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Crime and Punishment
Author: BobR    Date: 07/25/2013 12:45:11

Ten days ago, I wrote about the Zimmerman trial result, and the wild west gun culture in America. I'd like to revisit that theme today. In that blog I wrote:
This is the logical end result of those Stand Your Ground laws (now in effect in half the states in America). This is the end-result of the obscene fetishization of the gun in the American zeitgeist. We look back wistfully at the Old West, where everyone had a gun, and justice was swift and only required a tree and a rope. The gun Zimmerman used was his tree and rope. Zimmerman was judge, jury, and executioner, just like in the old days.

Except - those old days didn't really exist, not the way people think. If you rode into a western town with a gun, you had to leave it at the sheriff's office, and pick it up when you left. What America seems to model itself on is a Hollywood fiction.

There is also the issue of conviction and incarceration. In the last 30 years, the number of Americans imprisoned has skyrocketed:


Of those, the vast majority are black or hispanic:


Part of this could be blamed on Reagan's War on Drugs, which has continued to this day. Some could be blamed on the scourge of crack that appeared around the same time. There's also this unsettling statistic: A white person who kills a black person is 354 percent more likely to be acquitted than a white person who kills another white person in states with Stand Your Ground laws (and over 400% more likely than a black person who kills a white person):


How do these statistics translate into real life? We saw Zimmerman walk. We saw (in my previous blog) the woman got 20 years for just firing a warning shot. And a white person killing a brown prostitute for not providing sex is okay in TX.

So yes - the laws themselves are problematic. They give incredible leeway for law enforcement to decide whether or not to charge a person for a crime, and they give juries incredible leeway for letting a murderer walk.

The bigger problem is the application of those laws, by both law enforcement and courts. When the percentage of incarcerated doesn't match the percentage by population, then something is terribly wrong. When white-on-black murder is treated vastly different than any other combination, then something is terribly wrong.

Some blame can be made for the lingering economic dichotomy between black and white America as a hangover from the decades of slavery and then emancipation into a world that either was indifferent or downright hostile. Desperation and lack of hope for a future can breed resentment and lead to crime. But in these numbers? I don't think so.

That desperation and resentment is beginning to show in the white male power structure that sees it's influence waning, that sees "others" as less than them, or even less than human. The police say the Scary Black Man committed a crime? Off to jail - don't want him hanging around here. But let little white Johnny boy come up for something in court... well, we don't want to ruin HIS life by tarring him with a criminal conviction - he has so much to live for... not like the Scary Black Man who is never going to amount to anything.

This is the poisonous mindset. This is what creates the shocking disparities in the statistics above. When police and courts and juries see the black man and assume criminal, then see the white man and see themselves, the results are predictable.

The big question is how does this change? How do we as a nation heal ourselves from the wounds of the past? How do we keep the poison from damaging the minds of the children? I have some hope when I see the younger generation that doesn't understand racism, especially the institutionalized kind. It may take several more generations, but I hope it gets better. I think we are seeing a certain type of desperation from the power structure, but as they die off and younger replacements come in with cleaner minds, perhaps this will all go away.


Justice can't be for just us.

26 comments (Latest Comment: 07/25/2013 22:52:08 by livingonli)
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