Tag Archives: white

The terms in which I think of reality….

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The terms in which I think of reality….

by Allen Ginsburg has to be one of my favorite poems. It comes back to me at different stages in my life as I ponder what is real and what is perception, what is emotion and what is chemical and whether they are all the same anyway…

This week has been a roller coaster and I am left contemplating such deep things that it makes my chest heave and my breath seize.

I have many things to be grateful for, so many in fact I cannot even fathom a guess to how long that list would be. Yet I still find myself worrying about things that I cannot control or affect anymore than I am so I must just let go.

Is there a 12 step program for control?

I have a friend who just found out their partner has a pretty progressed brain cancer that may or may not be treatable at this point; they have no insurance. All they can do is hope and wait and cope in ways less than healthy. Some social worker I am, all I can do is say I am sorry and that sucks. Try to offer band-aid solutions. I know they appreciate it, but I feel so helpless and then I feel bad that I feel anything. This is about them, not me. Their reality and mine in this situation are so different. I can’t join theirs but I can be there as a shoulder. That’s all. I have to let go of thinking I can do anything else at this point.

And that isn’t me seeking to feel apathetic.

I have friends that are only now starting the process of long term relationships and maybe marriage and careers and buying houses and thinking about children and I kind of resent that they are there now, with all this preparation and education and money to make it work. But I KNOW that all of those things don’t make it easier, just different so why am I jealous?

Been there done that and it never suits for me long…I have wanderlust. I never want anything for long. I’ve come to the conclusion that traditional life trajectories never will work for me because it isn’t what I want, it’s what I have been conditioned to think I want…Perhaps that is a rationalization…I don’t know.

Sour grapes.

Then I think about it being Memorial Day weekend and all the people who won’t be bbq’ing and all the people who are away from their families because they chose to serve and it makes me feel pretty fucking selfish for feeling sorry for myself being away from my family because I chose to move away for a man and all the other ridiculous reasons I told myself it was for.

Then I think about my baby brother going to Afghanistan. And my other friends going to Korea and Cambodia. And my uncle is probably going to end up somewhere because that is just what the 116th does, they go somewhere always. And then I think about my son wanting to enlist in a year and just

WHOA

Shit gets heavy.

My life is good. I have fat white American first world problems.

Those are the comparative terms in which I think of my reality.

Hug your peoples.

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The death penalty is a hate crime. Yeah. I said that.

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The death penalty is a hate crime. Yeah. I said that.

My entire life, I had always been a believer in retributive justice. As I began my bachelor’s program (Criminal Justice) with a focus on Constitutional Law, I believed that the only problem with the death penalty was that it was applied yet never used; thus rendering any deterrent effect null and void. It was not a diversion for other people.

Ha.

Now mind you, I have come to different thoughts over the years and no longer believe in the death penalty (except in a very few specific types of DNA verified cases/convictions that I won’t go into now). As a MSW student, there was a discussion today in a class that really made me scratch my head. I have processed and researched my way through the notes I took today and offer this: the students at my school are very keen on discussing the prison industrial complex. They have a particularly different insight into it, from a social work perspective as I do, with a criminology perspective. Obviously, we now have different lenses, but I am coming around to some thoughts that are more in line with my true feelings and theirs, I think…

I digress. Damnit.

The point is the case: McCleskey v. Kemp, 481 U.S. 279 (1987) was brought up and I had never heard of it. The 25th anniversary of this ruling just passed. Which I think is interesting given all the media attention of the Trayvon Martin case and what will surely be a pivotal case in the years to come regarding George Zimmerman. In all my classes, in all my laborious years in law offices and school, not once did I hear of McCleskey v. Kemp. WTF

Is it because I went to school in Idaho? I am not sure, but probably.

In case you too, have never heard of it, here is the gist:

Warren McCleskey was a black man who was convicted of killing a white police officer. After being sentenced to death, McCleskey brought to the attention of the court the Baldus study, which showed that black “criminals” with white “victims” were sentenced to death in Georgia 4x more often than black on black criminals.  Some results: (CP= Capital Punishment, B = black, W= white)

Defendants who kill W get CP in 11% of cases

Defendants who kill B get CP in 1% of cases

CP in 22% cases of B defendant, W victim

CP in 8% cases of W defendant and W victim

CP in 1% of cases of B defendant and B victim

CP in 3% of cases of W defendant and B victim

So black defendants who kill whites have greatest chance of getting CP.

He implied that this meant that his conviction and sentence violated both the Eighth Amendment and the “equal protection” clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The Supreme Court basically stated that while they were skeptical of the Baldus study, they would apply the findings as rule of law and further stated that they must dismiss evidence of general racial disparities in sentencing, as “an inevitable part of our criminal justice system.”

What?

Government sanctioned racial inequities?

No.

Not in 1987.

Not in 2005, not in New Orleans.

I bet we couldn’t find 10 examples at least everyday in the last 150 years.

Especially not today.

No.

The US is a “magical place” with roads paved with equality and fairness, intersecting justice.

Boo. Mr. McKleskey was executed by electrocution in 1991. Justice Lewis Powell, Junior, who wrote the opinion in his case wrote later that he regretted his decision and every death penalty opinion after that. Too late for Mr. McKleskey. Investigations later revealed enough evidence to have gotten his case retried, as the confidential informant was a police plant with non-eyewitness information. Too late.

Too many cases are realized wrong, too late. According to the Innocence Project: 

There have been 289 post-conviction DNA exonerations in the United States, since 1989.

Races of those 289 exonerees:

180 African Americans
82 Caucasians
21 Latinos
2 Asian American
4 whose race is unknown

I am not insinuating that Warren McKleskey was innocent or that DNA would have exonerated him. I do not know. I am merely using those stats to further illustrate the racial inequities in the judicial system.  I could write a blog everyday about judicial inequities.

Capital punishment is not reparative. It is not restorative. It is punitive and retributive. It is revenge.

It is Code of Hammurabi. Eye for an eye. Tooth for a tooth. Life for a life.

Hate Crimes are defined by the FBI as:

“A hate crime is a traditional offense like murder, arson, or vandalism with an added element of bias. For the purposes of collecting statistics, Congress has defined a hate crime as a “criminal offense against a person or property motivated in whole or in part by an offender’s bias against a race, religion, disability, ethnic origin or sexual orientation.” Hate itself is not a crime—and the FBI is mindful of protecting freedom of speech and other civil liberties.”

I think a definite case could be made that as far as the FBI is concerned, sentencing courts could be guilty of hate crimes. The “supreme” court says racial disparities are “…an inevitable part of our criminal justice system.” The death penalty is not restorative justice. It is revenge. It is 4,000 year old bullshit.

Fuck.