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Mass Freedom: Site Unites Groups Fighting to End Mass Criminalization and Deportation

Auditi Guha

Advocates charge that mass criminalization is "designed to isolate communities of color and strip them of their social, political, and economic power."

As mass criminalization and deportation wreak havoc on communities of color in the United States, Race Forward: The Center for Racial Justice Innovation has launched a website to bring together diverse movements fighting for an inclusive, multiracial democracy., launched Wednesday, provides resources for elevating “the voices of those who have been most marginalized and oppressed and empowering communities of color to unite amidst a political landscape that grows more threatening with each day,” according to the website.

Rosana Cruz, Race Forward’s vice president of movement and capacity building, told Rewire that one of the goals is to break the stereotypical image of Black men as the face of incarceration and Latinas as the face of deportation. “From our experiences in coming from those communities and from our work around those issues, we know that those stereotypes are not true,” Cruz said. 

Inspired by Michelle Alexander, author of The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, the website is an attempt by Race Forward to help “broaden the view of mass incarceration to look at the relationship between criminalization and race,” she said.

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“Mass criminalization is rooted in a long history of systemic racism, slavery, and the genocide of indigenous people. It is designed to isolate communities of color and strip them of their social, political, and economic power, while perpetuating life cycles of inequity. Solidarity across movements is the only path toward collective power and liberation,” the website states.

Bridging movements to end the criminalization of people of color, Mass Freedom includes a video series on discrimination called FRED Talks (Facing Race, Elevating Democracy), articles on criminalization from Colorlines, as well as a list of petitions and upcoming actions from partner organizations such as Color of Change, the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, and the Movement for Black Lives. It also includes tools for activists, study guides, historical perspectives, and videos from racial justice leaders.

“Over the years, I’ve come to believe that the movements to end mass incarceration and mass deportation are not separate struggles organized around distinct issues, although they are often described and experienced in that way.  Instead, they are expressions of a larger, transformative—even revolutionary—movement that seeks to reimagine our democracy,” Alexander wrote in a letter supporting the project. “Mass Freedom seeks to support that larger movement.”

The site aims to dig into the root causes of the dehumanization of communities of color and elevate the voices of those most affected by mass criminalization, while sharing visions, solutions, and strategies for a better future.

Cruz said she hopes the site will become a dynamic platform for related efforts and for organizations to come together.

“One of the biggest barriers to the idea of democracy in this country is the criminalization of people of color. They are really fundamental in that criminalization, particularly of immigrant communities and of U.S.-born people of color, that assumes criminality in our very existences, in the ways we are not seen as citizens, as people who belong, or as people who have ownership of our political system,” she said. “And so, in envisioning this project, our hope is really to combat that dehumanization, to lift up root causes and systemic solutions.”

The site looks at “the ways that communities are fighting back, creating new systems, coming up with new solutions and also, working together, seeing our face as links to each other, that the immigrant rights struggle is not separate from the struggle to end mass incarceration.”

“Our nation is facing an existential crisis as mass deportation and incarceration continue to ravage communities of color. Mass Freedom is our effort to come together, take action, and unite amidst a political landscape that grows more threatening with each day,” Glenn Harris, president of Race Forward, said in a statement.

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