Stand Your Ground Only If You’re White?

So, Marissa Alexander still faces 60 years in prison for shooting a warning shot into the air to ward off her abusive husband.

Meanwhile, while she is awaiting a new trial, George Zimmerman is walking free. Alexander faces three counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. Prosecutor Angela Corey, who failed to gain convictions in the Zimmerman case and, for all intents and purposes, in the case of Jordan Davis, is going for blood.

Both Alexander and Zimmerman  “stood their ground.” Zimmerman is free. Alexander may wind up in prison for a long, long time.

Where is the justice? Put another way, “where is justice, period, for black, brown and poor people?”

The historical narrative for black people being incarcerated, or, even worse, just being denied justice, is sad. One in three black males, reports say, can expect to be incarcerated in their lifetime. http://http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/10/04/racial-disparities-criminal-justice_n_4045144.html.

Black people are still objects, deserving of the bad things that come their way, seems to be the prevailing attitude. Marissa Alexander is not a frightened woman, a mother tired of being beaten by a crazed man. She is an object who shouldn’t have fired a gun. Prosecutor Corey doesn’t see her as a woman in distress, but, rather, an object which she can use to bolster her conviction record. Prosecutors are famous for going not for justice …but for convictions….because they are elected and need to be seen as “tough on crime.”

Their lack of willingness to seek justice for black, brown and poor people …and for women …is a crime in and of itself.

Hopefully, there will be a ground-swell of support for Marissa, although the justice system doesn’t often listen to or respect ground-swell when it comes to people accused of crimes. Nor does the justice system move quickly to admit mistakes it makes in order to free people who have been wrongly accused, convicted and incarcerated. People sit in prisons for years while the justice system lulls over new evidence that it very often disregards and deems insufficient.

Marissa Alexander’s attorneys sought to get her a new “stand your ground” hearing, based on revision of the controversial law which is used in at least 26 states. The judge ruled it didn’t prevail in her case. She, a black woman, who shot nobody, is facing up to 60 years in prison for firing a warning shot in the air to scare off her abusive husband. George Zimmerman, a white man (though some say he is not) is walking free, and Michael Dunn, who murdered Jordan Davis, would have been free had he not tried to kill three other black youths.

The man who shot Renisha McBride, Theodore Wafer, is on trial now. I am holding my breath, hoping to God he is convicted, but not all that optimistic about that hope becoming a reality.

It’s the dehumanization of black people, which began at the dawn of the creation of this country, which has aided prejudice, bigotry and been the basis and justification for the type of injustice black, brown and poor people have gotten in the courts.

Justice, it seems, is evasive if you don’t have the right skin color.

A candid observation …

 

 

“Boys Will Be Boys”…

It has occurred to me that only some boys are “allowed” to be boys, according to the common adage.

When I think of what happened to Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis, what I think is that these were two young men …being boys. Teens tend to do dumb things in general; teen boys, no matter their color or ethnicity, do even more dumb things…It is part of growing up. Some of us get out of our teens safely, meaning we don’t get killed or injured or wind up in “the system,” but many of us, unfortunately, do not.

Michelle Alexander, the author of The New Jim Crow, said on Saturday that “all of us are sinners, and all of us are criminals.” What an incredibly simple yet profound statement. All of us, surely, have done something that puts us in both those categories…yet it seems to be black and brown males who seem to end up in prison or dead for …just doing “dumb boy stuff.”

I remember hearing the story of a young black teen who lived in Chicago, who, with his friends, took up a dare that they could all outrun an oncoming train. Dumb. Dumb. Dumb …but that was the challenge of the day. There were about six boys in the group. All of them made it…except for one, who tripped and fell, and before he could get up, the rambling train had run over his legs, amputating them both.

I hear stories about this all of the time, as I am sure many do, but what bothers me, again, is that black and brown boys don’t really have the luxury of being …boys. And what’s worse, it feels like the white police officers know exactly the mind set they are dealing with. They know what boys will try, what they will smoke or when they will fight …because these police officers have done the same “dumb boy” stuff themselves. They have done what they are chasing down these black and brown boys for r, and have gotten away. Now, they are in positions of power.  It feels like they have never been too fond of black or brown people; it feels like they have totally bought into the opinion that black and brown people are bad, stupid and lazy, and they use their power to reign these young men in for doing exactly as some of these police officers have done in their lives …if not worse.

