Let’s Talk About What it Means to Be a Convicted Felon
disclaimer: this is my own personal account so i won’t respond to fuckery and if you cite without proper citation and permission, it’s your ass. this story about the young Black girl being charged as an adult for a science project gone wrong inspired this.
i am someone who has been convicted of a felony. it was non-violent and drug dealing related. this criminal justice allows felonies for people who are arrested with others in possession of drugs even when you aren’t found with them on your person. since this happened, starting when i was 17 and something i had to deal with in court until 2010 so basically 4 years, i lost a lot of “friends”, my mother had people telling them their children couldn’t come over and be with my sister, i’ve had people ask about whether i am taking drugs because i lost a ton of weight due to stress. but one of the most impactful things that happened is i could no longer find work.
being a convicted felon means it doesn’t matter how skilled or long you’ve worked in a field. it doesn’t matter that i have an associates. or a bachelors degree. or soon a master’s degree. every single company pretty much in the company has the legal right to discriminate against me without impunity. there is no legal recourse convicted felons can take when they are denied time and time and time again for jobs they apply and are qualified for. recently, companies like staples and others had to pay large fines for simply phasing out people who have checked yes on the question, have you been convicted of a felony. and when you are perpetually unemployed, employers also have been found to discriminate against you for being unemployed and not currently working.
this is on top of being Black. perceived a woman. mentally ill. and queer. which already contribute to my marginalization and to the marginalization of many other people in that situation. when i was hired by a temp agency i was immediately fired after my record came back, despite being told i was the best temp the office had in awhile. after applying time after time i couldn’t work. i ended up dancing at a club for a few years. something that also contributes to stigma and showed me who my true friends are. it was the only way to keep a roof over my head and eat and still go to school. you know how many queer people of color go to jail simply for this crime of sex work to survive? for selling drugs to survive? for doing whatever they need to survive. when we are already pushed out of everything.
as a convicted felon, all comments in articles about my ass and people in my position say i deserve whatever i got. whatever it is violence, abuse, firing, r*pe in prison or many other things, people in the US believe felons deserve it. there is a completely racial nature to this of course in a white supremacist nation that thrived off free labour of enslaved Black people and then denied them reparations and continue to lock them up for more free labour and to support an economic system designed to terrorize us.
as a convicted felon, i can’t own a gun even though as a black queer perceived woman i am more likely to face death at the hands of a partner or by the police or other types of similar violence. being a convicted felon means you can never touch a weapon even if you were always non-violent. it means you will go to jail again if you are ever caught with a gun even if it’s to save your life.
as a convicted felon, it means all acts of violence against me will be questioned as questionable. even though black women already face that dilemma. it means that my entire background will be scrutinized and used as an excuse to do whatever the fuck people please.
as a convicted felon, i am held up as a bad Black person, holding back the good Black folk. i can’t stay out of trouble, get a job, stop being involved with the wrong men or the wrong work or get off the pole and just do right. these are the same people who blame black women as the fall of the black community and do backflips to deny white supremacy and anti-blackness.
as a convicted felon, i am always afraid of the police. i never feel safe to ask for help. i am at the verge of breaking down every time i see the cops. my heart stops every time i hear a siren. i get cold sweats and have bad dreams about the times guns have been thrown in my face, being thrown on the grown, having my doors busted in and being called everything under the sun. i am told it’s only a few bad apples when this kind of generational violence at the hands of police is something my people have experienced for over a hundred years.
as a convicted felon, i am what you warn your kids not to be. not to become. not to aspire to.
as a convicted felon, a white man with a felony conviction is more likely to be hired than a black person without a felony conviction. leaving me to ask, where does that leave me?
as a convicted felon, i am no longer eligible for any form of public assistance, be it food stamps, welfare, public housing, nothing. i can’t ask for help from the government i pay taxes into when i do work. i can’t utilize these so called “safety” nets. as someone who is lucky to have family who on one side has a bit of wealth cause they are white, i have been able to survive somehow. but not everyone has that. where does that leave black babies and children of convicted felons? where does that leave homeless people who have been convicted of felonies trying to get back on their feet? where does that leave sex workers convicted of felonies dying to change their career? where does this give us the resources to create generational wealth or a foundation when we can’t even get a mcdonalds job sometimes.
as a convicted felon, it means that if i got this conviction while on financial aid, i would never get financial aid ever again. ever. despite that they want me to stop selling drugs, stop dancing, stop doing what i do. despite the fact that you need support and financial backing to do that. despite the fact that education is one of the few opportunities to upward mobility black women have. all these black men we say are in prison instead of college. how the fuck you expect them to get to college when the black family wealth is less than $10,000? what is that going to do for these people who need funding? but oh, you wanna pump drugs into OUR communities, convict us for selling or being addicted and then deny us every institutional outlet available to try and survive and get one step forward.
as a convicted felon, i am always afraid i will never get ahead. no matter how educated. no matter how much i do that is acceptable in the eyes of white society. i can never stop paying for a crime of survival. ever. i always have to explain, apologize. and this fear is based on reality, the reality that every college i apply to, every job i apply to, asks about my background or runs a check. and has every legal right to excuse me no questions asked.
y’all wanna charge Black girls as felons for doing SCIENCE projects and tell us it’s not racist? it’s not terrorism? it’s not genocide? it’s not selling our children for a price? you wanna tell us to pull our pants up, go to school, talk white, act right, study, do this, do that, and even when that happens if we cough the wrong way we could end up in jail and lose everything. yall wanna treat Trayvon Martin like he was convicted of a felony and deserved to die simply for being found with a weed baggie at school? yall wanna act like going to church and being good for the white man is going to save Black people when we have over a million of our people in jail and even more with felony convictions. when healthcare, education, proper housing, safety and all that depend on some type of wealth. that no matter how hard a community bands together they can only support each other so much without those resources.
you wanna tell us we want more stop and frisk? you wanna tell us we need to be targeted more? that we are the description. that our kids need to go from school to prison. for what? to serve you as the slaves you so long to legally get back and have maintained in the shadows for generations.
wanna talk about what it means to be convicted as a felon? how about you fucking ask us? think about what you are going to put this girl through. what you have put millions of us through. what you plan to put millions more through. think about what your white silence and guilt does. it fucking kills. and your respectability politics. it fucking kills. you wanna cry about twerking and hip hop ruining our children when this is a possibility. fuck outta here. this is what it means to be a convicted felon. it’s fucking terror.