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Archive for Thursday, September 20, 2007

Justice’ still not colorblind

September 20, 2007

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Scenes from America, circa once upon a time.

White men taking sledgehammers to the door of the jailhouse in Marion, Ind., intending to murder three black prisoners. The sheriff orders his men not to interfere.

White men hearing testimony tying two white defendants conclusively to the kidnap, torture and murder of a black boy in Money, Miss. The jury takes less than an hour to set them free.

White men with badges arresting three civil rights workers for an alleged traffic violation in Neshoba County, Miss. Forty-four days later, the workers' bodies are dug out of an earthen dam.

There are other examples - literally thousands - but let three suffice to make the point. Which is that blacks have frequently found the justice system to be about anything but justice. From the day slavery ended, that system has often been its surrogate, a tool used specifically for the suppression and control of black people.

There was no artifice about it. This conspiracy of beat cops and county sheriffs and DAs and judges and senators and attorneys general operated openly and with impunity. Everyone knew there were simply different rules, different enforcement and different punishment for blacks.

Maybe your impulse is to seal all that off in a mental box called history, interesting, lamentable, but hardly relevant. In which case, what will you say about Jena?

Meaning, of course, the tiny Louisiana town now infamous for a series of events that began a year ago when a black high school student asked the principal if it was OK for him to sit under a shade tree white kids claimed as theirs. The principal told him yes. But the next day, nooses were found hanging in the tree.

The principal wanted the white kids who did it expelled, but the superintendent overruled him, briefly suspending them instead. Expulsion, he felt, was excessive for this "prank."

There followed weeks of racial brawls and even an arson fire. A black student, Robert Bailey, was hit in the head with a beer bottle by a white kid who was later charged with simple battery and released on probation.

After a white student, Justin Barker, supposedly taunted Bailey about it, six black kids allegedly jumped him, kicking and stomping. Barker was knocked out and had a black eye. He was treated and released at the hospital and felt well enough to go out that same night.

Yet the DA called it attempted murder.

Yes, charges against five of the six were eventually reduced. Yes, an appeals court just overturned the aggravated battery conviction of the only student whose case has been adjudicated.

But it is hard to be sanguine. This unjust justice is hardly unique. Consider Genarlow Wilson, 17, sentenced to 10 years for consensual sex with a 15-year-old. And Marcus Dixon, 18, who drew 10 for having sex with an underage white girl. And Shaquanda Cotton, who shoved a white teacher's aide and got seven years from a judge who had earlier given probation to a white girl who burned down her family's house. A 2000 study co-sponsored by the Justice Department codifies the obvious: people of color receive starkly unequal treatment in the "justice" system.

Where blacks are concerned, it seems, that system often still exists not to enforce law and protect order but to intimidate and compel. But at least they care enough about appearances these days to lie.

"Race? This has nothing to do with race. Oh, no." Prosecutors justifying the unjustifiable. Utterly convinced of their own blamelessness.

One might ask why it is that black justice so seldom looks like real justice, even today.

The answer is that history does not fit in a box. And once upon a time is now.

- Leonard Pitts Jr., winner of the 2004 Pulitzer Prize for commentary, is a columnist for the Miami Herald.

Comments

imastinker 7 years ago

If you are using those examples as what the common white person believes, you are very wrong.

If you think that discrimination will ever go completely away, you are wrong as well.

I do think that one major impediment to true equality is what many people see of blacks. Corn rows, sagging pants, baggy clothes, and ebonics are typically referred to as "cultural." Many people in this area see those things as things that thugs would do. Some white people do it too, but blacks are more visible for obvious reasons. To help end racism, they have a responsibility to be better than this. Why do blacks not encourage other blacks to improve themselves, and to push away those that ARE thugs or criminals.

It's one thing to say that racism is gone when sitting in the middle of Kansas in a nice cushy chair, but another to go to New Orleans, and tell me that you are not as afraid of a group of black people as you are a group of white people.

Is that really my fault?

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agtprovocateuse 7 years ago

imastinker:

When you walk into a bar and see a bunch of "white-trash" ignorant hicks, do you extrapolate and assume that ALL white people are trash? Is it somehow the fault or responsibility of white people, as a whole, to ensure that such "trash" doesn't tarnish the "good name" of the white race?

