A prisoner’s journey for freedom in the 21st century and the #BLM era

What does America’s future look like to a legal scholar who has spent 45-years in prison

Karim Diggs has spent the last 45 years in prison. He is an acclaimed legal prison scholar who has helped many prisoners find freedom in case appeals. He wrote this essay for The Des this July.


PEOPLE from every part of the world came to America voluntary except Africans – we were forcefully made slaves. The distinction is important because this distinction was and still remains the defining trait that sets us apart from everyone else that came to America for a better life. Why must African Americans, after 400 years , the descendants of slaves, fight and debate the natural rights to be free?

Europeans under chains, guns brought Africans to the shores of this land to do the hard labor. The trauma had to be complete, before the American Experiment could even possibly work. 

If, one is to understand the level of violence and terror used to convince the weak European men to allow the shackles to be unlocked, we may be able to see how these four centuries of constant oppression by European Americans continues in 2020, and why a prisoner after 45 years still struggles for freedom and a safe place to breathe.

America’s Trauma

Psychological damage would naturally be a result from an entire life under dehumanization tactics systems, laws and rules established in law, religion and a heart full of hate. With the traumatic neuroses endured throughout the brutal status as a slave added to another 150 years of terror under the color of law, it is a miracle that one African American is sane or a productive human being.

The European believes they have a God given right to enjoy freedom and prosperity and to assign limits of freedom to others. This privilege is taken for granted by most European Americans consciously or unconsciously. The fact is society dictates this special place. Institutions reflect white supremacy.

A major flaw in every area of the freedom struggle is the failure to recognize the designer of slavery. The repression not only harmed the African but it polluted the white man’s mental health. 

This is Jane gifting products. Credit: This is Jane Project

His 400 years of violence against Black’s made the society addicted to violence as sport. This is why it’s so natural for a white police officer to kill Black’s all over America, and he is able to laugh at the video showing the violence.

There has to be a description of slavery, made so vivid that the descendants of slave owners can appreciate the effectiveness of the intended damage against Black people that was done.

At that stage the nation can evolve to the next step on working on some cures and substantial changes. The psychological trauma did not simply create hell on earth for the slaves, but it turned the slave owners and a nation into a system that was drowning in inhumane forms of violence. 

The Injustice System

The entire justice system is built on white domination and the thirteenth Amendment continues the slavery system. The argument whether “Black Lives Matter” is a testament that the same wicked mind that designed slavery still needs to be replaced by an inclusive system not made under white supremacy. 

There can never be a just system when the foundation was corrupted from the beginning. It is more problematic when only white folks developed and fashioned the system. These police, judicial and prison systems have been operated by white men for centuries.

Every aspect of the criminal injustice system carries the relics of slavery. It does not make much difference what the race of the public official is, he or she is shackled as the slaves were. There is no breathing room to change the culture, tradition, and character of the various institutions. 

America is sick. Many sick people do not know they are sick. There is far too much shame with mental illness. I am not speaking about individual mental illness, but the collective body that makes the country suffer the ills of a slave nation.

The BLM society of people is long overdo and we need to continue to seek ways to reform America. A few rule changes will not remake systems that are a haven for racists who hide behind the color of law. Systems are operated by human beings.

The prolonged institution of slavery continued in such a violent form that African Americans had to create ways to survive and escape unspeakable terror and violence. My grandparents had to come north for a better life. Unfortunately, the north and other parts of America inflicted the same forms of repression and violence. 

After all the injustices, the Black people still were not bitter and had no hate. This example of a divine character made white supremacy even more adamant to make life miserable for Black people. After slavery, the brutal, sadistic prison industrial complex was born.


It has taken a black man in slave handcuffs on the ground asking the police what is this all about and if he could get some air to breathe and then calling his Mother.

Do we continue to operate as business as usual? We need to get involved with change. It is time we design the type of world we want for our future generations. 

We the Black men have an obligation to ourselves to stop dehumanizing ourselves and sabotaging our struggle for freedom in this world. Yes, economic depression is driving the violence. And drugs has been our introduction to capital because nobody has or will give a Black man funds to enter the business world. This historical prevention to stop us from taking care of our family and community, is just the reason we should bind together to eventually conquer the abject poverty and discrimination we do not deserve.

 My 45-years of imprisonment has enabled me to see ,feel, study my own humanity and how I must become a new person within the world I did not design. In my journey, I have concluded we are collectively able to change the course in history and change the mind set, and in turn remake the society we are in.

The first change, must come from within each Black man. The sisters are there waiting on us! She has always been there and will continue to be. We have let her down, and she still champions our cause. She, too, was on the same slave ship, and she endured all the other indignities that captured women got in the hands of pirates.

We cannot continue to be led by old men sitting in all the halls of power. It is time to suggest to those in power that the Constitution is not the greatest document ever invented by mankind. We have to stop acting inferior. Harriet Tubman said she could have freed more, but they did not believe they could be free. 

We are able to make contributions. We built this place called America. We were the miracle, if not, why such determination to keep us a slave? We are the prize. Everyone knows this is evident but you.


Read more of Karim’s writing here.


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