Archive for Thursday, September 27, 2007

Numbers confirm unequal justice

September 27, 2007


Please indulge me as I answer an e-mail I received last week in response to a recent column decrying unequal justice as represented by the controversy in Jena, La. A fellow named John wrote:

"Your columns usually merit reading. But this time, You sound like the typical Black guy crying 'victim.' Leonard, you list instances of Black injustice and I'm sure there are many. However have you forgot about O.J.? He got away with murder Leonard. He killed his white wife! ... Or how about Sharpton and the Brawley case? ... Or the Duke case. ... I could go on and on. You want more respect for you and your race? Stop sounding like a nigger and start sounding and acting like a Black man. You'll get respect and justice. Try being a Black man all the time, not just when it fits your agenda."

John, thank you for writing. Here are a few words in response.

That column you disliked argued that Jena, where six black kids were initially charged with attempted murder after they gave a white kid a black eye and knocked him out, is part of a long pattern of the justice system being used to keep blacks in line. Indeed, black students at Jena High report that even before the fight, the DA warned them in an assembly that he could make their lives go away "with the stroke of a pen."

The students say he was looking directly at them when he said it. The DA has denied this, but I find the denial less than credible given the unfathomable charges he sought to file against the black kids while a white kid who attacked a black one got off with a comparative slap on the wrist.

Anyway, you were one of a number of readers who wrote to remind me of Simpson. If the point of your reference to him, Tawana Brawley and the Duke lacrosse case was that the justice system has repeatedly and historically mistreated whites, too, on the basis of race, I'm sorry, but that's absurd. Not that those cases were not travesties. They were. And if those travesties leave you outraged, well, I share that feeling.

But, here's what I want you to do. Take that sense of outrage, that sense of betrayal, of having been cheated by a system you once thought you could trust, and multiply it. Multiply it by Valdosta and Waco and Birmingham and Fort Lauderdale and Money and Marion and Omaha and thousands of other cities and towns where black men and women were lynched, burned, bombed, shot, with impunity.

Multiply it by the thousands of cops and courts that refused to arrest or punish even when they held photographs of the perpetrators taken in the act. Multiply it by a million lesser outrages. Multiply it by L.A. cops planting evidence. Multiply it by the black drug defendant who is 48 times more likely to go to jail than the white one who commits the same crime and has the same record. Multiply it by Abner Louima and Amadou Diallo. Multiply it by 388 years.

And then come talk to me about O.J. Simpson.

You may call all that "playing victim." I call it providing context. Jena did not happen in a vacuum. It did not spring from nowhere. So this false equivalence, this pretense that the justice system as experienced by white people and black ones is in any way similar, is ignorant and obnoxious.

Much like your turning to a racial slur to describe how you think I "sound." I found that word interesting coming near the end of an e-mail whose tone, while critical, had, until that point, been reasonable. I suppose you just couldn't help yourself.

It says something about the intransigence, self-justification and retarded self-awareness of American racism that a man who uses the language you do would, in the same breath, offer advice to black folks seeking "respect and justice." Appreciate the effort, John, but I'm afraid you can't solve the problem

See, you ARE the problem.

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


SettingTheRecordStraight 10 years, 1 month ago

Leonard Pitts' efforts to keep racism alive and well in America are discouraging. Why does the LJWorld even carry his swill?

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 10 years, 1 month ago

He's merely pointing out that you and other racists are alive and well, STRS. But go ahead, take aim and shoot the messenger.

Raider 10 years, 1 month ago

So, I guess the Jena 6 should not be charged with anything? Even though they beat the hell out of another kid and put him in the hospital. This case should not be about race. It should be about justice. If a mob of teenagers (regardless of race) attack and brutally beat another teen then they should be punished. Can you imagine what would have happened if the Jena 6 were white, and the victim was black? Sharpton and Jackson (and probably Pitts) would be seeking the death penalty and calling it a hate crime.

sourpuss 10 years, 1 month ago

It seems like the only people who truly believe there is absolute equality in America are white men. I guess when you're at the top, and you can't see anyone above you, you just assume there's no one below you either. Open your eyes.

Confrontation 10 years, 1 month ago

I love how Pitts makes it sound like it was just a simple punch and the kid was knocked out. For some reason, Pitts and others fail to mention that the kid was kicked for a whole minute AFTER he was knocked out. It didn't stop until another person intervened. This kid could easily have been killed. It's bad enough to knock someone out, but to continue beating someone afterwards is just plain disgusting. I don't care about the color of either the attackers or the victim, but this wasn't a simple school yard fight.

