Trayvon Martin and the American “justice” system

July 16, 2013 in Misc · 10 comments

The iceberg that sank the Titanic

The Trayvon Martin case highlighted some significant issue in the American legal system. But this wasn’t simply an isolated incident of a random miscarriage of justice.

From The Sentencing Project:

More than 60% of the people in prison are now racial and ethnic minorities. For Black males in their thirties, 1 in every 10 is in prison or jail on any given day. These trends have been intensified by the disproportionate impact of the “war on drugs,” in which two-thirds of all persons in prison for drug offenses are people of color.

race-gender-incarceration

From The Innocence Project:

Nearly 70 percent of the 242 people exonerated by DNA testing to date are people of color. These exonerations have spotlighted racial bias in the criminal justice system and the need for reforms that address these inequalities.

From the Bureau of Justice Statistics:

blacks were disproportionately represented among homicide victims and offenders. Blacks were six times more likely than whites to be homicide victims and seven times more likely than whites to commit homicide.

The American “justice” system is deeply broken, especially in terms of race. How many more Trayvons have to die before we take notice of these systemic problems? How much longer do we wait before implementing real change, before facing our shortcomings and honestly working together towards a solution? These problems didn’t come about overnight and neither will they easily fade away. But do we really want to wait for the media to pick the next cause célèbre for us? Or do we want to be proactive, tackling the roots of the problems head on?

When you have the highest documented incarceration rate in the world, you have a problem. And the answer to that problem isn’t more prisons, it isn’t spending more money on law enforcement, it isn’t more laws, it isn’t harsher mandatory sentencing.

The Trayvon Martin case was only the tip of the iceberg in terms of issues of race and crime in the United States. Will this be the incident that finally sinks the ship, or will we continue steaming full speed ahead, oblivious to the deadly mass of cold discord that’s lurking just below the place surface of lives?

10 comments… read them below or add one

Lucy Houston July 17, 2013 at 12:52 pm

Why is the “justice system” broken in this case? I see a problem in society – especially in black society where you have just stated that black men are responsible for the majority of homicides in this country. Zimmerman, in profiling Martin for being black, although unpleasant, was in fact responding to the facts that you just cited. How can you blame people for profiling black people, when they are just responding to what they see every day on the news?

If we want people to stop judging black men preemptively and thereby change society (and the Justice System), then black men need to stop giving us a reason. People will not change their opinions of angry black men, until angry black men change. That is the simple truth. Here are some ideas: wear some clothes that make you look educated, rather than like a thug. Smile at people, instead of scowl. And if someone is following you in the dark and the rain, run the hell away! that’s what I would do! By all means, don’t circle back and confront the person and punch him in the nose and bang his head against the concrete. I’m sorry a 17 year child is dead – I truly am. But didn’t Trayvon just prove Zimmerman’s doubts true by doing what he did?

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Dan July 17, 2013 at 3:47 pm

The “justice” system is broken because I don’t think anyone believes that true justice was achieved for anyone involved in this case.

You’re right that there is a problem with our society, but saying that “angry black men” need to change is not the answer. Blaming the victims is never the answer.

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Lucy Houston July 17, 2013 at 4:25 pm

Hmmm. Maybe I could use a better term than “angry black men”. What I meant, was the group of men who are responsible for the high murder rate among other black men in this country. My point, is that the nature of humans is to observe and find patterns. When the pattern of black men committing a higher than 50% share of murders in this country changes, so too will prevailing opinions about them. How and why would that opinion change otherwise? And will changing people’s opinions about them change their behavior?

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Dan July 17, 2013 at 9:44 pm

How about this for a pattern: “Most murders were intraracial. From 1980 through 2008, 84 percent of white homicide victims were murdered by whites and 93 percent of black victims were murdered by blacks.” and “In 2008, two of every five female murder victims were killed by an intimate. Among female murder victims for whom the victim/offender relationships were known, 45.3 percent were killed by an intimate” (via BJS)

So as a white woman, statistically speaking you have far more to fear from a white person that you already have a relationship with than from a black male that you don’t even know. Why then the seemingly irrational fear of black men?

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sdparris July 18, 2013 at 11:36 am

That 23% of women in the US irregardless if race, are victims physical violence, including rape, according to WHO is telling. Many women know their attackers. We are are at greater risk from those we love than from strangers.

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Lucy Houston July 17, 2013 at 12:57 pm

“Or do we want to be proac­tive, tack­ling the roots of the prob­lems head on?” What do you suggest? How might I be proactive? (I am seriously asking). What could I, as a white woman, who lives in a suburb of Atlanta, do about the crime and homicide problem among young black males?

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Dan July 17, 2013 at 3:43 pm

That indeed is the question. I don’t have any easy answer … and I don’t think there is any easy answer to problems that are so complex. Sylvie mentions some great ideas below…I do think it’s going to mean going out of our way — sometimes uncomfortably and inconveniently out of our way — to build relationships with those who have been marginalized, those who are different from us (whether racially, economically, religiously or in any other way) and those who fall between the cracks.

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sdparris July 17, 2013 at 2:35 pm

How about treating young black males you encounter with respect? Smile at them, say, “hi, how you doing?” When you stand by them in in the grocery store. How about working within your own. Community to help combat poverty which stymies hope, and peace and contentment with one’s state of life? Why not support children’s advocacy groups and good schools in poor neighborhoods? Why not work together as church groups and neighborhoods to get to know each other?

There is a lot a white woman can do, be a voice for change, be a volunteer, be an example.

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Lucy Houston July 17, 2013 at 3:55 pm

Thanks for your thoughts. I actually do smile at each black person that I encounter. How would I “combat poverty”? I have driven kids into the inner city to hand out meals to the (mostly black) homeless. Not sure that helps to decrease the problem of violence in the black community… I was trying to suggest that “tackling the roots of the problems head on” is a mysterious suggestion. I don’t know what the solution is, but I know I feel powerless to change it.

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Dan July 17, 2013 at 3:59 pm

Combat poverty? Try kiva.org. Try Habitat for Humanity. But you’re right, tackling the roots of the problems is too much for any one person. You are powerless to change it on your own. It’s only as part of a larger group, society, culture that we can hope to bring about change.

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