Kevin Rashid Johnson
American prisoner and social activist
Kevin "Rashid" Johnson (born October 3, 1971 in Richmond, VA) is the Minister of Defense of the New Afrikan Black Panther Party (Prison Chapter).
- Most people don’t quite relate US prisons to government sponsored torture. We can thank the mainstream corporate media and politicians for this. Since the 1960s and 1970s they’ve persistently projected the false image of US prisons as resorts where criminal predators eat chips, lift weights, and watch videos all day, much like the images given of slavery as an experience that Black folks actually enjoyed. These false images are sustainable because the real world of prisons is a hidden one, concealed behind walls and razor wire, inaccessible to the public.
- "Amerikan Prisons Are Government-Sponsored Torture," Socialism and Democracy, vol. 21, no. 1 (2007), p. 87
Defying the Tomb: Selected Prison Writings and Art of Kevin Rashid Johnson (2010) edit
- What I was to encounter at Greensville defied anything that I’d expected. The pigs had a refined system and license for brutalizing prisoners. I was not to understand the magnitude of the situation until a few days after being there. The pigs had a tier of handpicked proxy prisoners, whom they used to violently suppress those who got out of line. The ringleader – I’ll call him Pumpkin – was a career con with a reputation for butchering other prisoners. He had a trustee job (all trustees were similarly selected). Pumpkin was allowed by the pigs to keep weapons on his person. Part of the mental terror game was that while he was out cleaning (everyone knew he was a pig hit man and stayed armed), the pigs would bring others out around him in handcuffs. ... The next day or so the pigs would put them on the exercise yard together, remove everyone’s handcuffs except the target’s (they’d put five to seven prisoners in each pen), and allow them to mob attack the still handcuffed target. Or if they wanted him butchered, he’d be unhandcuffed and left to contend unarmed against a knife-wielding Pumpkin.
- I appeared frequently in the courts – state and federal – for hearings and trials. Initially, I received routine compliments from judges – and grudgingly from defense attorneys – on my legal comprehension and ability. This all changed when I persisted in efforts to have the courts comply with the laws. I refused to accept the unwritten rule that certain issues are not to be challenged or exposed. My efforts were calculated to bring the courts to bear on DOC officials at the highest levels, to force them to change the conditions under which we lived, and conform them to basic requirements of the written laws. The courts had other plans. The state courts were not willing to grant these sorts of relief, although the letter of the law required it. They attempted instead, numerous times, to grant my release from prison.
- With the added psychological deterrent of litigation, my clashes with the pigs declined somewhat in frequency. They focused primarily on isolating me from others. Their efforts to perpetuate a discontinuity in our unity has been the pigs’ only effective weapon against me. And they’ve admitted in a thousand ways that their greatest fear is ending up with many other prisoners on their hands who think and act as I do. Their isolating me was long a tactic that I could not devise an effective countermeasure against, that is, until after 2001, when I was first exposed to revolutionary theory and have since come to understand the role of ideology. Without a unifying ideology, there can be no unity of struggle. Ideology was something I’d never had, and thus something I could not share. The prisoners who’d united in struggle with me had done so because of me. Not because of a shared principle. Therefore, when I was no longer around, they lost the initiative to struggle on.
- I still endure repression at the hands of the pigs, as do my peers. I still take a principled stand against this repression. But above all else, I am working on bringing my peers into a principled ideological and political consciousness that will give them discipline and a cause to struggle for, while simultaneously imparting to them the correct methods of mass based struggle. The pigs’ response continues to be to isolate me. Their violence has proven futile. Even in this most totalitarian of environments, innovation and relentless commitment to an ideal has proven, to my satisfaction, that the oppressive institutions are not invulnerable. Fear is our greatest hindrance. Fear and half measures. They can isolate me, but they cannot isolate an ideal.
- I have nothing and therefore nothing to lose. I have conditioned myself for every conceivable shock and strain – physically, mentally, and emotionally. I fear nothing. No threat or prospect of danger deters me; I’ve faced them all, continuously and by choice. I am willing to suffer with those who suffer, to die with those who die, and to struggle in the most extreme manner for their liberation. I’ve lived the past decade with no pleasures, no amenities, and no entertainment. I’ve conditioned myself for every extreme. This is the level of commitment that our struggle demands, and the level of commitment that I have, and those who share this commitment have my complete loyalty.
