Monday, April 24, 2006

Race and the Jude case, pt. 1

Eugene Kane and Gregory Stanford want us to acknowledge that the Jude beating and verdict were about race. Near as I can tell, the argument is that white people do not know how racist we all - or some of us - are.

Was Jude beaten because he was black? There was testimony that the officers who beat him used the "n-word' (although, based on at least some of the pictures in the paper, I am not sure most people would have regarded Jude as black), but this may prove less than it seems to. When you are beating the tar out of a guy, chances are that you are really mad at him. People who, for whatever reason, are angry with others, tend to say the most hurtful things they can think of. The notion that what we say in anger reflects what is truly in our hearts had always struck me as wrong.

Still, these words matter and it may well be that Jude became the candidate for "badge thief", at least in part, because of he was preceived to be non-white.

Whether they went ahead and beat him because he was black seems less plausible. My stepfather is a retired firefighter. I grew up around cops and firemen. Mostly great people, but their occupational hazard is to come to regard the people they deal with - actual and suspected offenders - as vaguely subhuman. If I had a nickel for everytime I heard the word "s***bum" when I was growing up, I might own that second home in Tuscany. Yet this was in Greenfield back when you never saw a black person south of the Menomonee Valley. There is just such a thing as a bad cop and they come in all hues. Spivak and Bice recently reported on the beating of a biracial inmate by a black sheriff's deputy (also resulting in an acquittal). Take a bad cop and pour in eight hours worth of beer and you've got trouble.

What of the jury? The brain dead comments of juror Vaso Sasic do suggest that something may have been clouding common sense. It's unlikely that Jude was injured in the way he was by being taken down. But the other juror who spoke to the press suggested that the problem was not that the jury thought that Jude was not wrongly beaten, but that they could not conclude beyond a reasonable doubt that the cops who were charged were the ones who were responsible.

Kane thinks an African-American juror or several would have made a difference, but how would that work? How would the presence of black jurors clear up identification problems. Here is what he has to say:

Unfortunately, the jury refused to consider race as a possible factor in their deliberations. That is the kind of thing that happens with a group of people who are limited in terms of perspective and melanin.

An African-American juror or two may not have substantially changed the verdict, but chances are they could have influenced discussion in a case where Jude was beaten, allegedly by white cops who were using racial slurs.

What would it mean to consider "race as a possible factor" if the issue is, not whether Jude was beaten, but who did it? Would it mean that you convict these officers because they are white and you think white cops beat black suspects? Would it mean that you are committed to convict someone because someone "has to pay?" It seems that "considering race as a factor" is just as likely to cloud judgement as to clarify things.

Of course, there is a racial element to the case and this case is viewed in light of other cases as well, but what, exactly, would it mean to decide that the case is "about race" and to act accordingly? More on that tomorrow.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Who are you to call someone else's comments as "brain dead?" The true idiots are those comment without the slightest knowledge of first hand evidence. You confuse fact with perception; most perceptions, even if deluded, becomes the truth to the ignorant.

I would gladly compete with you on intelligence; unfortunately, you would be on the short end of that contest.

Vaso Sasic