic students and 9 percent of Asian students.

Some lies, like the ones about how animals are kinder and more altruistic than humans, are basically sentimental slop that’s probably harmless. But the lies about bullying are a slap in the face to a kid who’s already been slapped in the face, and so deeply offensive.

Bullying is not just something sad kids do to entertain themselves. Bullying is an emergent feature of the control mechanisms of the social order. Or to put it another way, where there is hierarchy, someone is at the bottom, and that is the kid who gets bullied. Bullies, by definition, are higher-status than the kids they bully, because without status, they could not get away with bullying.

And bullies do not have low self esteem; people with low self-esteem hole up in their bedrooms and don’t talk to other humans except via the internet. Bullies have so much self-esteem, they believe themselves entitled to violently dictate the entire social order around themselves.

Seriously, have you ever looked at a picture of Hitler and thought, “If only he’d been a little more self-confident, he wouldn’t have invaded Poland.”?

High status comes in many forms, such as height, wealth, or gregarious aggression. Low status also comes in many forms, like being trusting, short, or shy. Low status people generally remain low status even after switching schools, ignoring the bullies, or otherwise following adult advice.

In a conflict between two people of unknown status, we can tell which is which by the excuses others make for their behavior. If the low-status person is the aggressor, then there will be virtually no debate. The majority of people, especially the elites, will all agree that the low-status person is to blame. If the high status person is the aggressor, then even a neutral finding that the low-status person is not at fault will not be believed, and the elites will make every excuse they can to rationalize the high-status person’s behavior. This is because the elites agree with the actions of the high-status person in putting the low-status person in their place and so preserving the social order.

Man is a political animal, after all.

Yes, I am talking about grown ups, not just kids. Bullying doesn’t go away just because you leave school. It is a fundamental aspect of human social relations. It probably can’t be eliminated, and it’s possible that trying to fully eliminate bullying would just backfire in some horrible way. We should, however, use our understanding of bullying to identify who is–and isn’t–at the bottom of the social totem pole.

(To be clear: we live in a nation of 320 or so million people (or I do, anyway.) There does not exist some great big ladder with each and every person’s absolute position ranked relative to everyone else. Different groups, times, places, etc., have different rankings; your status may be very different in Mississippi than in Oregon, or different if you’re hanging out among college students or church ladies.

Indeed, if we had some sort of absolute system, we might have less bullying, as status-displays and making sure the outgroups stay down could be less necessary.)

But let’s return to the photos at the top of the post and see where this theory leads us.

In the photo on the right, Elizabeth Eckford was one of the first nine black students to break the segregation barriers and attend a white school in Little Rock, Arkansas. While we cannot exactly call the Supreme Court a neutral, unbiased group of robots immune to human passions or politics, they are supposed to try, and they found that black students like Elizabeth were in the right, and segregationists were in the wrong.

As we can see, Elizabeth continued being the target of bullying by higher-class whites, despite an official pronouncement in her favor. At this time in Arkansas, the Feds might be able to force integration, (the Feds, after all, have the bomb,) but this did not change the local social situation. Had the whites been low-status, they would not have been allowed to bully the black students, nor would the community at large have supported or excused their behavior.

In the photo on the left, Black Lives Matter advocates stormed the stage at presidential hopeful and Senator Bernie Sanders’ recent speech in Seattle, WA.

Here are some screenshots of statements from BLM supporters on the subject:

Picture 1

 

Picture 11

 

Picture 12

Picture 14

(from the BLM Website.)

Picture 1

While the BLM folks are truthful about their ultimate agenda, nowhere is there an honest admission of what is clearly visible in the photograph: a woman screaming in Sanders’ face. That is hate, pure and simple.

Obviously Sanders, as an individual, has more power than his hecklers. But his social category–old white men–is not a category that enjoys high social status. Had Sanders’s hecklers been, say, NAMBLA representatives instead of BLM supporters, it is unimaginable that they would have been allowed to take over the stage. Those whom society hates are not allowed to run rough-shod over others; those at the bottom of the social order do not get to act like they aren’t at the bottom.

 

If you find yourself at the bottom of society, you have several options:

  1. Change your behavior to project higher status.
  2. Create/join a society of people like yourself where you aren’t at the bottom.

If powerful people are lying to you, don’t care when you are hurt, or otherwise making excuses for why people like you should be mistreated, then that is a sign that you are low status.

Sanders, of course, cannot leave or change: his political philosophy supports the social structure.