Friday, July 9, 2010

Blind justice or inherent ignorance?


I don't know what to make of the situation of the verdict of the Bay Area Rapid Transit officer that killed an unarmed black male, Oscar Grant, in January of 2009.  According to the San Francisco Chronicle, the verdict was "involuntary manslaughter" for former BART police officer Johannes Mehserle. 

Although there were protests as a result of the verdict, according San Francisco Bay Area ABC owned-and-operated station KGO-TV "ABC7",  the Oakland Police the protesters were mostly outside agitators attempting to take advantage of the situation.  Regardless, if there are outside agitators or not the vast majority of the anger and aggravation associated with the verdict of the case is understandable.  The looting and property damage/destruction isn't excusable at all, but a significant number of East Bay (of the San Francisco Bay Area) citizens are upset that this verdict doesn't fit the crime.

It also vexes me as an independent thinker and black male as to why would a jury after realizing that if there tables were turned that the verdict would have highly likely harsher.   (In reference for those don't understand what I mean is if somebody was being apprehended by a police officer and the officer is accidentally killed in pursuit of the person).

The grasping of the conceptualization of why that the existence and lives of black American males is seen as the lowest of the low in the westernized world.  This can also be applied to the lives of any non-white males.  In particular, black males deal with the paranoia of everyone since we are seen as the "boogeymen" of society since there are higher incarceration and death rates. 

Adam Serwer of American Prospect summed it up quite eloquently:
I want to focus for a moment on the distinction between voluntary and involuntary manslaughter. To convict on the higher charge of voluntary manslaughter, the prosecution would have had to prove that Mehserle's fear of Grant and his friends was "unreasonable." It decided the crime was involuntary. In other words, Mehserle's fear? That was reasonable.
Fear is at the core of questions of justice involving the deaths of black people at the hands of the authorities in the United States of America, dating back to when Toussaint L'Overture put the fear of G-d in slaveowners by revealing that their "property" might someday rise up against them. L'Overture still has that effect on some people. Following emancipation were the days when "justice" was meted out in the South by terrorists posing as vigilantes. Even then, when such atrocities were an accepted part of black life, people inside and outside the South found ways to sympathize with the anger and fear white Southerners felt toward their black neighbors -- The New York Times editorialized in the 1890s that no "reputable or respectable negro" had ever been lynched.
Even decades after the civil-rights era, a cop shooting an unarmed black man is barely a crime -- a 2007 ColorLines investigation of police shootings in New York City found that in 12 instances when the victim was unarmed, only one officer was found criminally liable. There hasn't been a murder conviction on a police shooting in Oakland since 1983.  As Kai Wright wrote in the aftermath of the Sean Bell verdict, "American law has been sanctioning the killing of black people to mollify white fear for centuries. ... We scare the shit out of America. And that fear excuses just about any reaction it spawns." Mehserle is profoundly unlucky to be punished at all.
Times change, but the radioactive fear of black people, black men in particular, has proved to have a longer half-life than any science could have discerned. This is not a fear white people possess of black people -- it is a fear all Americans possess. It makes white cops kill black cops, it makes black cops kill black men, and it whispers in the ears of white and nonwhite jurors alike that fear of an unarmed black man lying face down in the ground is not "unreasonable." All of which is to say, while it infects all of us, a few of us bear the brunt of the suffering it causes.
After all this "post-racial notions" of the election of Barack Obama there seems to be no end in sight to mollify the negative connotations associated with the black male.  Instead, we still live in a society where there is more "reasonable" fear of our existence than anything else.  Me being a generally non-temperament, usually varied dress, and friendly individual would still be accused of being "wild, temperamental, and aggressive" since I am black and a male.  Sad, just plain, sad.

The only upside to this case is the U.S. Department of Justice is considering looking into this to see if the case was taken too lightly by California state officials. (courtesy of KGO-TV)

4 comments:

  1. we are meeting to discuss this verdict

    ReplyDelete
  2. I find it disheartening that this occurred since California is such a diverse state, but such improprieties still occurs.

    ReplyDelete

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