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Why the Support for the Tookies and O.J.s in the Black Community?

By   Follow Me on Twitter     Message Steven Leser     Permalink
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As the sands of time ran down on Tookie William 's life the debate has raged over whether or not he should be granted clemency. The whole "he has made something with his life " arguments vs. "look what he did and the horrible crime scene photos " have been done and done and overdone to the point that I can recite about 20 pages worth of text from each side in my sleep. If one then adds the always present at executions debate between whether or not we should have the death penalty and you get what we have seen over the last few days and that is a media frenzy temporarily rivaling what we had with the O.J. case in intensity.

While this all was interesting, I found yet another related issue of much more interest. The issue is the continuing disconnect between white and black people when the matter at hand is the prosecution or punishment of a high profile black defendant. Blacks tend to root for the defendant and whites tend to root against them. In internet debate areas, such as the New York branch of craigslist 's Rants and Raves, poster after poster has angrily demanded to know why blacks defend fellow blacks who are accused of heinous crimes. I 'll give the answer.

For several hundred years until not too long ago (perhaps forty or so years) African Americans accused of crimes in this country had almost zero chance of a fair trial. As painfully illustrated in the book and movie of the same name "To Kill a Mockingbird " as well as the book and movie of the same name "Assault at West Point the court-martial of Johnson Whittaker " one merely had to accuse a black person of a crime and they would be summarily convicted and dealt the worst possible punishment without the requirement of any real evidence. The cumulative effect of several centuries of this, not to mention lynchings where not even the formality of a trial was afforded, was that the courts were equated, rightfully so at the time, with the entirety of the racist enterprise that oppressed blacks in this country. In that atmosphere, all black defendants became someone for whom to root and for whose acquittal to hope. Cultural history is a powerful thing and not just for black Americans. Americans in general have a cultural history that is generally distrustful of government, in favor of the rights of gun ownership and composes also many other things uniquely American. In other cultures, history is even longer lived. To people of the Middle East, the Crusades still loom large as a big part of their cultural history when people came out of nowhere invading the land and homes of people living peacefully where they had for hundreds of years,

So, when you see African Americans protesting in favor of the O.J.s and the Tookies out there, understand from where this is coming and that overcoming this cultural history will take time. It is also a time to reflect on how much damage a nation state can do when it oppresses the rights and freedoms of people within its borders and to be thankful of how much we have in the US in the way of rights and freedoms and how precious and fragile they are. It is also a time to reflect on the sad fact that many people around the world do not have these rights and freedoms and in some cases, even here in the US, some groups are still fighting to be equal.


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A political blogger for the International Business Times, Steve Leser is a hot national political pundit. He has appeared on MSNBC's Coundown with Keith Olbermann, Comedy Central's Daily Show with Jon Stewart and Russia Today's (RT) Crosstalk with (more...)

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