Sunday, March 09, 2003

I have had mixed feelings about Associate Justice Clearance Thomas ever since he accented to the United States Supreme Court, being appointed to such by President Bush the elder. His record on the Court since that appointment has been one of overwhelming conservatism, which I admit disappoints me greatly. Thurgood Marshall is most assuredly rolling over in his grave! While Marshal championed Civil and Equal Rights of all Americans, and fought tirelessly to raise the status of black Americans, Thomas hid in a monastery! And yet I grudgingly respected his right to his conservative views, however abhorrent I found them.

However his dissent in the racial decimation case of Miller-El v. Cockrell, Director, Texas Department of Criminal Justice gave me considerable pause to think again. So repulsed was I, by his cold, closed minded analysis of the case, I wrote an essay for my school newspaper this past Friday. This man is dangerous to Black Americans folks, plain and simple! Below is the essay in its entirety:

Justice Thomas Has an Identity Crisis

Racial discrimination, bigotry, and prejudice. They are woven into the fabric of American society as tightly as baseball, hot dogs, apple pie, and Chevrolet. Contrary to what most White Americans believe, racial discrimination is very much alive and thriving in America. As a black male I live with it every day of my life, and I will die with its mark heavy on my heart and its imprint etched into my soul. To be sure it is not in my face every minute of every day, but like a dark shadow it follows me wherever I go, reminding me from time-to-time of my station, my role, my burden. No matter the education, social status, or bank balance, if you are black in America you wear a dark suit that will never come off.

So it was with some surprise that Clarence Thomas, Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, and a man who grew up during the Civil Rights movement, should choose to dissent in a case dealing with racial discrimination in the justice system! I say some, because Justice Thomas, a staunch conservative, has always held views contrary to my own, and the vast majority of black America, about race and racism. And while I do not agree with his stance on most issues, I have defended his right to form them, and to stand apart from black masses. But his dissenting opinion in Miller-El v. Cockrell, Director, Texas Department of Criminal Justice, in which he stated that “[b]ecause petitioner has not shown, by clear and convincing evidence, that any peremptory strikes of black viniremen (prospective jurist) were exercised because of race, he does not merit a certificate of appealability (COA). I respectfully dissent,” cannot be ignored, or explained away as just a difference in opinion.

For those unfamiliar with the aforementioned case, in 1986 Miller-El was convicted of murder and sentenced to death by the city of Dallas. Miller-El appealed the conviction on the basis that he did not receive a fair trial because all but one of the prospective Black jurors was struck from the jury pool by the Dallas District Attorney’s office. Using tactics that were found by the Supreme Court in Batson v. Kentucky to be contrary to equal application of justice, the prosecutors in this case used peremptory challenges to strike 10 out of 11 prospective black jurors. The prosecutors also used other methods—also ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court—to excuse black Americans from the jury pool, leaving a panel of all white jurists to hear Miller-El’s case with a predictable outcome.

It is every American citizen’s right to file a writ of habeas corpus before a federal appeals court, if it can be proved that ones constitutional rights have been violated. But before the writ can be filed, a defendant must obtain a Certificate of Appealability or COA from a United States District Court. However, before the COA can be issued, a prisoner must demonstrate clear and convincing evidence of a violation of his/her constitutional rights; violations a “reasonable person or jurist” might find compelling enough to grant a COA. The basis of Justice Thomas’s dissent is that Miller-El did not meet this burden. In his dissent Justice Thomas stated: “[q]uite simply, petitioner’s arguments rest on circumstantial evidence and speculation that does not hold up to a thorough review of the record.” I beg to disagree with his dissent!

By now it is an open secret that lady justice is neither blind, nor fair when dispensing justice to most Black Americans—especially black American males. There have been and continue to be, systemic abuses of the criminal justice system in America that have left the Black community devastated. Fatherless Black children, and a black male prison population grossly out of proportion with the over all black population of the nation, are just the tip of a societal injustice anchored in racism, ignorance, and fear. Some would argue that black males commit crimes proportionate with their numbers in prison, but in our own state 13 black males have been released from death row within the last ten years, having been falsely accused.

American history is replete with tales of the unprincipled, amoral, and egregious assaults on our system of justice by those bent on denying black Americans equal protection under law. And as I stated above, some of the most scandalous tales find their place at the table of modern, post Civil Rights, American justice. It’s against this backdrop that Justice Thomas delivered his ill-formulated dissent. If racially motivated malfeasance in the American justice system were a rarity, then and only then, could I understand and give careful consideration to his arguments in this case. But such is not the case, and like it or not at the end of day, whether the lights are on or off, Justice Thomas wears the suit of the black American male, and all it purports. I would submit that Justice Thomas has become a boorish European wannabe with no real sense of identity. Conservative values, and making oneself blind to the continued struggle for equality of your fellow black Americans, will not make it otherwise!

Thomas has done us all a disfavor by turning a blind eye to the cancer that is racism, a cancer that eats at the very heart of American jurisprudence. After all, the vaulted American justice system is only as pure and as fair as the men and women who shepherd it.

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