When it is suggested that police officers take some diversity training, or get some kind of training that will help them deal with the communities in which they immerse themselves, there is pushback; they are miffed, it seems, that anyone would suggest that they need training to deal with …common criminals…and yet, they do need something . These police officers go into black and brown communities armed with guns and misguided and misinformed perceptions. They go in believing that the black and brown people with whom they deal are inherently bad as opposed to being humans who need help and protection like everyone else.

These white officers know that kids use drugs. My son used to tell me that at his high school, a very good high school in the suburbs, was full of drugs. Chances are these police officers have used or are using marijuana …and they know how boys get together and smoke to “have fun,” and yet they round these boys up and herd them into the system. The huge numbers of black and brown people in jail and prison, especially black males, for non-violent drug offenses, supports my observation.

What to do? How do black and brown parents raise their sons? They certainly are not allowed to “be boys” as the white boys are allowed to be. So …what does a parent share? When my son was a teen, I gave him “the talk” on how to act in public, what to say, do, not say and not do, if he were ever stopped by police. He got through…but so many of our boys do not.

When I think of Trayvon and Jordan, I think of boys …being boys …defending their manhood, standing up for themselves, in the wake of being challenged by other men who challenged them …just because they could. I believe Trayvon was frightened by being followed by George Zimmerman and decided to “stand his ground” and protect himself…and I believe Jordan decided that no white man was going to tell him how loud he could play his music and he challenged Michael Dunn’s demand that they turn the music down in their car. Boys. Being boys. The white men against whom they came against took up the challenge. It was a pissing contest … as men will often engage in …but both Trayvon and Jordan …and so many more young black and brown men …lost. I mean they lost the ultimate – their lives.

Yeah, “boys will be boys,” but black and brown boys and youth are highly at risk when they do that. And unfortunately, as the white boys and men whom they confront do the “boy thing” too, it is the black and brown kids who too often end up with the short end of the stick.

A candid observation …

Michael Dunn, George Zimmerman, and Fear

I wonder if any black person has ever had the benefit of  having a trial with an impartial jury.

The Sixth Amendment of the Constitution says that American citizens are entitled to a trial with an “impartial jury.” That  phrase has been interpreted as one having the right to a trial with a jury “by one’s peers.” That’s not exactly what the Constitution says. It says we’re supposed to have trials with an “impartial jury.”

I have long struggled with trials for black people that have had juries which were nearly all white. Because I thought the Constitution said we have a right to a jury of our peers, I have long thought that something was very wrong. Well, there’s a lot wrong, but for this moment, I just want to concentrate on the one thing I felt was wrong: Black people were NOT having trials with juries “of their peers.”

But along those same lines, black people have not had many trials with impartial juries, either. In the Dunn trial, there were four white men, four white women, two black women …one Asian woman and one Hispanic American. Were these jurors impartial? I don’t think so. Out of the total of 12 jurors, 8 were white. Impartial?  I cannot believe that they were.

Chris Cuomo of CNN interviewed George Zimmerman, who was acquitted of killing Trayvon Martin. Zimmerman, in spite of being free, is pouting. He says HE is a victim and was made a scapegoat by the government, naming the president and the attorney in general. Michael Dunn is amazed that he was convicted even of attempted second degree murder. He said from jail that he was attacked. Apparently, the juries believed both these men, that THEY were victims. I cannot believe that that the jurors who saw him as victim …are impartial.

White people are so often afraid of black people…just because they are black and because the media has been very effective in portraying black people as criminals.  Almost every black person I know has experienced a white person gripping her bag more tightly when she has seen a black person, primarily a black man, approaching her. It is a fact that one can be (and is) stopped just because he is black.  Statistics show that while blacks commit a large number of violent crimes, most of their victims tend to be black. A report done by CNN indicated that the most likely victim of black crime is a black male, 12-19 years old, and the least likely victim, a white male, ages 35-64.  Blacks, in relation to being only 12.5 percent of the population, commit “a disproportionate number of crimes,” but, the report said, “whites commit more crimes.” (http://money.cnn.com/magazines/moneymag/moneymag_archive/1994/06/01/88911/)

Blacks have been criminalized historically, something that began after Reconstruction, when white people in the South needed a way to get blacks back on the farms to do the work that would improve the South’s economy. Blacks could be arrested for the most petty things – like being outside too late, or walking on the wrong side of the railroad tracks, for loitering (even as they waited in line to get a job!) The message was being given that black people were bad, unworthy of freedom. That sentiment has persisted…

The overarching feeling of many whites, then, is that black people are bad and are to be feared, and fear drives white emotions, beliefs and actions. Why did the man in Dearborn, Michigan, shoot 19-year-old Renisha McBride in the face as she banged on his door in the wee hours of the morning seeking help? Because he was afraid. Why did the police officer shoot injured and unarmed Jonathan Ferrell as he ran toward police, seeking help? Because he was afraid.

Both Michael Dunn and George Zimmerman are murderers; they both shot unarmed black teens …but their actions were driven by fear and they had jurors who were ALSO afraid, or who know the fear of which they spoke, and in the cradle of that fear, acquitted these men of their crimes. The juries were NOT impartial. Fear prevented that.

When I hear Dunn and Zimmerman say they were victims, my blood boils. They were not victims of anything other than their own fear.  Fear leads people to insecurity and irrational actions…which is what we saw in the case of both these men.

Somebody on the Dunn jury was connecting with his/her own fear…and that’s what drove them. Dunn is still shocked that he was convicted of anything, given the scenario as he feels it happened. He was afraid of Jordan Davis, afraid of what he believes to be true of all black people. His fear, probably fed a bit by machismo, increased as Davis offered him an angry challenge to Dunn’s request that the teens turn down their money. Dunn  rode into that gas station with contempt for and fear of black people in his heart. He acted on both…and contrary to his sorry claim, he was NOT the victim; he was NOT attacked. That 17-year- old kid was the victim and was attacked and killed.

I get that. But the jury, which was NOT impartial, did not.

It’s a sorry and tragic shame, what has happened.

A candid observation …

Waiting for Justice

This morning I am waiting with bated breath the verdict in the Michael Dunn murder trial.

It is day three of this so-called “loud music” trial. I am so afraid the jury will bring back a verdict of “not guilty” or that there will be a hung jury.

I am afraid because in so many cases of black people being shot and killed by white people – police or civilians – the verdict is “not guilty.” And each and every time one of those verdicts come down the pike, my heart sinks.

It seems and feels like that, no matter what, there is seldom justice for black people, especially in cases where a white person has killed or injured a black person.

What in the world is it? I remember feeling optimistic way back when Rodney King was beaten by police. It was caught on video tape…and I thought it was clear as day that that young man had been wronged, beaten cruelly and mercilessly by police who seemed totally out of control. He was treated like a sick and dangerous animal, not a man who had made a bad move.

But not even the video tape helped. The police officers were acquitted …and a city went nuts. I understood why.

America’s lack of willingness to extend justice to African-American families which have been changed forever because of violence waged against their loved ones is a dangerous and troubling thing. American jurists, too many of whom are white when it comes to delivering verdicts in cases like this – seem to subliminally think that if a black person is shot down by a police officer or by a civilian, he or she somehow deserved it. It boggles the mind, or my mind, still, that George Zimmerman is free. It boggles my mind that the police officer who shot Henry Glover was convicted …only to be later acquitted in a new trial.

Michael Dunn shot into an SUV and killed an unarmed teen. He then drove away – miles away – and didn’t even bother to call police. He shot because he got angry with a teen who dared challenge him when he asked the teens to turn their music down. He gave the classic line used in these types of cases, “I was in fear for my life.”

Bull.

This man was wrong. Jordan Davis, the kid he killed, perhaps should have kept his mouth shut …but being mouthy is NOT  a reason to be gunned down like a rabid dog.

I don’t understand why everyone cannot understand that.

I keep thinking of Langston Hughes’ poem, “A Dream Deferred.” He asks what happens when a dream is deferred?:

What happens to a dream deferred?

Does it dry up like a raisin in the sun?

Or fester like a sore, and then run?

Does it stink like rotten meat?

Or crust and sugar over

like a syrupy sweet?

Maybe it just sags

like a heavy load.

Or does it explode?

African-Americans keep dreaming for justice in this land, but it really does feel like a dream deferred.

What will happen if Dunn is acquitted? I shudder to think of the brutal slap to African-American souls if that is the reality. Another dream, another moment of hope, dashed …another dream deferred.

It just cannot keep happening. I am afraid of what this jury will decide.

A candid observation .