“A black man has no rights which the white man is bound to respect.”
Sup. Ct. C.J. Roger Taney, Dred Scott Decision, 1857
On March 6, 1857, Chief Justice Roger Taney and the United States Supreme Court put into words what America had been putting into practice for centuries. He stated that Americans of African descent should not ever presume to have the audacity to expect that the legal system in this country would ever treat them as equal citizens worthy of the same protection and respect enjoyed by others.
On July 13, 2013, the verdict in the Murder of Trayvon Martin case, declaring George Zimmerman “not guilty,” evokes images of this awful American legacy making me feel much the same way.
So, as I sit here thinking about the that verdict, I wish I could be shocked. Instead, what I have witnessed over and over again in our criminal justice system, told me that this was the outcome to expect.
When the country repeatedly watched the video of Rodney King being senselessly, mercilessly beaten by four ruthless police officers who were neatly acquitted of all charges in Simi Valley, I knew.
When I watched wealthy white classmates in academic institutions from prep school to law school who regularly got drunk and high on various drugs and who engaged in sometimes reckless activities with little or no consequences, while poor children in the inner city were locked up and made poster children for the media for the same behavior or less, I knew.
When I directed a juvenile justice project where we found case after case of black youths being disproportionately sentenced for the same crimes for which their similarly-situated white peers were acquitted, I knew.