Larry Pinkney’s commentary was published in the May-August 1980 Issue of Canadian Dimension magazine, Pages 54-55

Excerpts from the commentary:


I am writing to Dimension, first to compliment it for its’ articles and thought provoking reports. Currently, I write to you from the confines of segregation (solitary confinement) in this prison, where I am imprisoned.

[…]As a scientific socialist and a black political activist, I find your reports and articles in Dimension of particular interest and concern. Further, since I am a prisoner under the federal system of Canada, my perspective might be somewhat different. Lastly, since I am, by education a certified accountant, my belief in the basic correctness of Marxist economics is continually strengthened by the developing national and international, economic, social, and political occurences of today.

Having been imprisoned since 1976, I have learned first hand (though at times extreemly painfully) many of the major contradictions that permeate the struggle for the socialist change and the ultimate creation of the “new man” about which Marx and Fanon so adequately speak in their writings. Also, having been intensively involved for ten years as a political activist in the United States, Europe, and Africa prior to 1976, I am very congizant of the sustained actions of the American, Canadian, and western countries’ government’s generally, to deligitamize, harass, and blatantly frame progressive political activists while simultaneously branding us as “common criminals” which we are not. I have given you the fundamental outline of my background (in addition to the enclosed letter, attached in order that you might understand fully the validity of the assessment and perspective about which I shall offer you of Dimension. I offer the following to you from a socialist perspective but also very definitely from the perspective of a black person, incarverated by a racist, indeed, very racist “society.”

Surely it must be undertood that racism is one of the fundamental main-stays of capitalism. This should not be normal; that is, the practice and acceptance of racism as the norm, by socialists. It should be vigorously exposed, denouced, and opposed just as vigorously as economic exploitation of man by man etc. As socialists our goal is to ultimately eradicate class. The bitter class conflict that ensues due to capitalist exploitation is a real conflict. No less real are the concerns of racism which reinforce capitalisms’ economic exploitation. No less real should be the actions of socialists to expose and oppose racism in society, NOW!

Racism in Canadian prisons permeates every level of prison and the prisoners’ existence. This racism within prisons is but an intense mirrored reflection of outward societys’ reality. However, in prison the prisoner of colour is oppressed not only by the racist prison authorities, but also by the fellow white prisoners. The number of stabbings, beatings, and deaths of prisoners of colour by white prisoners as a result of white racism is much larger than prison authoritie’s indicate and is increasing steadily. Especially is this the case as it applies to black and East Indian prisoners. Native Indian prisoners, though they do face racism, generally are more in number within the prisons and are, to a degree, less susceptible to the physical aspects of racism from white prisoners due to this! Black prisoners and East Indian prisoners (especially in British Columbia and Alberta) are especially susceptible to physical attacks. The prison authorities themselves, from Regional Directors right on down the line to the prison guards and various prison officials are, of course, rampant with racism. Thus the decisons, actions, and practices of and by prison officials are always clouded by their own racism towards people of colour. Thus the prisoner of colour from the moment of sentencing or incarceration (which ever comes first), is in a continual double, if not triple jeopardy situation, that is immensely more intense even than the “normal” racism he must face in outside society.

I have dealt considerably, in this letter to Dimension, on racism. I can not overemphasize the horrors of this, no matter whether this would be inside or outside of prison. However, the situation in Canadas’ prisons’ is truly deplorable.

As an incarcerated black man with intense socialist views and beliefs, I can not express any clearer my disposition than did Fanon when he said “I demand that notice be taken of my negating activity insofar as I pursue something other than life; insofar as I do battle for the creation of a human world – that is, of a world of reciprocal recognitions.”

I hope that I have related to you of Dimension an area that I very much feel Dimension should increase exposés. This is not to say that I am unaware of Dimensions’ excellent articles some time ago on Prisons in Canada. However, there is an acute need for coverage, in depth, and on-going, on Racism In Canada’s Prisons. There is also a very real need for in depth coverage on Racism in Canadian Society and the specific aspects of this in its’ many pervasive and often blatent forms.

I will now end this letter to you by enclosing a copy [of] a letter from the National Black Coalition Of Canada pertaining to myself and some of the very things I have written of in this letter.

…I remain cordially yours as I continue….

In the struggle,
Larry Pinkney



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