***WARNING: if you have not watched this season of Orange is the New Black, this post contains spoilers***
#SayHerName. #BlackLivesMatter. #AltonSterling. #PhilandoCastile. Time and time again, a black man, woman, or child is slain at the hands of those who are supposed to protect them; and then a new hashtag appears. We discuss the milestones this country has made. We talk about how far we have come; we talk about this thing called equality, but with all this discussion, it seems like there is much more progress to be made. We claim to be the land of the free and the home of the brave, but what free world are we living in when little black children and black women and men are being murdered by law enforcement. In the past 48 hours, two black men, who were once someone’s children, someone’s husband, someone’s father, someone’s friend, have been taken away because of fear, excessive force and ignorance. I won’t get into the details of each man’s death because it’s sad to say, but we all know how the story goes and these two deaths followed suit.
You may be thinking how does the murder of two black men have anything to do with Orange is the New Black, but to your surprise, I’m sure, they actually have quite a few things in common. Oitnb is known for being a hit Netflix series that follows the lives of the Women of Litchfield Prison. Each season is better than the last and this current season did not disappoint. What made this season great was that the episodes and storylines focused on current issues that many citizens not only in prison, but nationwide face. The episodes range from topics like racial profiling, unnecessary stops and frisks, abuse of power, and police brutality. Piper Chatman, who was once the show’s protagonist, drops hints of gang activity by the Latina inmates to one of the Prison C.O.’s, which starts a chain of unfortunate events. For example, the C.O.s start unnecessarily stopping and frisking inmates based off of their skin color. In a line full of Black, Latina, Asian and White women, the C.O.s let the White women go while aggressively and inappropriately groping the women of color. This goes on throughout the fourth season.
The season doesn’t only focus on issues between inmates and those in power, but it also focuses on issues of race amongst inmates. Throughout the seasons, alliances between inmates have been drawn based on race, but it’s extremely apparent in this season due to the rise of a group of Neo-Nazi inmates. Fast forward to the last two episodes, when Poussey, a fan favorite, is murdered by C.O. Baylee because he held his knee on Poussey’s back while also trying to fight off the character of Crazy Eyes. The scene was full of chaos and was eerily similar to the real life tragedies we have come to constantly hear about today. After Poussey’s death, the prison doesn’t rush to tell her family and her dead body is left on the floor overnight until the Corporate Prison decides how they can spin the story and make Poussey look like the villain. When they realize that there is no way to make the victim into the villain, they then focus on throwing the CO under the bus even though in this situation, you realize the whole incident was an avoidable accident.
Poussey was beloved by fans all around, so her death was truly felt by viewers. What happened to Poussey as she was trying to silently protest the excessive guard behavior at Litchfield is not so different than what happened to Eric Garner outside the gas station as he sold cigarettes. Or, what happened to Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge. Or, what happened to Philando Castile in Minnesota. At this point, I don’t even know what to say when another black life is senselessly taken. For all of you who think Black Lives Matter is a cry for attention or an agenda, please think again. For all of you that reply “All Lives Matter” when Black people chant Black Lives Matter after another disheartening death occurs, you too, think again. Take a minute and think to yourself, “Am I in a place of privilege and what can I do to make a change?” I am tired of the hashtags, I’m tired of the press conferences and I am tired of the fighting. Things are going to change. However, the real question is, are you gonna sit by and watch that change, or are you gonna get up and be apart of it? I would suggest you take the latter choice.