Bubarubu 10 years, 1 month ago

That white kids and black kids in Jena, LA are being treated differently is obvious. No one has offered any explanation of the discrepancy other than race, and given that the events involved in the whole thing carry obvious racial undercurrents, race is a pretty plausible explanation. Working from the assumption that race should not be determinative of one's treatment in the judicial system, the question becomes how to resolve the discrepancy. One solution would be to not charge black kids with anything. scenebooster points out that no one is really advocating that. The other option would be to treat the white kids in an equally harsh manner. The idea that such a thing is possible seems not to have occurred to all of the people ranting about Pitts, Sharpton, Jackson, etc. If it did, then their denunciation of the supposed racism in Pitts' writing would include an equally strong denunciation of the white kids in Jena who hung nooses from a tree and the superintendent who said such an act could not be seen as a racially-motivated threat. Calling Pitts, et. al. racists reminds of an old piece of hockey advice, that the refs will always blame the guy who hits back for starting a fight. In hockey, it's one thing. For a bunch of high school kids (for people of any age, really), it's appalling. To pretend that the protests were not precipitated by manifest injustice is frighteningly ignorant.

Frederic Gutknecht IV 10 years, 1 month ago

Everyone is at least a bit of a racist. Some racists simply feel more empowered than others. That leads to what we call "racism", which is simply the expression of those racist feelings. Nobody is a nggr or a h*nky (like that's a hurtful word!~). To say so is to exhibit racism.

And what is this "victim" garbage? Some idiots who use the "Stop being a victim!" argument simply don't give a rat's rump about any victims. Who cares that you are so victimized by the so-called victim mentality? You know not whereof you speak? A grain of truth is not truth!

"Oh. You were called a name? Stop being a victim!" "Oh. You were threatened with hanging? Stop being a victim?" "Oh. You were robbed? Stop being a victim?" "Oh. You were raped? Stop being a victim!" "Asked for change on the street? Stop being a victim!" "That dish washing job you wanted was taken by an illegal alien? Stop being a victim!" "The media doesn't suit your taste? Stop being a victim!" Note: Some of the above "Stop being a victim." examples are for amusement and aggravation. Cry me a freakin' ocean!

That "Stop being a victim." cr@p is all well and good for idiots, those poor honky tonky wonky monkeys who need to stick together like popcorn balls.

craigers 10 years, 1 month ago

I got an idea... Don't beat other people up!! don't hang nooses in trees!! You want to stop racism, then don't be racist. And yes it is that easy. You must be aware of how you treat other people. I don't like the fact, and it is a fact that blacks get treated worse in the system of justice. However, why don't blacks and whites refuse to commit the behavior that gets them there in the first place? I know, I know it's tough but it is called being responsible and good to your fellow neighbors. Why decry about the unequal treatement and start lobbying all races to just not participate in the activities that get them into the justice system? Sorry if this is too idealistic for people, but it is just a thought.

Confrontation 10 years, 1 month ago

DotsLines: Great comment. Apparently, we're the only one who think that beating an unconscious man is a horrible crime. Just because he didn't die, that doesn't make it a harmless schoolyard crime. Attempted murder? No. Serious crime that should lead to punishment? Yes.

Raider 10 years, 1 month ago

Again, regardless of color, if a gang of teenagers beats the hell out of another teenager then they should be punished. Unfortunately, these teens are not being punished because Sharpton et al are screaming racism. The message being sent here is that if you're a minority and you commit a crime, you are allowed to get away with it if you hide behind your race and say that you were a victim.

JSpizias 10 years, 1 month ago

Jason Whitlock of the Kansas City Star, the Star sports columnist, had an excellent colummn recently regarding the Jena case. The prosecutor in the Jena case also wrote an article that appeared recently in the editorial pages of the NY Times. It is worthwhile to check out both and see how they compare with the story told by most of the rest of the media world. The reality appears to be quite different than the spin of PItts and most others that have written about the case.

kugrad 10 years, 1 month ago

I see all the racists are out in force again to take issue with another comment that hit too close to home. Ya'll walk like a duck and talk like a duck. The shoe fits boys, too bad you wear it with pride.

ksbigdog 10 years, 1 month ago

"The perpetrators of the hate crime of hanging a noose should also be punished."

Hanging a noose in a tree is not a "hate crime" under the laws of the state of Louisiana, nor is it illegal under Federal statutes. Just like flag burning or putting devil horns on a picture of the President, it is Constitutionally protected free speech.