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TheYetiSpeaks 7 years ago

Another impediment to true equality is that many white people see corn rows, baggy clothes, and ebonics as beneath them and actively tell anyone with these attributes to "better" themselves. Maybe they dont want your buttondown, Starbucks, Docker world. As far as your cute little quote marks around cultural, well, I think that's real "genius".

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Confrontation 7 years ago

Maybe having a leader like Jesse Jackson is the reason so little is done. He's supposedly a minister, yet he's a known adulterer (among other things). He preaches one thing to others, yet he does the opposite. I know this is pretty typical for religious leaders, but it's sad that Jackson is seen as a role model to anyone. Get him and Sharpton out of there, and let some truly respectable individuals step up to the plate.

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gogoplata 7 years ago

It is too bad that racism exists. I can sure see why they thought that white kid deserved to get his butt whipped you just have to expect that if you are the one who decides to do it that there will be consequences. It is probably best to restrain yourself from violence unless its the last option.

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imastinker 7 years ago

Call it what you want - corn rows, baggy clothes, and sagging pants are things that plenty of white people do too. Those people look like thugs too. The simple fact is that I may see a thousand white people in a week, a small portion of which look like this. The portion of blacks that I see that dress like this is much greater - possibly 25% of the ten or twenty blacks I see in a week.

Is this scientific? Absolutely not - it's my experience. Is it really my fault that a group of people (white or black) with sagging pants, corn rows, and baggy pants make me think that I need to be careful because they are more likely to want to rob me? Is it really my fault that a larger percentage of blacks do this than whites?

As far as ebonics - you will never convince me that this is anything but a gross lack of education. This is not a cultural thing, but a person that does not understand the english language.

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imastinker 7 years ago

Jackson and Sharpton are the worst scum of the black people there are. They are holding their own people back for their own profit and lifestyle. I don't know how they sleep at night.

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booklover 7 years ago

Ok, I just have to step in here and speak to the issue, which is not how people look, or how some black leaders are percieved. I suggest before commenting or forming an an opinion that everyone take a deep breath and do some homework. Google the story or WIKI it and learn something. This situation has been brewing for almost a year. The nooses in the trees started it and yes, even though things simmered down during football season, it never really stopped. There were numerous fights and squabbles from both sides. Had the principal been allowed to take controll of the situaion from the very beginning and expell the students hanging the noose it would have ended there. For whatever reason, the superindent's office overrulled and the boys were just suspended for a couple of days. Tensions rose, the principal called and assembly, the DA came to talk to the kids and only fanned the flames. He point blank told the black kids that if they didn't watch out, he could and WOULD end their lives with a stroke of his pen. Justin wasn't just randomly beat up by six black boys. HE was involved in an altercation that HE started at a party a couple of days before where one of the black boys involved was beat up and hit over the head with a beer bottle. There was a gun involved in that altercation. One of the White boys went and got it from his truck and one of the black kids took and got rid of it. I think, but I'm not sure that it was MIchael and that is where some of his other charges came from, but like I said, I'm not quite sure abaout that. A couple of days later, Justin teased and again threatened the kid who had been hit over the head with the beer bottle. That is what started this latest fight. HE Started it. The black kids friends stepped in to protect him. Yes these boys committed a crime, and they should be punished "accordingly". They were all teens. In High school. All of the boys should have been punished for fighting and made to take anger management classes as well as anti discrimination classes. The DA should be FIRED. He has made this situation so SO much worse than it would have been. What on earth can he really be thinking? How can hitting someone over the head with a GLASS beer bottle and pulling a gun on them net only 1 misdemeanor charge and hitting, kicking and punching someone net 50 years? Is it anyone wonder then that all of our kids carry guns and knives? They might as well. The punishment is much less severe. I'm sorry but 50 YEARS for a school yard fight? Is that really the best we can do? Really?

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Confrontation 7 years ago

Gee, madmike, I'm starting to think that you like me (joking!). We also agreed on eating little birds.

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imastinker 7 years ago

by the way - booklover is right abotu that case. I looked it up and it appeared that the black kids were much higher quality people than the white kids.

Other cases he mentioned were not the case, like the Cotton girl. She didn't deserve what she got, but she was no model citizen, nor was her mother.

