U.S. Supreme Court Doesn’t Inspire Confidence

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…

Killing of Black People Still Not Important

During the height of the Civil Rights movement, Ella Josephine Baker said, “Until the killing of black men, black mothers’ sons, becomes as important to the rest of the country as the killing of a white mother’s son, we who believe in freedom cannot rest until this happens.”

That was in 1964.

Surely, Ms. Baker would be reminding us of that thought as the alleged killer of a 17-year old, unarmed African-American teen has still not been arrested.

George Zimmerman, who has said he shot young Trayvon Martin in self-defense, is free, and despite how difficult it is to believe how this tragedy could in any way have been self-defense, the authorities have chosen to believe him, saying there is “no probable cause” to arrest him.

It’s this sort of thing that taps into the rage of African-Americans, who for too long have been exploited and mistreated by the justice system. In fact, when it comes to African-Americans, historically there has been little real justice.

The foundation of America is one that was built on racism, and on the belief that African-Americans were not really human. It is documented history that African-Americans could be and were accused of crimes with very little to no evidence, and jailed and or executed for the same. No justice system, local, state, or national, seriously intervened to protect the rights of African-Americans.

In fact, in the historic Dred Scott decision, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Roger Taney said, boldly, and wrote, that “there are no rights of a black man that a white man is bound to respect.”

The accused killers of young Emmet Till, Roy Bryant and John Milam, were acquitted by an all-white jury after only 67 minutes deliberation. It is recorded that one of the jurors said they would have announced the verdict sooner had they not stopped to drink a pop.

The alleged killer of Medgar Evers, Byron de la Beckwith, wasn’t brought to justice until years after Evers’ murder.

And then there are the countless numbers of unknown African-American youths and men who get swallowed up in the “justice” system on a daily basis, challenging the ability of the African-American community to believe in justice in this country.

In the case of Trayvon Martin, the claim that his murder was done in self-defense is as insulting as it is angering. The young man was walking to his house; Mr. Zimmerman obviously had to approach him. Because the 911 tapes have not been released, nobody can talk about what really happened, but it seems very clear that Mr. Zimmerman provoked an encounter with this young man.

So, why the hold up in arresting Zimmerman? Is it because, as Ella Baker and so many others have noted, that the life of an African-American, and the loss of that life,  just isn’t a big deal to the powers that be?  There is no overt racism, or not like there used to be, but this is racism, clearly and surely. What’s going on is saying to those who think that way that it is all right to kill someone who “looks suspicious.”

What is really being said is that it is still free season on the killing of African-Americans. Make up a reason, any reason, and go for it.

As I study the history of justice in this country for African-Americans, I just get sadder and sadder. This is a country that would not even declare lynching to be wrong. The lynching era in this country lasted from 1865 to 1920, and the United StatesCongress would not pass a law outlawing it.

English: Portrait drawing of U.S. Supreme Cour...
Image via Wikipedia

Over and over, all-white juries convicted African-Americans with little to no proof, and crimes committed by white people toward blacks were pretty much ignored.

And so here we now sit, in the 21st century, with more of the same. An unarmed African-American male youth, who carried only Skittles and a can of iced tea, is dead, and nobody, I mean in the justice system, seems to care.

It is hard to watch, and even harder to admit that America still has a long way to go…Ella Baker’s words still ring true. We cannot rest; the killing of black men and  black mothers’ sons is still not as important to the rest of the country is the killing of a white mother’s son.

A candid observation…