Bubarubu 10 years, 1 month ago

"The message being sent here is that if you're a minority and you commit a crime, you are allowed to get away with it if you hide behind your race and say that you were a victim."

And the message all along was that if you're in the majority, and you threaten people of another race, you are allowed to get away with it without having to hide because you will never face punishment.

Incidentally, all of the black kids involved are still facing charges, some as adults. Mychal Bell's initial conviction was vacated and he will be retried as a juvenile. Four of the Jena 6 were 17 or older at the time of the attack and they all still face adult charges, three of them for aggravated second-degree battery. One still is charged with attempted second-degree murder. Despite the best efforts of the hysterical "see-no-evil-but-black-racists" crowd to delude people into thinking otherwise, every one of the black kids involved is still facing serious punishment. The white kids who hung a noose from a tree have never been charged with anything, arrested, jailed, or sanctioned in any way beyond a month in an alternative school and two weeks of in-school suspension.

costello 10 years, 1 month ago

Ramirez: Why did you link to the wikipedia article about the Christian-Newsom murders and not to the Pitts' editorial that you're criticizing? This column was NOT about the murders as you state. Rather it was about the argument being made by certain white supremacists that black on white crime is underreported by the press.

Here's a link to the Pitts column:

I see nothing racist in it at all. The fact that you do says more about you than it does about Pitts.

And why do you point out that neo-Nazis were angered by this column and threatened Pitts with death? Am I supposed to think, "Oh, wow, if the neo-Nazis don't like him then he must be a really bad guy! Gosh, I need to jump on the anti-Pitts band wagon if the Nazis hate him"? Certainly pointing out that the neo-Nazis want to kill him would tend to undermine your argument that Pitts is a racist. Personally if I happened to share any opinions with the neo-Nazis, I wouldn't point it out in order to bolster my arguments.

sourpuss 10 years, 1 month ago

My eyes are open, Mr. Ramirez, and I don't go around calling people names. Perhaps you don't understand the realities of life in America, and you are lucky for that, I guess.

kugrad 10 years, 1 month ago

I would agree that a noose is constitutionally protected free speech if it did not happen at a public school. The supreme court just ruled against the "Bong hits for Jesus" display, clearly constitutional free speech, because it was across from a school and disruptive. Surely the noose incident could have brought a harsher punishement, and it may have actually been illegal had they been willing to pursue it.

costello 10 years, 1 month ago

"Despite the best efforts of the hysterical 'see-no-evil-but-black-racists' crowd to delude people into thinking otherwise, every one of the black kids involved is still facing serious punishment."

Hysterical describes it perfectly. Are people being willfully ignorant when they claim that the protesters are advocating that the black students receive no punishment at all for their crimes - if and when they're convicted? Or are they being disingenuous and it really is an attempt to delude others into believing this is what the protesters advocate? Unfortunately some people actually seem to think that the posts in the forum are an extension of the news reporting and they believe what they read here without question or further research.

costello 10 years, 1 month ago

Apparently not all nooses are constitutionally protected free speech. Or at least some jurisdictions are willing to try and press charges of some kind:

At any rate, students at school can have their speech limited by the administration.

"In Bethel, the Court upheld the right of Washington state high school administrators to discipline a student for delivering a campaign speech at a school assembly that was loaded with sexual innuendo. The Court expressed the view that administrators ought to have the discretion to punish student speech that violates school rules and has the tendency to interfere with legitimate educational and disciplinary objectives."

"In New Jersey v. T. L. O., 469 U.S. 325 (1985), we reaffirmed that the constitutional rights of students in public school are not automatically coextensive with the rights of adults in other settings." Bethel School District v. Fraser

daddax98 10 years, 1 month ago

"Hanging a noose in a tree is not a "hate crime" under the laws of the state of Louisiana, nor is it illegal under Federal statutes. Just like flag burning or putting devil horns on a picture of the President, it is Constitutionally protected free speech."

Wrong, if the sole purpose of the "speech" is to terrorize, threaten, intimidate etc. a group (especially a protected group) then it is not covered under the free speech provision of the Constitution. The nooses were hung in the tree as a sign to the black students in the school that if they sat under the "white" tree there would be consequences, obviously violent consequences.

fliesinyoureyes 10 years, 1 month ago

kugrad said "had they been willing to pursue it."

Therein lies the problem. They had a recourse with the law all along. What were they doing instead of pursuing the issue?