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kneejerkreaction 7 years ago

The Duke Lacrosse players' lives were messed up for a year. The monetary cost to their parents was enormous and the emotional cost was more. Nothing was done to the black woman who lied, perjured and was the root of all this, yet the white prosecutor was stripped and drummed out. NO apologies by Sharpton & Jackson for bringing all this to a boil. However you put it, that sounds like an inequity to me.

If one wanted to spend the time, I'm sure you could find a whole bunch of white people unjustly accused, casually jailed for insufficient reasons and victims of our legal system. Let's throw Native Americans into the fray and the list grows. Don't tell me these two ethnic groups haven't seen their fair share of social/legal injustices. But, no one is taking the time to publish these lists. The fact that Mr. PItts took the time to compile the above list and whine about all the injustice speaks volumes if you have the ability to read beyond what is written.

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kneejerkreaction 7 years ago

Justice' still not colorblind Email Comments (16) iPod-friendly Print By Leonard Pitts Jr. Scenes from America, circa once upon a time.


....and Leonard, how about a date or two? How far are you going back on the majority of these examples to prove your racist point and keep your own people feeling as if they are denied justice? Any journalistic responsbility left for you, LP, or just interest in selling your one-sided books?

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imastinker 7 years ago

americorps - where did I say anything about the KKK or Nazis?

I have met many professional black people that were great people. These are not the ones I am talking about, except that they tend to allow others in their race to keep the status quo. Not that I'm not saying things that people like Bill Cosby have said numberous times, and he's barely allowed to speak to groups of black people anymore.

Please cite your reference for that study on loans to black people. I'd imagine that it has some kind of regional variance distorting the figures or something else along those lines. I am not saying discrimination doesn't happen

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Dorothy Hoyt-Reed 7 years ago

The black students should have been charged with misdemeanor battery, just like the white student. I heard a couple of white guys on NPR say that this is all blown out of proportion. They are just upset that the black community isn't "staying in their place" anymore. No problem, as long as they don't sit with the white kids. It's racist, plain an simple, and if the town doesn't like all the media attention, they should have protested the nooses when it happened. They weren't very outraged then. Just a prank, ha ha.

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Dorothy Hoyt-Reed 7 years ago

imastinker, So you have Bill Cosby's speaking schedule? I think you will find he speaks to a lot more black people than you think. I'm glad you are such an expert on blacks, since you know a few. This whole case is the most blantant example of racism I've seen in a long time. I guess it's easier to fight than the subtle racism. Like "I like black people, but why do they dress funny, speak funny and listen to rap?" If you knew very many black people, then you would know better.

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imastinker 7 years ago

Dorothy - this stuff is easy to find. Why not do some research first? This sounds a lot like what I said. Am I not allowed to say that because I'm not black? Are my opinions less valid because I live in a rural area without a lot of blacks?

"The Pound Cake Speech was given by Bill Cosby in May 2004, at an event to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision, in which he was highly critical of some members and subsets of the black community in the United States. He criticized them for exclusive use of African American Vernacular English, single-parent families, emphasis on material gain at the expense of necessities, and various other social behaviors as mentioned directly or implied in the speech."

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imastinker 7 years ago

Same source:

"But these people, the ones up here in the balcony fought so hard. Looking at the incarcerated, these are not political criminals. These are people going around stealing Coca Cola. People getting shot in the back of the head over a piece of pound cake! And then we all run out and are outraged, 'The cops shouldn't have shot him.' What the hell was he doing with the pound cake in his hand? (laughter and clapping). I wanted a piece of pound cake just as bad as anybody else (laughter) And I looked at it and I had no money. And something called parenting said, 'if you get caught with it you're going to embarrass your mother.' Not 'you're going to get your butt kicked.' No. 'You're going to embarrass your family.'"

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imastinker 7 years ago

Again:

In the same speech he had praise for the efforts of the Black Muslims in dealing with crime in the cities:

"When you want to clear your neighborhood out, first thing you do is go get the Black Muslims, bean pies and all. And your neighborhood is then clear." After that statement, he pointed out the police's inability to resolve the crime problem:

"The police can't do it." He then had critical remarks for Black Christians' seeming inability to create positive social change for the urban population he was referring to, saying, "I'm telling you Christians, what's wrong with you? Why can't you hit the streets? Why can't you clean it out yourselves?"

