“We hold these truths to be self-evident”… except that is when we don’t…
Ipsa loquitur… “The thing speaks for itself.” When does race matter?
I wonder, when [doesn’t] race matter? From the time of the first colonists to the birth of the nation and the adoption of a decidedly well-intentioned but imperfect Constitution, to the ratification of the Fourteenth Amendment post bellum, as well as the host of overtly incongruous Supreme Court rulings both preceding and following this self-inflicted bloodbath over creeds regarding the implication of what is or isn’t self-evident apropos the meaning of the word “all” in the phrase, “… [all] men are created equal”, right up to our present-day ideological cold war between the proponents of the deterrence i.e. lex talons as opposed to the proponents of change founded on outcome based policies and programs… race has not only mattered, it is nearly the only thing that does matter.
Yet in view of the statement put forth by the Second Continental Congress, it would seem to be perfectly clear as to the aims and motives for this document vis-à-vis achieving the right to a “separate and equal station”. They said, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that [all] men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness”, the Declaration of Independence (“Digital history,” 2012). So how is it that the implication of this one small word is responsible for the ziggurat to obfuscation, duplicity, acrimony and misery that have followed? The answer lies in the motives of those who wish to reshape the all-inclusive self-evident meaning of the word all to fit their own exclusive ends and sensibilities.
David Cole, points out that “all-white juries have been the norm in the America CJS for most of our history, the highest court in the land has repeatedly disavowed jury discrimination, yet racially based discrimination in jury selection remains a pervasive part of our CJS to this day. So how can all these facts be true at the same time” (Walker, Spohn & Delone, 2012). If one eliminates all the probable reasons for some condition or occurrence, only the improbable however unlikely, remain. Since it is inconceivable that the body politic i.e. the state and federal legislatures, plus the state and federal courts in addition to the Supreme Court itself are not all aware that an incongruity exists between what is legally permissible vs. that which is in fact openly taking place throughout this nations courtrooms there can remain only one explanation improbable as it may be, the authorities want it so. If they did not… it would not be thus.
So how do we achieve “color-blindness” in our CJS when its causes are almost certainly rooted in the systemic inequalities engendered by our past and current social structure? A social structure whose dynamics and features reflect the ongoing influences and mores of those in positions of dominance and whose motives and actions are and have ever been more concerned with their own power, welfare, and interests, in contrast to egalitarianism as is unmistakably demonstrated by history as well as the current state of affairs… the oft lauded principles embodied within the Constitution notwithstanding.
How do we address the implications of statements like the following in response to the answer of an inmate when asked if he had an attorney when he was before the court, “No, I had a public defender” (pg. 203). Or that of the Birmingham Age-Herald upon the conviction and sentencing of Haywood Patterson to 75 years in prison whom observed “the decision represents probably the first time in the history of the South that a Negro has been convicted of rape upon a white woman and been given less than a death sentence” (pg. 197).
Not to mention the combined 104 years the “Scottsboro Boys served in prison for a crime that many believed was almost certainly a hoax (pg. 197)” or the lynching of Ed Johnson (pg. 269), the six years Clarence Brandley sat in death row (pg. 200) as well as the hundreds if not thousands of other wrongly accused, arrested, and convicted persons whom have fallen victim to discernible overt or implicit laws, policies, decisions, discretions, and the subsequent abuses of power that ensue from a system with an inherently biased racial nature.
“The perfect is the enemy of the good…” Voltaire, from “La Bégueule” (Contes, 1772) (Arouet, 2012). No doubt, we could… should we choose … breathe somewhat of a sigh of relief, guarded though it may be. Clearly, many glaring examples of racism that were once the norm have been addressed by the courts and the public. Nevertheless, issues of racism persist in American society and in its CJS. Thus discrimination and its inherently destructive effects needlessly continue to plague many segments of American society directly while its’ further malignant consequences continue to infect the whole. Despite Voltaire’s sagacious observation, regarding perfectionisms tendency to hobble progress the very lethal nature of racism demands that we attack its’ every instance in order to ensure and effect our continued “Safety and Happiness” (“Digital history,” 2012).
Arouet, F. (2012, July 07). Voltaire. Retrieved from http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Voltaire
Digital history. (2012, August 24). Retrieved from http://www.digitalhistory.uh.edu/learning_history/revolution/declaration_of_independence.cfm
Walker, S., Spohn, C., & Delone, M. (2012). The color of justice, race, ethnicity, and crime in america. (5 ed.). Wadsworth Pub Co.
- Candide (earthpages.wordpress.com)
- Classic Literature: Francois-Marie Arouet (1694 – 1778) aka Voltaire (cmoneyspinner.wordpress.com)
- François-Marie Arouet, AKA Voltaire (paulinaczarnecki.wordpress.com)