He Died

He died, with no one by his side

I didn’t know his real name and wasn’t allowed to contact his family because he was a prisoner, even while in the hospital

Our ICU was filling up with prisoners at that time

Incarceration didn’t allow the luxury of preventing infection with the virus that killed so many, and is killing still

The virus ravaged his lungs until there was nothing left for us to do but watch the life drain out of him after his final breath

Two correctional officers stood outside his room, indifferent to his death

Soon he would no longer be a threat, if he ever was

Peering through the class door, I knew two things about him:

He was dying of COVID-19, and he was a black man in America

I looked at his brown skin and wondered if that was what had landed him in the prison that ultimately lead to his death

I knew nothing of his life, hopes, loved ones or struggles

I knew only the structural racism that perpetuates poverty and the prison-industrial complex in which black and brown bodies are used to feed the white man’s profit machine

Regardless, he died

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