Complexion for the Connection
This is the second installation by our incarcerated friend who is participating in Project Solidarity, our Pen Pal project. He sent this to us requesting we publish under the name, 'Black Skin'
Upon arriving at Attica Correctional Facility , during the Million Man March (MMM), I faked being sick so I could watch the MMM on my black and white television. When I went to the sick call (SC) the white nurses and Correction Officers (CO's) made racial comments to me such as, "He's a Black Muslim who's probably gonna watch his Black Muslims march, right, Lamar?"
Not too long after the MMM we prisoners staged a protest against the double bunking operation, which was televised on the news. That's when I really started experiencing racial /religious tension building by white CO's and other staff. My program was stationed in the metal shop where I assisted in cutting metal shapes according to blueprints.
While walking to and from my unit, white CO's would pick me out of the line and place me on the wall for a pat and frisk. At first I was not aware of the systemic discrimination, but when I walked with a white prisoner, he was never pulled out of line. When I walked with another Black prisoner, either both of us were pulled out or one of us, but never the white prisoner.
White CO's would slap me on the head, asking if I had weapons on me. My reply was always no. One time, while I was coming from the yard, a white CO ordered me out of the line, called me over to his desk, and verbally abused me for wearing my kufi, a head covering worn by Muslims and allowed by NYS-DOCCS rules [Directive 4202,XIII (A)] I was physically and verbally threatened by the hall captain, and told not to come through his hallway while he was working, which was impossible because I could not get to my programs if I did not exit through the station hall where he was present.
I questioned all of my white prisoner friends about whether they had ever experienced any of the above incidents as I had, and they replied in the negative, which led me to believe I was targeted because of my skin tone and religious beliefs. After a fabulous letter authored by my eldest sibling regarding this abuse, I was transferred to Sullivan Correctional Facility in 1996, never to return to Attica.
During my stay at Sullivan CF , my federal law suit was still pending, so I received a hostile welcoming by the white CO's who wrote a misbehavior report MR) for my religious garb as well as for the length of my beard. However, Albany Administrators and the New York Supreme Court have ruled in favor for Muslims to grow their beards past the one inch rule of DOCCS.
When the MR for the beard and religious garment was dismissed I experienced hostility by the white CO who wrote the MR's for months, until I filed a complaint of harassment against him, and informed many outside organizations of his malfeasance.
In 2004 I tried to quell a physical altercation between a white CO and Black prisoner. At the hearing I plead not guilty. The Deputy Superintendent of Programs acknowledged it seemed I was trying to quell the situation, but as I put my hands on the CO to prevent his advancing towards the inmate, I was sent to the segregation housing unit (SHU) at SCF for six months.
I was charged with physically assaulting staff, creating a disturbance, and refusing a direct order, non of which I committed.
I developed PTSD while in the SHU. I never experienced anything like it especially in isolation with another prisoner in and eight-by-eleven cell. I could not sleep for fear that the prisoner would do something to me, not knowing anything about him.
I served time with serial killers and murderers for hire, aka 'hitmen' who were treated better than myself because they were white. We termed this special treatment, 'Complexion for the Connection' because white prisoners could get away with anything, even murder.