Quote of the Day

[Content Note: Carcerality; indefinite detention; racism; classism; disablism.]

"Hartfield asked a court to order him freed because his speedy trial rights were violated by the fact that Texas imprisoned him for more than three decades without trial. Yet a Texas appeals court just told him that it is powerless to help him until after his criminal trial for an offense Texas refused to try him on for over 30 years."Ian Millhiser, on the case of Jerry Hartfield, a black man with an intellectual disability who has been imprisoned for 34 years without a conviction (his original conviction on a murder charge was tossed out 31 years ago "because the process used to select his jury was unconstitutional"), and whose request for release has been denied for the above-described circular fuckery.

The justice system! Plus or minus actual justice.

* * *

Yesterday, Shaker Brunocerous and I were talking about this story, which Brunocerous had passed on to me, which recounts studies finding that white people in California and New York are likely to favor harsh sentencing policies after being shown images of black people in prison.
[O]ne of the study's authors pointed out that not only do people more often associate blacks with violent crime, but that "simply thinking of crime can lead perceivers to conjure up images of Black Americans."

The upshot is that reminding white people of racial disparities in the prison population led them to favor policies that contribute to those very disparities. So what to do? The researchers write:
Many legal advocates and social activists assume that bombarding the public with images and statistics documenting the plight of minorities will motivate people to fight inequality. Our results call this assumption into question ...This produces quite a challenge for those striving to create a more equal and just society. Perhaps motivating the public to work toward an equal society requires something more than the evidence of inequality itself.
What that "something more" is, they don't say.
I said to Brunocerous (our conversation shared with his permission): "The conclusions make me think that white Americans are under the impression that the legal system is just and fair—so if more black people are in jail, that means black people must be committing more crime. Which in turn reminds me of the thing you heard on the radio, about how it's better to be white and rich and guilty than black and poor and innocent. Basically, white folks know the justice system 'works' for them, and they wrongly assume it 'works' for everyone else. Angry face."

To which Brunocerous replied: "Exactly. Much the way innocent people are later called 'suspects' by law enforcement, to transmit the idea that they were doing something that justified police involvement. The media and the consumers of media go along with it. So. Angry."

(Note that he made that observation yesterday, before today's police press conference in Ferguson.)

My point is this: I think that a very crucial (and goddamned dangerous) piece of white privilege (which intersects with class privilege) is the luxury of believing that the US justice system works; that it is fair.

For everyone.

That is not the case. And it's never going to change as long as the majority of white people are convinced it doesn't need to.

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