American Justice System Not Just for African-Americans

It’s hard for me to believe in the justice system in America.

The jury system has its good points, but juries have been wrong so often. I cannot shake the hunch that Troy Davis, executed last year, was innocent, but because a jury found him guilty, his fate was sealed. Before he ever got to the jury, though, he was a target in this American justice system which too often hones in on African-American males as “the” people who are always guilty, always to be wary of.

All one has to say is an African-American did something, and the “justice” system buys into the accusation. In the case of Trayvon Martin,  George Zimmerman’s claim that he acted in self-defense, despite the apparent evidence that he approached (stalked!) Trayvon, has resonated with people who are all too willing to too easily throw the book at African-Americans, throw them into jail, and throw the key to the jail away.

So many African-Americans, falsely accused or rightly arrested, are at the mercy of public defenders who too often seem not to care about the fate of their clients.Of course, many young offender, or those accused of offenses, do not help themselves by appearing in court dressed in sagging pants, bling, and other pieces of apparel that feed into stereotypes of who African-Americans are and what African-Americans do.

Everybody knows that it’s easy to get off, or at least get attention deflected from oneself, by pointing a finger at an African-American. Charles Stuart, the man who killed his pregnant wife and then blamed an anonymous black man, knew that, as did Susan Smith, the mother who drowned her two children but lied to the public, saying black men had done something to her children.

The fact of the matter is that, in America, we are still shackled by our past, our rabid, racist past, which will not go away. This country has been successful in setting up the prototype of the “bad black man,” and that image is a part of everybody’s psyche, black and white.

So, when a black and white person are in a skirmish, as in the case of  Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman, in spite of what appears to be pretty clear-cut evidence that Zimmerman approached Martin, there is this huge pool of doubt that this young, 17-year-old African-American youth could have possibly been pure as the driven snow. George Zimmerman’s claim that he acted in self-defense feeds into the fears of too many, that another “bad black person” acted up again. The media has quietly changed the picture of Zimmerman and Martin, Zimmerman’s from a person in an orange jump suit, looking kind of mean, and Martin looking quite innocent, in a tee-shirt, to Zimmerman, smiling, in a suit and Martin in a wool skull-cap, no smile evident.

It is the feeding of racism and racial stereotypes. Zimmerman has been given a bad rap, supporters say.

Never mind that if Zimmerman had been black, and Martin, an unarmed white teen, that the story would be different. Zimmerman would have been arrested on the spot, charged at least with second degree murder, maybe even first degree murder. There would have been no credence given to a claim of self-defense, cuts on head notwithstanding. And there would have either been high bail – maybe $500,000, or no bail, not this paltry $150,000  amount set by the judge today.

At the end of the day, the American justice system has its strengths, but when it comes to treating African-Americans justly, it falls very short, and always has, with few, yet important exceptions. Just today, Judge Greg Weeks of Fayetteville commuted the sentence of Marcus Robinson to life imprisonment, saying that racial bias played a part in the severity of his sentence. Robinson was accused and convicted of killing a white man.

Those types of “admission” of racism within our justice system, however, are few and far in-between. African-Americans still cannot find peace or assurance that within our justice system, they will in fact find justice.

A candid observation …

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