September 24, 2007
When I was researching my undergraduate degree on the death penalty, I was shocked to find out that the jury is not where the major statistical racial difference lie. Instead, it was in the prosecutor’s office, where the decision to prosecute a crime and at what severity is made. I don’t have the data on hand to back me up on this, but I would guess that the arrest and charge stages of the justice system is where a majority of racial differences occur. I would be interested in speaking to anyone who has up-to-date data on this.
Clearly, this is the issue with the Jena 6. I am disgusted at the lack of concern about this case. Many will say it’s black vs. white, but I don’t think so. It’s justice vs. injustice. If everyone isn’t outraged when these pitiful displays of racial prejudice in our system are illuminated, what then can we say of our sacred justice system? The system is supposed to protect each of us from being unfairly accused or even too harshly charged. Richard Cohen from the Southern Poverty Law Center was quoted in the Chicago Tribune saying, the data consistency show that black people are treated more harshly than white people in the criminal justice system. “Blacks aren’t often given the benefit of the doubt,” he said. “If discretion is exercised, it’s more often exercised in an adverse way to blacks.”
No one is saying that a kid wasn’t beat up. What they are saying is that the charge and punishment should fit the crime — no matter what color someone’s skin is. The continuing tolerance of bigotry — from the nooses on the tree to the unwarranted attempted murder charge — is a stain on this country and one that sets only deeper when it is held up next to our shameful response to Katrina. America must face its ghosts sooner or later — if it’s sooner, maybe we can live with ourselves.
Here are some articles/opinion pieces about the Jena 6: