… who have failed our legal system.
I don’t usually call out my fellow attorneys. But I can’t keep silent any longer. You must act.
We’ve allowed the bones of racism to run unchecked in the judicial system long enough. It must end. You must act. Inaction is legitimizing a system of discrimination that is steep in the law and allows the bones of racism to remain untouched by time and chaining perceptions. And it’s creating havoc in our country. Either be a part of the solution or you are a part of the problem.
I firmly believe that individual prejudices have diminished over time in most of us. Oh sure, there are wingnuts a-plenty, but the vast swath of American humanity has shed these prejudices as we’ve welcomed people of color into our families, acknowledged LGBTQ peeps in our families, and been accepting of individual differences. What hasn’t changed is the structure of racism we’ve had in our society so long most of us have even forgotten they are there. But they are and we are seeing the effects all around us.
Federal Sentencing Guidelines illustrates the remaining bones of racism quite clearly. Crack cocaine is punished at a bout 3 to 1 times longer than powder cocaine. Same chemical compound when viewed under a microscope, but the penalties for each is vastly different. Looking that the sentences, one might conclude that it is fair and doesn’t discriminate. Except when you start to really look at who uses crack cocaine and who uses powder cocaine. Yes, it is almost brightline delineation by race. By and large, one finds crack cocaine in brown and black neighborhoods. But and large, powered cocaine is found in white and yellow neighborhoods. So, wonder no more why there are so many black and brown people in jail. We punish them 3 times longer than we do for the EXACT SAME SUBSTANCE.
And this is just one example of the bones we’ve allowed to remain and grow in our judicial system. And it leads to institutional discrimination. The disparate impact was planned, at worst, and ignored, at best. We’ve been using these guidelines and having them have this disparate impact on people of color for YEARS. And done nothing. We’ve allowed this to fester and flourish. And we are wrong for having done nothing. And this is just ONE example.
There are so many more examples of the bones of racism that remain and which hold up and add structure to the cloak of our humanity, or lack thereof–if we do nothing. By failing to act, we’ve become complicit is supporting the bones of that discrimination. As our social perceptions have changed, we did nothing to get rid of all the ways smart societies use to hold back discrete groups of persons. And in American, it shouldn’t have been acceptable before. It isn’t acceptable now. And if we do nothing, then we also become complicit in the tinderbox our country will become as push comes to shove.