• Wed. May 31st, 2023

Shades of justice: the influence of money, politics, and race

The Rev. Norman Franklin

Herald Contributor

“Does God pervert justice? Does the Almighty pervert what is right? Job asks this question in chapter eight, verse three of the book that bears his name. 

Justice, defined in the Merriam-Webster dictionary is the maintenance or administration of what is just, the establishment or determination of rights according to the rules of law, the quality of being just, impartial, or fair, the principle or ideal of just dealing or right action.

What is ‘just’ and what is ‘right’ is a prominent theme in the definition of justice.

The history of America reveals to us that there are shades of justice; justice for White America, and justice by White America.

When Daniel Penny subdued the unruly Jordan Neely on the New York subway, he was acting within the parameters of his indoctrinated perception of justice. The White, 24-year-old ex-Marine saw the threat of a menacing Black man and subdued him. The overzealous vigilante held him in a chokehold that resulted in Neely’s death. 

It has been common knowledge, since 2014 of the dangers of the chokehold, and as an ex-Marine, Penny would have known what would result from his employing that measure of restraint. He was subsequently charged with manslaughter; he turned himself in and was released on bond. He received the due process of the law and the due process of public opinion: the mayor of New York rightly withheld any judgement of Penny’s act until all the facts were in.

Neely received the due process of vigilante justice: Penny acted as law enforcement officer, judge, and executioner.

Shades of justice in America.

Lady Justice is blindfolded; she holds balanced scales in one hand and a sword in the other. She is blindfolded – justice is unbiased, the scales- balance and the impartiality of the court, the sword – the power of justice. It’s all relative

Larry Pearson, a 36-year-old Black man in Texas, was sentenced to 70 years in prison after he was found guilty of harassing a public servant. Pearson spit on and spit at police officers during his arrest for domestic violence. Spitting on police is a third-degree felony in Texas. In closing arguments at the April 2022 trial, prosecutors asked the jury to consider handing down a sentence to Pearson that would ‘send a message.’

The same week Pearson was sentenced, Gov. Greg Abbott revealed that he wanted to pardon convicted murderer Daniel Perry. A day after the U.S. Army Sergeant was convicted of murder for killing a Black Lives Matter’s protester, Gov. Abbot tweeted his intentions to pardon him.

Both Penny in New York and Perry in Texas were acting out of the legacy of justice in America.

Imagine the reversal of roles along the lines of ethnicity. Imagine it were a Black ex-Marine exacting justice on a menacing White homeless man on the subway, or a Black U.S. Army Sergeant who kills a ‘stop the steal protester;’ the tagline on the news would be ‘Black thug’ kills defenseless White man who was begging for help, and Black thug murders a White patriot who works to save the country.

It’s an inescapable perception. The ‘anointed one’ called the Black Capitol Police officer who shot one of the insurrectionists on January 6,  a ’thug.’ The officer was acting in the authority of his sworn duty to protect the Capitol grounds against attacks and insurrection.

There is an incongruity of justice between those who have money and those who do not, between Whites and Blacks, between vain, narcissistic personalities and the ‘less than’ populace, between Supreme Court justices and elected officials and those they are charged to rule over with justice and those they are tasked to serve.

Justice for the African American, for the marginalized, and other people of color cries out from unmarked graves, crowded prisons full of dark-skinned men and women, a legacy of mutilated bodies -strange fruit swinging from trees – and the bastard justice conceived during the rendezvous of the rich and the powerful in the bedroom of the harlot who is Justice.

Headlines on an Associated Press report, “Deputies in Civil Rights probe accused of sexual assault.”  The assaults occurred during a police encounter with the defendants on January 24 of this current year. An AP report reveals that there were no less than four violent encounters between the Rankin County deputies and Black men since 2019.

The criminal justice system, from the policeman on the street, and from the lowest court to the highest court in the land, is bent against justice for people of color.

This is Jackson, Mississippi, the state capitol, where state legislators’ inadequate funding has left the city’s water treatment facility unable to deliver safe drinking water for its citizens. Jackson is nearly 70 percent African American; the mayor is Black.

God has blessed America, but America has a legacy of injustice, born in the ideology of the supremacy of one people over another; this perverse mythology undergirds the socioeconomic, political, and criminal justice systems of this land of liberty and justice for all. Justice for some, perverted justice for others.

The thing about perversion is that the more it’s practiced, the more normal it is perceived, the more egregious it becomes.

Editor’s note: The views expressed in this commentary piece do not necessarily express the opinions of The Cincinnati Herald.

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