I find that I do not have much confidence at all in the justice system of this nation. I have little confidence in police and other law enforcement officers, and I don’t have much confidence in the courts, including the United States Supreme Court.
When I was little, my second grade class was visited by “Officer Friendly.” We were taught that the police were the “good guys,” and we never had to worry if we were in trouble. That gave me, a little kid, a lot of confidence and a sense of security.
But while there are good police officers, what I found over the years is that police officers were often not the friend of African-Americans, and I found that the courts were often not so interested in being fair to African-Americans. In spite of the American democratic and judicial ideal of one being “innocent until proven guilty,” what I found as I read and studied was that African-Americans were often considered guilty and not worthy of proving innocence. All-white juries, I read, convicted black people on the smallest of crimes and also on major crimes for which there was little to no substantiating evidence.
This America upheld or at least ignored Jim Crow, was reluctant to intervene in cases involving race, and would not pass a law outlawing lynching.
My heart was seriously broken, though, when in a sermon Rev. Dr. Jeremiah Wright preached that in the Dred Scott case, Chief Justice Roger Taney ruled that “there were no rights of a black man that a white man is bound to respect.”
I felt tears coming down my cheeks in spite of myself.
In the Dred Scott case, the U.S. Supreme court also ruled that the Bill of Rights didn’t apply to African-Americans. “If it did,” the Court ruled, “African-Americans would be able, in full liberty of speech in public and in private to hold public meetings upon political affairs and to keep and carry arms wherever they went.”
That was in 1856. In 1883, in Pace v. Alabama, the nation’s high court upheld an Alabama law which forbade interracial marriage. Such a marriage could land the offenders from two to seven years in prison. This ruling was overturned in Loving v. Virginia in 1967.
We all know about Plessy v. Ferguson, which ruled that there was such a thing as “separate but equal” when considering public institutions, a ruling which was overturned by Brown v. Board of Education in 1954. In Cumming v. Richmond, in 1899, three black families in Richmond County, Virginia, went to the court for justice when the closing of the area’s only high school for black students were closed. They wanted their children to be able to finish their education at the white high school, but the Court snubbed them, and said that if there were no suitable black school in a given district, African-American students would have to go without an education.
The more I read, the more I am floored, and that child’s disappointment with the reality of American as opposed to the myth of America comes back. The Affordable Health Care Act is now before the Court, provisions of which will help many of this nation’s citizens, but I have no confidence that the Court is interested in upholding or even establishing justice or equity. This nation’s high court does not seem to be on the side of “the least of these.” In Lum v. Rice, in 1927, a nine-year old Chinese girl, Martha Lum, faced the coldness of the court as concerns race. Congress had passed the Oriental Exclusion Act in 1924 to control the number of immigrants from Asia, but Asians already living in America were American citizens.
The problem was that there were not enough Asians for them to have their own school; strict separation of races in public schools was the law of the land, and so Lum’s family appealed to the Court to attend the nearby white school. The Court said no.
Well, I don’t see where the justices on the Court today are any more inclined to lean toward “justice for the masses” than they were in the 19th and 20th centuries. I don’t feel that the justices’ definition of justice intersects with the definition of justice of so many Americans. It feels like the Court is interested, as it has always been interested, only in protecting the power, position and privilege of the status quo. Equity among the people is not an American value. “All men are created equal” does not mean every man, and this is not a country that espouses and pushes “liberty and justice for all.” To believe in equity and/or equality, liberty and justice for all, is to lean dangerously to the Left, I am learning, putting oneself in position to be labeled a Socialist, or worse.
I am holding my breath on this Court’s ruling on the Affordable Health Care Act, but I won’t hold it long, I am afraid.
This Court has done little, unfortunately, to make me trust it or its intentions.
A candid observation…
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