Saturday, March 24, 2007

White Jacksonville Attorney Strikes a Blow for Black Justice

This is another story that gives us hope, as does the fact that it was prominently reported in the St. Augustine Record, which had a tendency to shy away from such stories in the past.

Texas governor pardons inmate

Kudos to Marcia Lane of the Record and Jacksonville Attorney Charlie Douglas--who grew up in St. Johns County--for participating in the campaign to free Tyrone Brown, a black man jailed for life by a Texas judge for a minor probation violation [tested positive for pot] while at the same time a white probation violator [multiple cocaine possessions] was given no jail time at all! The original crimes of these two men further demonstrate the inequity of their treatment. Brown was guilty of an armed robbery that netted $2. The white criminal was guilty of killing a prostitute.

The case shed light on a huge problem in America's criminal justice system, the abuse of sentencing and the war on drugs to perpetuate segregation. As Dare Not Walk Alone points out, among persons convicted of drug felonies in state courts, whites were less likely than African-Americans to be sent to prison. Thirty-three percent (33%) of convicted white defendants received a prison sentence, while 51% of African-American defendants received prison sentences. (Source: DoJ plus a whole bunch more here.)

Here's a follow-up story from Texas when Mr. Brown actually got out of jail and the moral, financial and logistical support of Mr. Douglas is acknowledged. And here's an earlier story about Douglas from the Record.

Now, some people might think it is politically incorrect to point out the fact that Mr. Douglas is white. But we think failure to mention this fact would be politically and morally short-sighted. Through our screening of DNWA around the country we have repeatedly witnessed the surprise expressed by audiences--both white and black--that some civil rights protestors were not black. Sometimes you can almost hear the surprise in the cinema when Rabbi Dresner mentions the 15 rabbis that braved the wrath of the KKK to come down from New Jersey and march beside Andrew Young and Dr. Hayling in St. Augustine.

Any perpetuation of the false impression that the civil rights movement was a blacks-only campaign does a grave disservice to the people of all races and faiths (including humanists who might be said to be of no faith) who worked so hard, and sometimes at great personal and professional cost, to build bridges and alliances with which to push the civil rights agenda forward to victory.

Perhaps some of the lingering inter-racial fear that afflicts so many American communities could be alleviated if more people were aware that civil rights won when decent white folks and brave black folks came together to undo the evil that other white folks had created.

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