Color in the Courtroom

So, I was in traffic court yesterday (over a misunderstanding 🙂 ) and saw myself in a room with 50 seats. Within those seats, I counted 48 people of color (blacks) in them. Blacks make up only 13% of the US population but 98% of the courtroom seats were filled by blacks. Technically there should have only been 6.5 seats filled with blacks. I find this very sad and interesting!!

1. Are blacks some evil rebel race of people that always break the law and get caught?

2. Though blacks are only 13% of the US pop, do they make up 87% of the crime?

3. How come proportionally there isn’t 13% of the judicial system to represent the black race?

Frankly speaking, its clear there is a “design” flaw and a clear objective within that design to sustain a holding pattern for blacks. When will responsibility be taking by those that control and govern said inequities?

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9 thoughts on “Color in the Courtroom

  1. I’ve always been a proponent of the conspiracy theory. Our government has for so long strategized to keep black and brown people on the bottom. But it isn’t just our government. It is a world wide phenomenon. Crime, poverty, education; we often times walk unknowingly into the traps set up specifically for us. But how can you heal generations of cyclical deprivation? A people who have been stripped of their land, language and culture, sent to the corners of the world and taught to believe that we are inferior. Our communities broken, families broken, distinct lines drawn, and limitations enforced… Divided. Conquered. Clearly the court system is just one of the consequences of centuries of European indoctrination; standards of beauty and civilization. Mis-educated indeed. And despite this, pockets of consciousness are found woven between the swarms of ignorance and apathy. The beautiful thing about the mind is that unlike the body, it is difficult to confine (loosely, Huey Newton). But it will take a lot of fighting to undue the mental damage inflicted over time… Even for those who consider themselves revolutionaries. But of course you know, it starts with us. Self-love must manifest first. If we don’t love and appreciate our own people, why should anyone else? Once we get that together, we can’t do anything but rise. Hell, we’re obviously already deemed as a threat, otherwise they would not try so hard to keep us down.

  2. First, when are we going to stop looking at ‘them’ and ‘us’ and begin seeing ‘we’. I’m not arguing against purposeful harassment of any one group by another. It exists, I’ve seen it, its wrong, its sad and it needs to stop. It stops through education…but we’ve already been down this discussion path and that is not the focus for today’s post….

    Rather than considering your experience this week as 100% one path, ponder the following — you yourself said that you were in court because of a misunderstanding. I’m guessing it necessitated your physical presence in the courtroom to bring resolution. Had it not, I’m further guessing you would have considered, if not followed through, in settling it through mail or internet options. You would have exercised your options, valuing and weighing your time against the cost of the ticket. I’ve done the same — having more than my fair share of tickets. I like to drive fast…I’ve deserved a goodly amount of the tickets received. But, others, not so much. Hell, within the first month of having an office downtown, I had 3 parking tickets. One cost $100 because my front bumper was partially in a handicapped spot, the result of the car behind me parking outside his spot and in to the one I was trying to occupy. Most recently, a $200 ticket for driving 41 in a 35. So wrong. I exercised my choice to avoid 2 – 3 hours in traffic court, reflection on my license, increased insurance and just pay the ticket. Yes, I am fortunate to be able to do so….just as I’m sure you have done in the past.

    My point is your statistical analysis of the courtroom is skewed in that you are seeing only those individuals who have ‘chosen’ or were forced to appear in court. You don’t know how many of the individuals were also there because of a ‘misunderstanding’ they were trying to resolve.

    As well, how many of the ticketed individuals in the courtroom were there because they were speeding or received a vehicular ticket in an area of high volume accidents or parking violations that are more frequently patrolled / monitored? I’m guessing you didn’t poll those people in the courtroom rather drew your own assumptions regarding their presence.

    I’m not contending your theory doesn’t hold some validity, but I’m contending it is the only theory.

