An Update on the Murder of James Craig Anderson

[Content Note: Racism, violence, torture, eliminationism, white supremacy.]

Deryl Dedmon, the 19-year-old ringleader in the racist murder of James Craig Anderson in Mississippi last summer, has been sentenced to life in prison.

It's good news, insomuch as Anderson's surviving family and friends have some justice, which is not a small thing. But justice doesn't bring Anderson back to them. My heart hurts for them.

And nearly a year later, this good news, such as it is, comes in a week when another young black man has been cruelly slaughtered by another non-black man motivated by profound racist hatred.

We are not learning the lessons this reprehensible violence begs us to learn.

* * *

I don't have any sympathy for Dedmon, and his pitiful protestations that he's found Jesus inspire within me a rage so vivid and immediate that I feel like flames may shoot straight from the pores of my skin.

And yet I recognize all the same that sending Dedmon to prison for the rest of his life is to sentence him to a life of torture, given the hideous nature of our penal system. Is that a fair exchange? A life of torture in exchange for the taking of another life? I don't know.

It's not like there's another option. We don't believe in rehabilitation. Not really. So fairness isn't even a debatable concept, in any meaningful way.

But I still want the question of fairness to matter. Because a disproportionate number of men and women of color end up where Dedmon is now, convicted of murder, but their cases don't end up on the front page of CNN. And the last one who did was Troy Davis, who was very likely innocent and was executed anyway.

The only other option for Dedmon would have been freedom—a gift frequently granted to white men who murder people of color, while men of color who are wrongly convicted are killed.

So, sure: It's fair. Or what passes for fair in the US justice system.

But there is no real legal justice without social justice.

* * *

Progress shouldn't look like this. It shouldn't look like a devilish exchange of imposed suffering for callously caused suffering, in which the latter is regarded as inevitable.

This sentence, irrespective of its fairness or rightness or justness, is a resignation, a sigh: That's how the world is. Now lock up the latest gross offender of racist violence and throw away the key.

Yes, do it. Do it, because that's all we've got. Do it, because James Craig Anderson's family and friends and colleagues and community deserve that much. Do it, because it will stop Deryl Dedmon from ever taking another (free) person's life again.

But what are we going to do to stop the next Deryl Dedmon? What are we doing about him?

For the love of god, for the love of James Craig Anderson and Trayvon Martin, we've got to figure it the fuck out.

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