Face it, folks... this big, evil establishment is set up to protect everybody. The laws are there because you'll never change what people think. EVER. Thankfully there's such a thing as DUE PROCESS that is colorblind because it goes up and up and up to the Supreme Court.

daddax98 10 years, 1 month ago

And making the comparison between this and flag burning is ridiculous one is an expression one is a warning. Just like Fred Phelps can hold up his signs saying "God hates f@gs" "F@gs will burn in he!!" you will never see him or his followers holding up signs that say "we will kill all F@gs" cause his butt would be in the clink faster then Al Sharpton cashing in on Black folks pain. I hope you didn't go to law school otherwise you must have slept through con law

adriennerm 10 years, 1 month ago

OK first of all. Those boys had NO right to put their hands anyone. I don't care is he was wearing a KKK suit, shouting the n word, with a Confederate Flag in his hand. You don't have the right to beat someone up b/c you don't like what they say. 6 on 1 is never fair regardless of your race. They should be charged with something. However attempted murder is way out of line.

I think the messege we're sending those teenagers isn't a good one. It's like saying "it's ok to beat the heck out of someone if you don't like what they say. And if you get arrested we will have a march to get all charges dropped and you can walk away scott free". That's BS...sorry

Did anyone pay for the other's boys medical charges? And so what he when to a party the same night. I went to a concert the same day after being in a major car wreck. I was wearing a neck brace, cast on my ankle, and had a black eye. I was 20 and I wasn't missing that concert and the after party. Parents told me to stay home....but I was young and dumb.

As far as the nooses in the tree..wrong dead wrong....however once again...can't whip someone's behind b/c of that either.

I am african american and I have had many racial moments in Lawrence. Yes I wanted to smack the heck out of some people..but that's not right and I am bigger than that. Which is what the parents should have taught those boys....Violence isn't that never is. There are other ways to sold racial issues

daddax98 10 years, 1 month ago

"Well, that would certainly explain the KKK being given permits - complete with police protection - for their demonstrations:"

Again, they can shout "Die ni@@er die" all day long but when the threats are specific "stay off of Mass street after 8 or we will beat/kill you" it is no longer protected and they can and should be stopped and arrested. Additionally these permits would not allow these demonstrations on school grounds regardless of the speech

kansas778 10 years, 1 month ago

Pitts: "See, you ARE the problem."

This paints a bleak picture. If the letter writer is the problem, then there is no hope for improvement because Pitts will never be able to change the writer's mind, and the problem will never go away. Trying to blame people won't do anything anyway, no one is going to willingly accept responsibility. What is needed is action, and the letter writer and the community he represents have no motivation to act because they blame the victim.

mick 10 years, 1 month ago

"And if those travesties leave you outraged then well, I share that feeling." No you don't Leonard. A few weeks ago you said, "Cry me a river" when people complained. You just want to have it both ways.

camper 10 years, 1 month ago

"Cry me a River". Leonard Pitts.

His feelings about black on white violence. Was in one of his recent editorials.

Jaren 10 years, 1 month ago

To me this seems like the normal lets cry I'm black. The "fellow John" who emailed you seems to me to be quite the "fellow" indeed. He just pointed out what needed to be. I especially like when you say "The students say he was looking directly at them when he said it. The DA has denied this, but I find the denial less than credible given the unfathomable charges he sought to file against the black kids while a white kid who attacked a black one got off with a comparative slap on the wrist." in your response and you take the thug kids, who you forgot jumped another student, word over a district attorney.....Come on. Get over yourself and your so called prejudices against you and use your talent to write useful essays rather than cry baby junk like this.

Frederic Gutknecht IV 10 years, 1 month ago

Jaren says: "write useful essays, rather than cry baby junk" This is horrible. How can you call us baby junkets! We are up on top of the blogash, itty bitty! I have no sympathy for proper argument. Why should I? Nobody does. Nobody. And don't give me that should, schmould schidt! There are no means to your ends! What fools these mortals've been being for so long. Nobody can write. Nobody can read. Nobaby can take their skills to market. We are srew'dj'dge. Bah. Humbuggery! It's Friday! Friday! Friday! We're screwed.

camper 10 years, 1 month ago

Hanging a noose is a direct threat....and sometimes an indirect threat against someones life. Lets not split hairs here. No different than calling in a bomb threat. It should be take seriously, zero tolerance. Hanging a noose takes premeditation.

While fighting can exhibit a certain degree of premeditation, it is often consited mostly of passion. This is the difference I see. A good Judge will recognize this.

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