The recent decision by a judge to limit New York City’s Stop and Frisk program, which targeted Black and Brown New Yorkers, and the decision to reduce crack sentences were neither coincidental nor accidental.
The folks that are in charge, the real folks, the monied class, the ruling class, the real bosses recognize that the whole Trayvon Martin tragedy took some of the wind out of the sails of the system. Anyone paying attention had to recognize that the system just doesn’t work. Or that it does work, but only for the wealthy and sometimes White upper-class folks.
In the case of Trayvon Martin the system worked. By initially ignoring Trayvon’s death and letting George Zimmerman walk away after unlawfully killing him sent the message that was meant to be sent. And that is that Black folks got nothing coming.
The fact that it took protests by tens of thousands across the country to simply have Zimmerman charged with a crime sent the message that Black people have to use extra legal means to just get Zimmerman charged. And after all that the keepers of the system, including the president, had the nerve to say the system worked.
Oh yes, it worked. A Black man is dead and it sends the message to Black folks that they have no rights that White folks are bound to respect. And it sends the message to White folks silly enough to believe it that the system of rich White folks favors regular working-class White folks.
So while this decision is welcomed, the stop-and-frisk policies and the minimum-sentencing laws have done a lot of damage to our community. Young Black and Brown people have wound up with their lives ruined because they had the leftovers of a marijuana joint on them. Black and Brown folks have had their lives ruined because they were using drugs. No doubt they were making bad choices, but none worthy of being confined in cages for long stretches of time.
Ultimately this decision was made to try to restore confidence in a system that has long not played fair. They — the ruling rich — read the tea leaves and they know that with the continuing incidents of vigilante killings of Black people by White people in and out of police uniforms, some people are going to come to the conclusion that the system just doesn’t work, well at least not for them.
Incidents of Whites killing Blacks have popped up in Florida, Milwaukee, California. And police forces in Philadelphia, New York and Minneapolis have been playing judge and jury, killing Black people rather than delivering them over to the courts.
“This just can’t continue, this level of extreme heightened injustice in our policing, our law enforcement and our criminal justice system,” explained Barbara Arnwine from the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights under Law in a recent New York Times interview. I agree it can’t continue if the rulers want people to continue having confidence in their system.
No these decisions were made because they know that a lot of people have a lot of angst over the systems inability to bring a racist killer to justice. People are wondering aloud if there is justice.
A system that can’t do something as simple as protect you and your rights may not be worth believing in. A system that can’t even get justice for you when someone murders you just may not be worth putting your faith in.
Mel Reeves welcomes reader responses to firstname.lastname@example.org.