  3. To everyone:

    While I agree that the traffic court data Dimitri presented may have been skewed based on observation only (I did not take into account that I too paid my first ticket online a year ago, meaning I did not dispute my charge and I knew I was breaking the law for speeding so it was unnecessary for me to appear in court), I refuse to deny that institutional racism most certainly exists and traffic court is almost too minute of an issue to dispute over. But, the statistics put forth in your observation Dimitri speak volumes to the way race and ethnicity play out for people of color in the United States and the world over, as I mentioned before. This “Us vs. Them” mentality that Victoria mentioned is definitely a crutch that blacks in particular have used throughout history to justify our circumstances, but I do not think “we” is the solution. The “we” rarely exists when it comes to poverty and education as the statistics are hugely disproportionate in terms of equity, so although I agree that it is time to stop blaming “them”, I believe it’s most important to start/continue empowering ourselves. Placing blame will not change anything, regardless of how wrong “they” have been throughout history. Nneka has a wonderful song entitled “Africans” that represents this concept well
    ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kXMTtOS-oKg ).

    A few fun facts as to why the concept of “we” is so aggravating to blacks and browns the world over. I used the example of Brazil, because there I did most of my undergraduate and post-graduate research, and I also used South Africa because the consequences of apartheid, like slavery in the United States, can still be felt despite emancipation. I also understand that the concept of race is not clearly translated by the examples given based on their respective notions of race, however it is undeniable that color or ethnic origin play an immense role in this disproportionality.

    Brazil (taken from E. D. Telles’ Incorporating Race and Ethnicity into the UN Millennium Development Goals)

    Percentage poor:

    Black and Brown- 48% (African descent and Indigenous)
    White- 23%

    Infant Mortality:
    Black and Brown- 76%
    White- 46%

    South Africa (taken from PBS [WideAngle] and the 2001 Census)

    Unemployed:
    Black- 50%
    Mixed-race- 27%
    Asian- 17%
    White- 6%

    No Schooling:
    Black- 22.3%
    Mixed-race- 8.3%
    Asian- 5.3%
    White- 1.4%

    Completed Grade 12:
    Black- 16.8%
    Mixed-race- 18.5%
    Asian- 34.9%
    White- 40.9%

    Now of course, I realize that all data runs the risk of being skewed, dependent upon the researcher. Anyone can find statistics or generate surveys to make them state what they want. But regardless of this flaw in the system, the data typically shows the above results, blacks (and browns) lag far behind their white counterparts educationally and economically, which leads to a host of other issues such as access to resources, which then leads to the ridiculous statistics on crime and mortality rates. The variable in these cases is colonization, so while again I don’t think that placing the blame will solve anything, Africans from the U.S., Brazil, South Africa (or the continent), the Caribbean, etc. most certainly did not ask for our current circumstances. Regardless, it is up to “us” to fix it, but of course “they” can help. Let’s not be ignorant to the fact that many of “them” have access to resources unknown or otherwise unavailable to “us”.

    One such organization promoting self-empowerment with background help from “them”. I am very fortunate to be able to be a part of this project! :

    http://www.bahiastreet.org

  4. @ Vic,

    Sometimes I wonder how you arrive at such perceptions. Counting to talk around the issue and to look at “my” observation and arrest that to a skewed statistic seems juvenile..

    1. There is no “WE” if “THEM” keep “US” in the judicial system.

    2. What the hell does the medium of resolution have to do with the real fact that blacks flood the judicial system as defendants and are over represented in that regard? Online, in person, on the phone etc…the point is that more black people are prosecuted and persecuted than whites and black are the smallest population group – period.

    3. Statistical analysis is NOT skewed. The point you failed to see has nothing to do with ones physical presence or choice of resolution. The charge is irrelevant as well. The point is that in ANY courtroom across America you will find more black people in there than whites – proven fact!

    I was clear in my point and you contentions do not correlate to my overall point at all. So let me better articulate for you and provide some hard data so that I’m not told my “view point” is skewed. My personal observation of the courtroom was a real and valid cross section of what “is” within the fallace justice system.

