Below is a statement written by anarchist prisoner Eric King in October. For more info on how to support Eric, go here.
What does it look like to be antifascist in federal prison in 2017? It may not be what you think.
If you picture coming into the feds with your fist swinging, taking on every racist, swastika wearing trash you see, that is not a reality. That line of thinking will get us nowhere. Racism at the federal level is very real and played out in a very archaic way. At CCA Leavenworth I pictured going into ANY spot guns blazing, taking on bigots in a very macho, aggressive, violent way. At CCA that was actually somewhat doable, even at Englewood-FCI (low security) it was somewhat a reality because you could dog them out and clown them for their ridiculousness… the reality is though, that the higher up in custody you go and the further west coast you end up, the more serious the game gets and the less likely you are to be able to express your own antifascist ideas without facing some serious backlash.
Everything is racially divided here. Where you eat, when you work out, where you sit, what TV you watch, who cuts your hair, who you live with, who you play games with. For me this was super difficult at first because it felt like a betrayal of who I was. There isn’t any bucking this, it’s shitty and gross but it’s real and VERY serious. No one is going to make an exception and disrupt prison order for the one anti-racist. Having good politics doesn’t make you exceptional or above the others. Being antifascist doesn’t make you a teacher, a preacher, a savior, this horrendous system will not make room for our differing beliefs. You will hear all day long people bashing every race, gender, ethnicity, sexuality, and nationality, everything that isn’t white-American-straight-male.
I had to learn very quickly how to bite my tongue. Calling people out will get you nowhere but hurt. If your beliefs and views are known, that provides more weapons for the maggots to use against you, and some will without a doubt use them. I got called up for this MANY times. I have the word ANTIFA tattooed on my face. I’ve had to learn how to NEVER take the bait, to keep your ideas to yourself and those you are close with. At the end of the day bro-ing out does less than taking conscious action. I’ve been very lucky that early on some old heads took a liking to me.
It’s a very thin line between being tolerated and being battered. Screaming, “kill whitey!” and flipping off Trump, expressing yourself, these small things and big things will catch you some wreck, meaning these bigots will beat you off the yard. The other non-racist whites will NOT risk helping you, the other races won’t want to start a race war that gets hundreds hurt to help this one person. Then the folks that get hurt are the folks you are trying to support. There have been times where my ideas got me in a lot of trouble; very many confrontations and disciplining. We must learn how to walk that line of being true to yourself without putting yourself or others in a situation where you’re getting transferred, getting put in the hospital, put in the secure housing unit, or SHU. We will never end the fascism of and within the prison walls and system without dancing in the ashes of the prisons. You must keep yourself alive and safe, it is crucial to return to your loved ones and your community.
With all that said, there are always ways to be you, even if they are more coy or low key than you are used to or prefer. Sometimes just not laughing along to some racist bullshit or agreeing with a horrible comment can say more than any argument or fist could. I have through time found my own way to fight against the racist PSYOP system masterminded by the prison itself. I have found it is important to constantly be conscious and consider the consequences for others when taking actions. In prison with minimal effort your actions can start a race war. And your actions hurt the folks that you are trying to support. Being anti-fascist for me often looks like respectfully removing myself from any political conversation. Socializing and taking classes taught by folks of other races and allowing that to be a moment to connect and engage in dialogue.
For me standing up can mean teaching yoga that includes all people. Sometimes offering a jacket or sweater or raising commissary funds for someone who is openly gay and being cast out and harassed is a stand that affects the entire dynamic of the unit. Sometimes it means having the ability to give basic supplies to non-racist white guys coming in so that they don’t have to take them from the white supremacists. Sometimes it is playing games with other races. Or putting my ego and politics away and letting people of other races vent around me without trying to explain their anger or emotions to them. Being political and antifa does not give me space to try to be their teacher. I sit with Muslims in the library and have my political conversations there (a lot of whites do not like this). My partner drives up to visits with people of other races, forming that unity and solidarity. I recognize a lot of these things may not even be allowed at other spots, or may not even be a big deal at all, but here they allow me to make a big stand against the white race politics. I still read radical books and zines, but I do it in my room, where I do MY time, away from people who live on confrontations, who are addicted to static.
If you put yourself out there verbally, be prepared to stand on it (fight) because you will be challenged and if you’re lucky it’ll be one on one. Small things that happen instinctively can get you in a jam, so it’s smart to always be mindful. I’ve been in jams for laughing at sunken Navy ships, for watching soccer with the Mexicans, for letting a Gay-Black cat in my yoga class… the things that you do by nature may ruffle a lot of feathers, so we need to be prepared to get called into the cell and defend your actions.
The problems that society faces are magnified in prison. Racism, homophobia, violence, are all very accepted and normalized. Being antifascist in prison means putting yourself in a disruptive position. It can mean some lonely times, limited friendships and being isolated and disrespected. How you carry it is up to every individual person and situation. Keeping yourself self-safe is the number one priority. Doing your time and being true to yourself.
Eric would love to hear from you! Write him at:
Eric King 27090045
FEDERAL CORRECTIONAL INSTITUTION
PO BOX 6000
FLORENCE, CO 81226