A wonderfully stimulating conversation with new buddies, Marty, Char and John led me to share this commentary by one of my favorite columnists, Leonard Pitts, Jr. If you're not familiar with his writings, I invite you to check out his website at http://leonardpittsjr.com and The Miami Herald.
February 2, 2004
An Open Letter to African-American Men
The Game of Justice is Rigged
By LEONARD PITTS, Jr.
This is an open letter to African-American men.
I suppose I could as easily have addressed myself to the broader world, but I know how the response to that would go. Folks denying, rationalizing and arguing that facts are not truly facts.
That's how it always is when the subject is crime and you.
Earlier this week, The Miami Herald ran a jaw-dropping series called ''Justice Withheld.'' It detailed the abuse of a legal procedure called a withholding of adjudication. This is a tool Florida judges can use at their discretion that allows felony offenders to avoid a conviction.
Receiving a withhold allows you to legally say you've never been convicted of a crime, even though a court found you guilty. There are many benefits: You retain your right to vote and hold office and you don't have to put the crime on your application for a job or a student loan.
THEORY VS. PRACTICE
In theory, withholds are handed out sparingly to deserving people in extenuating circumstances. The Herald found that in practice, they are handed out like Halloween candy.
Four-time losers get withholds. Rapists and car thieves get withholds. Drug dealers and batterers get withholds.
If you commit fraud or forgery, you've got an even chance of getting one. Abuse or molest a child and your chances are actually better than even.
All those folks enjoying all that judicial mercy. Guess who gets left out?
Even if you commit the same crime and have the same record, a white offender is almost 50 percent more likely to get a withhold than you are. Some folks say that's not a function of racism but of socioeconomics. Meaning that whites are more often able to afford private attorneys, less likely to have to rely on some overburdened public defender.
There are two answers to that. One: socioeconomics can't be disconnected from racism where black people are concerned; the disparity in black and white accumulated wealth is hardly an accident. And two: The Herald report shows that, even when you adjust for type of attorney, African-American defendants are still much less likely to receive withholds.
So I have a question for you:
Can we please stop being such good customers of the American injustice system? I am sick to my soul of watching shaggy-haired black boys and men in orange jumpsuits led into courtrooms to be judged for doing some stupid and heinous thing. I'm weary of the truth in that old Richard Pryor line about how he went to court looking for justice and that's what he found. Just us.
Contrary to what society has told us, to what so much of our music claims and to what too many of us have internalized, the reason isn't that we carry some kind of criminal gene. No, it's that we don't get second chances, don't have the same margin for error a white guy would. One strike, and you're out.
We need to recognize this. Need to make sure our sons and brothers recognize it.
The Herald report is not the first, the fifth, or even the 10th to come back with results like these, results that codify the painfully obvious: the injustice system sees no value in us, is comfortable throwing us away like so much used tissue. It doesn't give a damn about us.
But our children do. Our women and mothers and fathers do. So let us love them -- and ourselves -- enough to stay as far from that system as humanly possible. Because once you're in it, you're like a dinosaur in a tar pit. Dragged down.
No, it's not fair that we are held to a different standard. Say that loudly and clearly. Fight to make it right. But do not stop there.
You see, when you discover that a game is rigged against you, you have every right to complain that you're being cheated.
If I hear one more supposedly intelligent, educated Black person say that someone has “good” hair I think I’m going to scream. “Good” hair, of course, being hair that is straight.
In light of the Don Imus “nappy-headed ho’s” comment, to hear Black people not appreciate their own natural hair is all the more frustrating. Most of the time, the people I hear making such statements are parents so it’s very likely they’re passing that negativity and self-hatred on to their children.
My hair is nappy…coarse…kinky…and I am proud of it. Before I locked it, the strength of my hair allowed me to inflict seemingly limitless trauma to it from coloring it from jet black to honey blonde; straightening it with an old school straightening comb heated on the stove; perming it (lye and no-lye); jheri curling it; used the afro blow-out kit; braiding it; weaving it (sewn in and bonding glue); and cutting it so short you could see what was on my mind. My nappy, coarse, kinky hair has to be “good” to survive all that.
It’s 2007, how much longer will it take Black people to wake up and truly love themselves?
“No one can make you feel inferior without your permission.” ~ Eleanor Roosevelt
Rep. Juanita Millender-McDonald, a seven-term Democratic House member from southern California, died late Saturday (April 21, 2007) of cancer. She was 68. Her chief of staff, Bandele McQueen, said she had been receiving hospice care.
Mrs. Millender-McDonald had recently worked on issues including election reform and opposing the genocide in Sudan.
She is survived by her husband, James McDonald Jr., and five adult children.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has 14 days to set a date for a special election to fill the seat.
It is difficult to imagine the stress Robinson endured as he changed the face of major league baseball and paved the way for Blacks and other minorities. Today’s generations of Blacks were not born in segregation and Black history is not taught or shared to the extent it should. Perhaps if Black parents made sure their children were taught Black history, folks like Don Imus would not feel as though they had permission to disrespect Black women as he did. That’s another subject but you get my drift.
As a child, and the only child for almost eight years, my Dad’s sports vocation and hobby forced me to learn about Jackie Robinson, Larry Doby, Joe Black and others. At the time I didn’t view my exposure to baseball as a lesson; I was just hanging out with my Dad.
Of course my parents shielded me from discrimination as much as they could but that didn’t change the reality of life for Blacks and women during that time.
I appreciate Jackie Robinson so much more as an adult. I now fully understand the impact of his sacrifice on my life and the lives of folks who are not Black. Can you imagine baseball history without Roberto Clemente, Sammy Sosa, Barry Bonds or Dontrelle Willis? The courage, conviction and persistence in his role as a ball player changed the world.
Jackie Robinson was actually bigger than baseball, we all benefited because of him and we are all indebted to him.
By the time of his passing, he was considered amongst the world’s greatest composers and musicians. The French government honored him with their highest award, the Legion of Honor, while the government of the United States bestowed upon him the highest civil honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom. He played for the royalty and for the common people and by the end of his 50-year career, he had played over 20,000 performances worldwide. He was The Duke, Duke Ellington.
Edward Kennedy Ellington was born into the world on April 29, 1899 in Washington, D.C. Duke’s parents, Daisy Kennedy Ellington and James Edward Ellington, served as ideal role models for young Duke, and taught him everything from proper table manners to an understanding of the emotional power of music. [MORE]
TALLAHASSEE, FL (AP) -- The process to compensate the parents of Martin Lee Anderson for their son's death is moving forward in the Legislature.
A bill was introduced in the Florida Senate today to give a $5 million payment to Anderson's parents. The teen died after being hit and kicked by guards in a juvenile boot camp in Bay County last year.
Meanwhile, the Senate president and House speaker agreed their chambers will hold special hearings together on the proposed claims bill. Usually, a claims bill can take years before it passes the Legislature. But in this case, Governor Crist had asked legislative leaders to expedite the process.
Now, 15 years old, Shaquanda Cotton was released from the Texas Youth Correctional facility where she spent the last year of her life for shoving a teachers aide at her school. Prior to her release, Shaquanda's plight took a life of its own via hundreds of internet bloggers throughout the world.
How a child could be adjudicated up to seven years for such an incident where the adult was not injured is shameful and embarrassing not only to the people of Paris, Texas but to the entire United States. Some who choose to deny the racial bias displayed in this case have been proven wrong when Shaquanda's situation and the plight of other Black students in that county is under federal investigation.
Moreover, Shaquanda was confined to a facility that is now under investigation of sexual abuse by at least one guard. He has since resigned.