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Dorothy Hoyt-Reed 7 years ago

imastinker Bill Cosby is saying what many black leaders are saying. And if we are going to talk about parenting, you can be sure that the lack of it is not just a black problem. While most of the parents of my students are doing their job, we are seeing more and more parents who are too worried about being cool, being their kids buddy, and not making the hard decisions that is a parent's job. It's not just a black problem.

But that aside. Can you tell me why the white boy who hit a black boy in the head with a beer bottle and waved a gun was charged with a misdemeanor battery charge, and the black kids who beat up a white kid were charged with attempted murder? Can you answer why kids who hung nooses on a tree, warning off the black students were only slapped on the wrist? Can you tell me why this isn't racism? This should be an interesting explanation. How far can you stretch logic?

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black_butterfly 7 years ago

The issue here is that for years, including this year, black people have not been treated equally in the legal justice system. It is not a thing of the past. What does cornrows and ebonics have to do with that? Furthermore, who told you that black people see ebonics as culture? There are many educated, productive black people who know that ebonics does not represent our culture. I guess in your small world it does. You make blanket statements about black people and you sound as if you know very little of which you speak. Cornrows are a beautiful hairstyle that represents African heritage. It is very pitiful that your mind is so small that you associate cornrows with thugs and trouble.Ted Bundy had a very neat appearance and short hairstyle, yet look at what he did. Style and dress have nothing to do with this. I am a college student and I know a lot of nice, wealthy white guys that wear baggy pants on campus. You need to truly educate yourself. Also, all black people don't listen to Jackson and Sharpton and blindly follow anything they say, wake up! Is infidelity the only fault you can find with Jackson? LOL He is a human being and he may hav repented for that. Judge not............... I'd rather a man cheat on his wife with a legal female adult than molest and rape little altar boys like a lot catholic priests do! As usual, everyone has ignored the issue and gone off to the left to criticize blacks. NO ONE will admit that the legal system discriminates against people of color (native americans, hispanics and Asian included); even here in little old, supposedly diverse Lawrence Kansas. How could you not agree with this article........Maybe you should take a long hard look at yourself in the mirror and ask yourself who do you see. A racist?

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costello 7 years ago

"At the end of the day, a crime was commited. Committing a crime and expecting it to 'not count' because of a previous injustice is incredible stupid and (yes, racist in this case)."

I think you've missed the point. The protesters aren't saying that a crime should not count because of previous injustice. They're saying that the punishment should fit the crime and that all persons, regardless of race, should receive equal treatment under the law.

Here, the black youths were charged with crimes which were monstrously out-of-line with the crime they're alleged to have committed, while the crimes of white youths were treated very lightly or not punished at all.

Can you understand that the issue is one of fundamental fairness? Can you understand that the injustice being protested is a current one?

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ksdivakat 7 years ago

ok, help me understand here.....6 black boys battered 1 white boy because the white boy "taunted" and "teased" the black boy who got hit at the party? And now its a racial issue?? I just want the facts, I understand that a or some white boys hung a noose in a tree/which is very offensive to alot of white people to I might add....I also understand that the principal tried to expell the boys but his decision to do this was overturned. Was the white boy who was beat up the same white boy who hung the noose?? Im just trying to figure it out!!!

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imastinker 7 years ago

Dorothy,

I am not disagreeing with you on the one case. There are elements of this case that are disturbing. However, that does not mean anything beyond the specifics of that case. I'd venture a guess that there is racism involved there.

What Bill Cosby is saying that other black leaders are not saying is that blacks need to clean themselves up. Laws that were discriminatory and unfair are more or less gone. Blaming white people doesn't work like it did when there were actually laws holding people back. To some extent, bad behavior is allowed for black people by others of their own race. Many years ago, white people moved out of the city in large numbers and ended up in suburbs. Now, the inner city has a large number of blacks and the suburbs have a small number of blacks. The gangs, crime, drugs, etc are mostly centered in urban areas. Why are the people that live there allowing it? Why did more black people not move to the suburbs back in the 60's and 70's?

Look here: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/americas/2223709.stm

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imastinker 7 years ago

Americorps, I know Wikipedia is not a very reliable source. You have to be careful using it.

However, if you can show me anything I liked to or quoted as being incorrect, I will admit to being wrong.

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