Wednesday, August 7, 2013

When Race Paralyzes the Justice System

When my son was five years old, he was badly beaten on a school bus while being driven to school in New Jersey.  On the school bus were him and three other youths who held him down and beat and clawed him savagely (leaving facial scars that took years to go away).  This event took place in the front seat right behind the driver who did nothing to stop the altercation.

I was outraged that the event took place and that the school bus driver and the school were doing nothing about it and so I contacted the school administration to inquire as to why.

“It’s simple”, I was told.  “If it is discovered that the three antagonists are African American, it will be assumed that we are trying to make it a racial issue and that is one hot potato that we don’t want to touch.”

My reply was that up until that moment, the race of the attackers was unknown to me and remained the furthest thing from my mind.  I wanted to know why my son could be assaulted by three known assailants and nobody be punished for it.

No matter who I spoke to at any level of the school or justice system, the response was always the same.

“We don’t want this to become a racial issue”

About five years later, my son had an important personal item taken from him at school and when I asked the administrator about it, she informed me that they knew who had taken it.

“Ah”, I thought, delighted and assuming that this meant the item would be recovered.

“We can’t pursue it”, I was informed.  “While we know the suspect has a track record of stealing from others, we have never pressed charges for fear of making the thefts a racial incident.”

I saw a familiar theme being expressed, using the same words, by different people.

While very frustrated about this, those incidents and others in the NJ school system faded into obscurity in my mind as the years went by.

Until this week.

Fox News shared a video this week of three African American boys viciously beating a white boy in Florida, producing two black eyes and a broken arm for the victim.  The victim was allegedly beaten for reporting to school authorities that the three assailants had attempted to sell marijuana to him earlier.

As I watched the video, a thought came to mind.

Remember when Trayvon Martin’s death produced cries of racism and injustice from Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton under the guise of racial justice?

Remember when Hollywood folks demanded racial justice on behalf of Trayvon Martin?

Even the President had something to say about it.

Despite all of those people who routinely demand “equality for all regardless of race”, it is funny that we don’t hear a word from any of them or anyone else for that matter regarding this incident, especially from people who so vehemently demand racial justice in “other” situations.

It reminds me of the concern that I noted in my blog Zimmerman–Martin–The Hidden Issue.

I wonder if a lot of people who demand racial justice don’t actually want racial justice.

Maybe the underlying reason for their actions is because they are racists themselves, only feeling affronted when the race they prefer is the one being attacked.

Or maybe, as I noted in my other blog, they see the opportunity that whipping up racism presents to further their own personal, professional or political agenda.

I also wonder if forced to admit one or the other as the reason for their actions, which one they would prefer to be associated with.

Racial justice in America only comes when we do not accept any form of injustice, regardless of skin color.

Otherwise, can people like Mr. Sharpton, Mr. Jackson and others really claim that they are trying to ensure that we are “one nation, under God, with liberty and justice for all “ when they cherry pick whose right to liberty and justice is worthy of defending?

I don’t think so.

What do you think?

In service and servanthood,


PS Whenever someone is appointed to a post of significance, do you ever notice that oftentimes, we focus less on their credentials and more on whether they are African American, Latino or white, male or female, gay or straight, Christian or otherwise, etc.?

As long as we continue to focus on labels like these or others, then we will never be “one nation, under God” nor will we ever achieve true equality for all.  Focusing on and amplifying labels minimizes the truth that we are all human beings, united and bound together with a need to collaborate on this little rock journeying through the Universe.  We will all thrive or suffer together, based on the choices that we make.

Addendum – August 11, 2013

This mural was recently unveiled in the Florida State Capitol (click on the image for the story behind it).

‘We Are All Trayvon’ Mural Unveiled In Florida State Capitol

It is revisionist, showing a Zimmerman-like person shooting a Martin-like person in the back of the head, it is divisive, it is hateful and it borrows the image of Dr. Martin Luther King to suggest that justice remains an issue with this case.

Promoting racial division or suggesting racial injustice creates problems for everyone and there is no winner in such situations.

Mr. Sharpton and Mr. Jackson continue to remain quiet about material such as this although their silence speaks volumes about what they believe in and what they promote.

One other note: It is my understanding that Dr. King was anti-violence.  I wonder what his family thinks of this mural.

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