After a “probation violation” landed him behind bars last year, Meek Mill has been released. Since then, he’s been at 76ers games, performed at the Rolling Loud Festival, and made appearances at The Breakfast Club and Ebro in the Morning.
He has been absolved of all charges, and the malicious figures involved in his case are being reprimanded. Through it all, the aftermath of Meek's case has a silver lining: it's showing that police brutality isn't the only injustice plaguing Black America.
Actually, prisons are a part of the problem.
Having been behind bars, here’s five things we can learn from Meek Mill's media run about mass incarceration:
1. Questionable Police Testimony
Numerous murders by the police against unarmed Black people share similar phrases: “He had a gun,” they say, or, “I feared for my life.” As Meek Mill points out, isn’t that a little crazy? That armed men who’ve been trained to detain suspects, and often arrive on the scene with numbers, would fear one person so much?
Whatever happened to "innocent until proven guilty?"
In Meek’s situation, police articulated similar phrases and used excessive force against him. One officer blamed their broken hand on him (that officer gave Meek a black eye). They also claimed he had a gun, but they had no evidence and there were no signs of shots fired.
This was before the fame, during Meek's younger days when he had braids. He served his time, but remained trapped in the system because he was on probation for over ten years.
2. How the System Criminalizes Young Blacks Early
There are more police officers in poor neighborhoods than anywhere else in the country. A group of young Black boys who are friends may be treated like a gang. Parents affected by the crack epidemic that flooded the 80s are drug addicts, or dealers.
Got braids or dreads? You must be a criminal.
Got tattoos? You must be a criminal.
Pants sagging? You must be a criminal.
Your childhood innocence can be stolen from you very quickly and easily. To hear Meek tell it, he went from playing Sega with his friend to being in the streets in the blink of an eye.
3. The Dire Conditions of Segregated Areas Called “Ghettos”
With this atmosphere of hostility and the scrutiny from hateful eyes to endure, it’s no wonder Meek didn’t feel safe. He recalls feeling like he had to get a gun just to protect himself. He recalls sprinting into the house when it got dark because the night was about to get chaotic.
These aren’t normal conditions. What people don’t understand about “ghettos” is that they’re segregated, marginalized communities. In fact, Jewish people were also trapped in ghettos in Nazi Germany.
They were also brutalized by officers that hated them, and thrown behind bars.
4. The “Drug War” Waged on These Communities
Millions have been thrown behind bars for possession and addiction to crack (which is less expensive than cocaine) during the 80s, and countless others for simple possession of marijuana during the 90s. These cases were treated like felonies when they should've been treated as misdemeanors.
In many ways, the weed smoked and the drugs taken in these places are coping mechanisms. As Meek points out, people are traumatized and therapy is expensive; when you’ve witnessed your friend get killed, how can you not spark one up and let your worries go?
5. How Probation Is Designed to Keep Offenders Trapped in the System
Lastly, the very nature of probation is meant to create repeat offenders. “Violated probation” is vague and can mean almost anything. Meek was sent back to prison for "poppin’ a wheely" on a dirt bike. As he exclaims, others in his neighborhood do the same, and there's a mutual acceptance of this activity.
And yet here we are. Meek had a lot of support and was able to triumph over a corrupt system. Unfortunately, many will not get that chance and will be funneled through the school to prison pipeline. Meek seems to be an advocate for reform, and Hip-Hop is poised to be a catalyst to express this growing need for change.
More people are becoming aware of the injustices and racism this country chokes marginalized people with. Meek Mill is using his platform to speak out, but what can the rest of us do?
We can start by educating ourselves about mass incarceration.
For those willing to learn, refer to Ava Duvernay’s 13th on Netflix; or The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander.