Archive for Thursday, May 1, 2008

Seriously, how can we trust justice system?

May 1, 2008

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Mister Attorney General, the question is for you. And you too, Ms. Police Officer, Madame District Attorney, and Mr. Judge. It is also for you, Mr. and Ms. Average Citizen. I realize this will be an engraved invitation for those crackpots who get their jollies flouting their hatefulness and ignorance on electronic message boards and I'm willing to live with that because the question, I assure you, is in earnest.

Somebody tell me: How can I trust the justice system?

You will think this is about Sean Bell, the unarmed black man who died in a fusillade of 50 bullets from New York police on what was to have been his wedding day; the shooters were acquitted last week. But the question isn't about Bell, at least not solely.

Rather, it's about the fact that the justice system so often seems to have less justice in it where black people are concerned. It's about Amadou Diallo, shot at 41 times - hit 19 - by New York police while reaching for his wallet. It's about Rodney King, beaten to pieces by L.A. police for a traffic violation. It's about Arthur McDuffie, beaten to "death" by Miami police for a traffic violation. It's about Jeffrey Gilbert, bones fractured by police who broke into the Greenbelt, Md., apartment of his girlfriend and pounced on him as he lay nude in bed because they mistakenly thought him a cop killer. It's about L.A. police manufacturing and planting evidence. It's about my son, stopped by police for driving with an "obstructed" windshield - he had an air freshener in the shape of a Christmas tree dangling from his rear-view mirror. It's about studies documenting the enduring racial bias in our justice system so that, for example, blacks account for 13 percent of all regular drug users, but 35 percent of those arrested, 55 percent of those convicted, and 74 percent of those imprisoned, for drug possession.

And it's about knowing the foregoing will be greeted with blithe indifference by those who find it convenient to believe the unjust treatment of blacks is somehow excusable, understandable, merited or required.

I need no lectures to remind me that good people inhabit the system; my cousin is a federal prosecutor. Nor do I need any lectures on the heroism of cops; I've ridden with police, been protected by them, and yield to no one in my admiration for those who do that job with honor.

So save the lectures, just give me an answer: How can I trust a system whose biases against people who look like me are simultaneously well-documented, yet happily ignored by those who resemble me not at all.

The question matters because without trust, the system doesn't work. Everybody came down, and justifiably so, on the idiot rapper who said last year that he would not call police even if a serial killer were living next door. Unfortunately, fewer people bothered to ask where such profound distrust comes from. Fewer still bothered to ask what it leads to.

People don't participate in systems they don't trust. They don't come forward, they don't testify. So criminals go uncaptured and crimes unpunished. Yet some black people apparently find that preferable to participating in a system they believe is rigged against them. I don't agree with them, but before you condemn them, ask yourself: Would you play in a game refereed by someone who hated you? What's the point?

In games as in life, you may not like an outcome, but if you believe it was fairly derived, you can at least live with it. Small wonder black people often find it difficult to live with this system. Last week's acquittal will do nothing to change that.

So I'm serious. Somebody tell me how I can trust American justice. Somebody tell me why I should even try.

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

Comments

bondmen 9 years, 6 months ago

This was fishy from the beginning and we learn once again judges almost always rule in favor of law enforcement, even when they've clearly exceeded the bounds of prudent and reasonable actions. Other historic examples where justice has yet to be served is the Randy Weaver case in Idaho plus the 80 men, women and children incinerated at Waco, Texas. This is a fallen world and we must all realize justice will be served for certain, just not in the time frame we may like.

yellowhouse 9 years, 6 months ago

I asked a Native American if I can trust the Government....He just stared in silence...So I asked a black man if I can trust the Government....He just stared in silence from the window of the police car...So I asked a white man if I can trust the Government...He smiled!

ksdivakat 9 years, 6 months ago

yh...you perpetuate the cycle and keep it going, its people like you who will never allow this country to heal and move past all the ugliness. Im not saying that black people are not singled out, because the whole country knows that they are....however......Im quite sure that there are no former slaves alive today, so, the past does not have to define who black people are anymore, it can however prepare them for the future! If we as a country can get in that mind set, then it will take black people from being the "victim" to the "victor" and thats what is needed for this to heal.What happened to Sean Bell is a murder anyway you want to wash it, and it was unjustified and those men who killed him, walked for that murder, and that aint right, but we cannot continue to "think" like this as a country or its always going to be this way. We can help people move past this, by being positive, by facing racism head on and talking about it, and not turning our heads and pretending it doesnt happen. People like Pitts who are also perpetuating this should be ashamed of themselves, as long as you "condone" it by making jokes or pretending its not happening, then its only going ot get worse and not better. I for one am long ready for this country to treat ALL people equal, no matter the color of their skin or their socio-economic status....it just aint right! people are people, and if we could all get that through our heads then maybe this would be a better world.......God Bless you!

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