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We Are All Criminals


We Are All Criminals

When Upworthy posted a selection from Emily Baxter’s art project, “We Are All Criminals,” we wonder if they anticipated such a wave of negative feedback (on Facebook, that is, where it’s too easy to forget that you should never read the comments).

Baxter’s “We Are All Criminals” is a series of photographs and infographics, most with click-throughs to individuals’ personal stories and factoids. Individuals anonymously confess a range of crimes, including some as minor as trespassing and others as uncouth as stealing an old man’s retirement funds. The point of it, according to the photographer and posted on Upworthy, is:

“…to challenge society’s perception of what it means to be a criminal and how much weight a record should be given, when truly — we are all criminals.

But it is also a commentary on the disparate impact of our nation’s policies, policing, and prosecution: many of the project’s participants benefited from belonging to a class and race that is not overrepresented in the criminal justice system. Permanent and public criminal records perpetuate inequities, precluding millions of people from countless opportunities to move on and move up.

We Are All Criminals questions the wisdom and fairness in those policies.”

You can imagine the reaction on Facebook when people felt they were being accused. They didn’t want to be lumped in with the girl who stole some man’s retirement funds! But the series does address some questions that are worth thinking about…like, what role does racism play in America’s drug war? Is it easier for a male, middle-class and white to get out of a charge for something like, say, marijuana possession? Who is the criminal justice system helping and hurting?

We want to hear your thoughts. Share them on Facebook or in the Comment section below.


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