And Justice for All?

by Shannon Murfree on July 17, 2013


winky winky

As the Zimmerman verdict really sinks in for most Americans, I too felt compelled to share my opinion on it. First off, this verdict did not surprise me. The prosecution didn’t seem to have a very strong case. All the defense had to do was introduce reasonable doubt, which seemed easy to do, since there were no direct witnesses, and the only person who could offer an alternate account of what happened was dead. Not to mention that Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law, seems to encourage violent confrontations, and basically provides a plausible defense for anyone that wants to fire a gun. Unless you are African American, that is, as the case against Marissa Alexander, who received a twenty year prison sentence for firing a warning shot into the ceiling to stop her abusive husband, who by his own admission intended to do her harm, clearly shows.

I’m an African American woman who has had it relatively easy in comparison to many of my race. I don’t personally fight racism on a daily basis, however the system at large continues to fail people of color, and has a special hankering for young, black males. I feel like they hardly stand a chance, constantly swimming upstream from birth, fighting that giant foot on their necks. They are constantly devalued, profiled, dogged out, shut down, arrested, and thrown away. If you don’t believe me, here are some stats for you as provided by Judd Legum at from his article on July 14, 2013.

1. A black male born in 2001 has a 32% chance of spending some portion of his life in prison. A white male born the same year has just a 6% chance. [Sentencing Project]

2. In major American cities, as many as 80% of young African-American men have criminal records. [Michelle Alexander, The New Jim Crow]

3. African-Americans who use drugs are more than four times as likely to be incarcerated than whites who use drugs. African Americans constitute 14% of the population and 14% of monthly drug users. But African-Americans represent 34% of those arrested for a drug offense and 53% of those sentenced to prison for a drug offense. [American Bar Association]

4. In seven states, African Americans constitute 80% or more of all drug offenders sent to prison. [Michelle Alexander, The New Jim Crow]

5. Black students are three and a half times as likely to be suspended or expelled than their white peers. One in five black boys receive an out-of-school suspension. Education Secretary Arne Duncan who commissioned the study, said “The undeniable truth is that the everyday education experience for too many students of color violates the principle of equity at the heart of the American promise.” [New York Times]

6. Black youth who are referred to juvenile court are much more likely to be detained, referred to adult court or end up in adult prison than their white counterparts. Blacks represented 28% of juvenile arrests, 30% of referrals to juvenile court, 37% of the detained population, 35% of youth judicially waived to criminal court and 58% of youth admitted to state adult prison. [National Council on Crime And Delinquency]

7. The United States imprisons a larger percentage of its black population than South Africa did at the height of apartheid. [Michelle Alexander, The New Jim Crow]

These statistics demonstrate how difficult it can be for a race of people, that never even asked to be in this country, to just exist. But what if we take race out of it and you imagine it was your son, brother, cousin that was followed, provoked, then shot and killed, all the while unarmed. Would you feel that the shooter was justified because he felt “threatened”? One imagines that Trayvon Martin felt threatened too during the course of his tragically short life, discovering the lie of a land that proclaims itself to be “one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

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