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Saturday, May 17, 2008

White Man's Justice Black Man's Grief!

Theme Song for this post ITUNES

White Man’s Justice Black man’s Grief; the title of legendary urban author Donald Goings novel pretty much embodies the sentiments that most black Americans have in regards to the American judicial system. Regardless of if we are on trial for murder or on trial for being murdered, it seems the same rules apply; we are, in the eyes of the law, considered guilty until proven innocent. When a police officer guns down an unarmed and, what should be, presumably innocent black man it becomes more of a battle to prove that black man as just that (innocent) than to prove him to be a victim of a murder. For instance: immediately following the shooting of Patrick Dorismond at the hands of undercover police officers, then Mayor Rudolf Guliani elected to release the sealed juvenile delinquency record of Dorismond stating he wanted to showcase that Dorsimond was “no altar boy”. When incidents such as this take place in our communities, often the victims and their communities are the ones placed on trial and not the proposed assailants. When there is no justifiable reasoning for a police officer murdering a black man, the attention often turns to the dangers the officers face patrolling our communities. This is used as a means of validating a pattern of thought that inspires a level of fear that can justify an irrational act, such as unintentionally firing their weapon and plunging a bullet into the chest of an unarmed teen, which was exactly what happened to Timothy Stansberry who was shot dead by a bullet from Officer Richard S. Neri Jr. on Janaury 24, 2004.

The communities are so dangerous that wallets and brushes can be mistaken for guns (Amadou Diallo) the people are so dangerous that an unarmed man can be beaten half to death and still considered a threat by remaining on his feet during the bludgeoning and not collapsing to the ground (Rodney King Jr.). The Sean Bell trial is just a case of the same old same.

The main determining factor in the Sean Bell trial was whether someone stated they were going to get a gun. The officers said they heard someone say they were going to get a gun. The victims said no one mentioned a gun. I was always told there are three sides to a story; your side, my side, and somewhere in between those two sides is the truth. The judge had to look in between the stories of the defendants and the victims and see how much truth lied on either side in order to form a picture of what the truth might actually be. When you’re trying to decide who to believe character comes into question. This is exactly what happened in the Sean Bell trial. The judge called the characters of Trent Benefield, Joseph Guzman, and Sean Bell into question. He used their prior criminal records, for the most part, as a means of discrediting their testimony among other things such as; the $50 million lawsuits that Guzmond and Benifeild have pending as a motive to lie and the environment in which the incident had taken place, which was a strip club under investigation for drugs and prostitution. Is it incomprehensible to believe that, at a nightclub under investigation for criminal activity, an altercation had taken place involving men who were felons convicted of charges such as drug dealing and robbery, which had spun out of control resulting in one of the participants declaring they were going to get a gun? Because the prosecution had to prove beyond reasonable doubt that the defendants were guilty of unjustifiably firing the 50 rounds that claimed the life of Sean Bell that night. All the defense had to do, was present a case where one could conclude that the defendants were under the impression that there was a gun present at the scene which inspired a pattern of thought that led to the incidents of that night. Unfortunately what had to be proven in the Sean Bell trial was that it was no way humanly possible that anyone could have stated they were going to get a gun during the altercation that had taken place at the strip club that night. The police officers weren’t on trial the victims were, and it was the prosecutions job to showcase the victims as law abiding citizens of the state, who were highly unlikely to act in the manner in which they were being accused of that night.
Every time an incident such as this takes place, the same things become apparent. Blacks in urban communities have been criminalized in the eyes of the justice system and in the eyes of society in general. Statistical data published in newspapers that highlight crime areas where blacks dominate in order to support the idea that blacks are mostly responsible for crime, nightly television news shows that consistently showcase blacks as assailants and suspects in criminal investigations and cases, shows like the wire, movies like American Gangster, rappers like 50cent, all assist in the criminalization of black people. Since the release of the movie Training Day, “This is chess not Checkers” has become a very popular phrase amongst members of our community. I think we’ve been underestimating the extent of truth that statement holds as it pertains to us in white America.

I remember watching an episode of “Tell It like It Is”, which is a show that I catch once in awhile every other Sunday. There was a black woman who stated that blacks seem to have forgotten that they have to be quicker, stronger, faster, smarter, and better, and how it’s always been that way. I think those thoughts couldn’t be more true. It seems we’ve been lulled into a false sense of equality. It seems that the lack of overt racism has had a negative effect on our community causing us to not be as aware of the extent of racism as we should. I’ve seen us come to a point where we’ve contracted the “What’s good for the goose is good for the gander” syndrome. I hear us saying, “well, they do it” why we get busted for selling drugs like we do when they don’t and they do it, why we get busted for smoking weed like we do when they don’t and they do it. We don’t accept the responsibility to be smarter or to be better and we don’t feel that we should have to be smarter or be better; we want to be “equal” which raises some doubts on our perception of equality in my mind. Two Words, accountability and responsibility, we can’t support the things that support the ideas, that support and give “justification” to the actions that are taken to erase us off this planet. Anybody that makes it out of our communities and becomes successful and makes a lot of money gets a pass to poison the people. If you criticize them you’re a hater. Well, in the words of my boy K-Swift, if hating drugs and guns in my community makes me a hater, I’ll be a hater. Jay-Z has one of the most successful Hip Hop clothing lines out: Rockawear. How many Rockawear clothing stores in any of our communities are there that any of these kids can go to and apply for a job? The clothes are made, probably in another country somewhere, shipped here, and sold in Macys for a shit load of money for our kids to kill themselves to get the money to buy and get what in return; look fly!? We need to understand the significance of the messages in the imagery when Hip hop artist come on TV to discuss business in a corporate suit and then dress like a member of our community to talk about guns, drugs, and other illegal activity. What we need to do is start taking responsibility for ourselves, because if we don’t take responsibility for ourselves and start changing the view that the world has of us as a people, there won’t be anything that can save us from what they have planned.