Three Cases That Prove That Justice Has a Set of Brown Eyes

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Photo courtesy of http://www.salon.com

In the cold aftermath of the verdict in the trial of George Zimmerman, many who disagreed with the exoneration of Zimmerman found themselves staring sternly at the blindfold wrapped around the eyes of Justitia.

Once again, she failed to protect the life of another young black kid. Americans have always been fed the line that “justice is blind,” but she always seemed to have an affinity for the color brown. Allowing Trayon Martin’s killer to walk free was just affirmation of that opinion.

In Raphael’s portrait of Lady Justice, she’s wielding a sword, holding the scales of justice with her eyes closed. In that depiction, it would seem that justice has her wrath set on some one or some thing. I think I may have an idea of what it may be.

Whether it’s a blindfold or eyes closed, her inability to see is supposed to represent balance and impartiality. For far to many Americans, particularly black Americans, she’s only been partial to three colors: Black, brown, and green. The balance on the scale that she holds isn’t there when it came to sending scores of black men to prison for petty drug crimes.

So that’s why so many black Americans felt the scale tip in their favor yesterday when Attorney General Eric Holder made a monumental announcement.

In a speech to the American Bar Association, Holder gave brief detail to how the United States Justice Department will treat drug offenders. In a three-page memo outlining the sweeping changes, the Justice Department will no longer pursue mandatory minimum sentences based on “drug type and quantity.”

That’s a big friggin’ deal.

For years, black and brown folks have been unnecessarily shipped to prisons for paltry drug crimes. The Fair Sentencing Act of 2010 was supposed to adjust the unfair sentencing practices levied toward African-Americans. Prior to the act, the crack-to-cocaine disparity was 100-1. It is now 18-1, which still represents a level of injustice, but is a decent start toward fairness.

Holder’s announcement doesn’t do much to alter those already sitting in prison for holding a small amount of marijuana, but it does ensure that many of those who will face time in the future will not be subjected to the same unfair treatment of those before them.

Yet with all of the fanfare surrounding Holders speech, his words still confound me. Just a few weeks ago via the Guardian, it was revealed that the Obama administration is fighting to guarantee that those sentenced to harsh prison terms prior to the enactment of the Fair Sentencing Act will serve out their full sentences.

There seems to be no justice in that fight, so why give up on one battle and quietly fight another?

Lastly, U.S. District Judge Shira Scheindlin ruled that New York’s controversial stop-and-frisk policy violated the Fourth Amendment privilege of the city’s minority population. In the broad 195-page ruling, Judge Scheindlin writes that the city’s use of this tactic represents an extensive breach of an individual’s Fourth and 14th Amendment right, which is in direct conflict with the doctrine of New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

Responding to the judge’s ruling, Bloomberg said that he plans to appeal the ruling and that the city was denied a “fair trial.”

Those three cases, stop-and-frisk, Holder’s big drug announcement, and the DOJ’s decision to fight against the Fair Sentencing Act, shows that justice is only blind for certain individuals. Not only that, her eyes seem to shine to the hue of brown.

It is fantastic news that the United States government’s role in breaking a part the black family will diminish, but it is with great pause that I celebrate this change in direction as I see just how two-faced my government can be.

I just wish that blindfold wasn’t so translucent.

-JH

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