- The ruling powers tell us poor lower-class folks that we have an obligation, a social responsibility to society, to abide by the law, but they don’t have any social responsibility to us to help us meet our needs. It’s pure bourgeoisie class-based morality, a morality that serves the ruling class, not the masses of the oppressed.
- When you are poor you don’t have any social respect or social worth because everything is defined in terms of money and how much of it you have. This is what capitalism does. It turns all values into commercial values, even the value of life itself.
- I had no car, no money, and it was tough seeing others have what I didn't have even though I was working. I mean the social pressures to have the flyest ride, clothes, and financial mobility started to bear down on me. It’s hard for a person to be without these socially valued possessions and feel like a whole complete human being. [...] Reading Blood In My Eye I discovered that capitalist-private property relations are the source of class inequalities, which is the primary factor in my being a member of a class that bears all the burdens of society without enjoying its advantages. Under the influence of illegitimate-capitalist values, I was pursuing the alleviation of social-economic hardship through individual advancement. This is a wholly inadequate remedy to social problems because it doesn’t challenge the fundamental injustice of class-exploitation and class-oppression, which are responsible for creating the socio-economic ills in the first place. Unaware of my class interest, I was perpetuating my own oppression by engaging in competitive capitalist practices that ensure the smooth functioning of the system as the exploiting minority profits in more ways than one off the division and disunity engendered by competition, so prevalent amongst the exploited. Look around: competition, euphemistically called “individuality,” permeates and is systematically promoted to the masses of people while the corporate conglomerations and Fortune 500 are busy “merging and monopolizing.”
- Amerika faces no meaningful threat to its security except from those who live within its own territorial borders.
The domestic upheavals of the 1960’s and 70’s taught empire some valuable lessons on just how dangerous an informed and discontent population can be. As a result, and through a steady application of misinformation, carrots, and sticks, empire has worked steadily to drain the focus, resolve, and militancy of the informed and discontented. From that point to this, empire has manufactured a discontinuity in popular struggle, while maintaining continuity in its own growth and consolidation. One of the empire’s principal tools and weapons has been its prisons.
"Razor Wire Plantations" (2014) edit
- "Razor Wire Plantations: Amerika’s Ongoing Addiction to Slavery, Cruelty and Genocide," Turning the Tide, vol. 27, no. 1 (2014)
- Under the old North Amerikan slave system it was openly admitted that people simply will not willingly submit to bondage and unremunerated forced labor. The human spirit naturally rebels against such a condition. Therefore the wealthy interests whose economic domination, power, prestige and wealth itself relied on slave labor, had to devise a system which would compel the submission of those to be kept in bondage.
- Once U.S. prisons are recognized to be a system of enslavement, and the lie is exposed that slavery in Amerika was ever abolished, the abusive conditions that pervades them makes perfect sense.
- Every prisoner confined in Texas is forced to work without pay. ... Only those very few with documented serious medical or mental health conditions which impair work performance, and those held in the TDCJ’s torturous segregation units, are not made to work. Often those with documented medical and mental health exemptions are still forced to work – their exemptions being simply ignored. Those who refuse to work are punished, thrown in segregated confinement, and their imprisonment is typically extended.
- TDCJ prisoners still do everything from growing all the food we eat (and which the TDCJ also sells commercially for profit), raising livestock and crops on hundreds of thousands of acres of TDCJ-owned farmland (which are aptly called “colonies”), to building and maintaining the prisons that hold us. The prisoners plant, tend and harvest everything from cotton, beans, carrots and potatoes, to peanuts and more. This work is performed by “hoe squads” of prisoners using primitive manual labor methods like those of the field slaves of yesterday or Third World peasants, while armed guards on horseback “oversee” them. The prisoners, like the old slaves, refer to these overseers as “bossman”. To see one of these teams at work is to witness a scene like something ripped from an old slave movie.