    * There are 3 times as many black people in jail than in college
    * Blacks make up 13% if the US population but blacks make up 65% of the US prison population
    * 1 in 9 black men are in prison
    * 1 in 3 are on probation or parole
    * 1 in 100 white males

    With all of the above expressed, I restate my point and questions:

    1. Are blacks some evil rebel race of people that always break the law and get caught?

    2. Though blacks are only 13% of the US pop, do they make up 87% of the crime?

    3. How come proportionally there isn’t 13% of the judicial system to represent the black race?

    The apex of all my post was saying is that the system is flawed by those who control it – whites and done so with clear intention, precision and design.

  5. @ Taj,

    You are right, if as a culture blacks could gain some symmetry and cohesion it wold be easier to attack this issue. It will take that and other cultures to take responsibility and help “fix” whats been broken.

    Also, yo made some excellent points about why its hard to swallow “we”…

  6. Wow!!!! You are so narrow in your scope that there are times you get in your own way, Dimitri!!!

    I was not disputing what you wrote. Go back and read that, first.

  7. I should be surprised, but I’m not. At all. To be honest, its not just “them”. Its “us” as well. We as a people, seem to never really respect or have an understanding of the law, and how to navigate through the game of life that is largely set up and controlled by “them”.

    And we suffer because of it. How do we as a people foster respect for laws when “they” encourage, prompt, promote and pay for images “us” to keep “us” submissive by calling our women bitches, by calling each other niggas, by making our people think that being cool entails bottles of hennessey, rap careers and being surrounded by hottentot venuses?

    We feed into their biases and stereotypes of “us” and it makes “them” see us as nothing more than criminals or miscreants.

    We used to be a people that took care of our own, that valued and respected the images that were portrayed of us, but we are so lacksadaisical in making our own lives successful, that we are often left with no choice than to be what “they” want us to be.

    That said, “they” have been in power for so long, that it the odds are seemingly always stacked against us. We get processed in a justice system where few of our defense attorneys, prosecutors, wardens, guards, police officers accurately represent the number of “us” incarcerated or flowing through the system. And we flow through a system where too many of those chosen to represent us are so over-worked and over-burdened that without the highest amount of money, or someone to back us and push our cause, we are left unshielded and defenseless, which can make even the most innocent appear to be undeniably guilty.

    I know I kinda went off on a tangent, but w/e.

  8. One of my favorite quotes is rather applicable here, I think — insanity is continuing to do the same things and expecting different results. How is it any different to continue to point out the obvious, the issues, the stats with no offer to beginning a new path?

    When I state ‘we’, I don’t mean in a way that I, you, they get lost…rather in initiating a different mindset to pull people together to hear what it takes to begin change. If we continue to talk about them and us, there is no we and people don’t believe in the possibilities. Change begins with a vision and continues through hope, passion, commitment and knowledge.

    I’m not arguing with you….I choose to use my energy in setting a different course. I’ll continue to do what I believe is necessary to impact change with an open mind, a clear mind, recruiting those who choose to walk with, and set a course.

    Getting lost in the finger pointing blame as a sole exercise perpetuates the very issues you point out, and fails to change anything. To me, a waste of time without a plan.

  9. Exactly…

    so “we” as in “us” have to control our own images, mend our own communities, fix the intra-racial biases inflicted on each other, educate ourselves and each other academically and intellectually, teach our youth how to think for themselves, how to save, the importance of reading, maintaining an open mind, learning from others’ mistakes, not letting failure defeat our spirit, self-respect, self-love, teamwork, and how to be knowledgeable and skillfully navigate a system set up to keep us on the bottom and dependable. Controlling our own image is huge, Shashi. It speaks volumes to the way our youth are portrayed and adhere to popular culture!

    It all starts with education. And not that bullshit, one-sided nonsense our youth are fed in textbooks, but in addition to it! I think sharing the statistics is an amazing way to start the dialogue. Never too young!

Please use the comments to demonstrate your own ignorance, unfamiliarity with empirical data, ability to repeat discredited memes, and lack of respect for scientific knowledge. Also, be sure to create straw men and argue against things I have neither said nor even implied. Any irrelevancies you can mention will also be appreciated. Lastly, kindly forgo all civility in your discourse . . . you are, after all, anonymous :)

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