Where Race Matters

During work today I was talking to one of my co-workers about jury duty. He said the last time he had to do jury duty was two years previous when a young man was given around two years of prison time for "selling" drugs. He said he felt bad for putting him away and that he didn't want to and was creating a hung jury because of it, but he eventually relented. Curious I asked him about the case.

Basically, the case involved a young Latino man who was arrested at a club because of an incident involving a few people. Someone was caught with a gun and everyone was searched. When this young man was searched they found eight pills of ecstasy on him. OK, bad for him, he got caught in possession of an illegal substance. Except the problem was some young white hot shot prosecutor (as he called her) decided to lock this kid away for a much longer time and decided to bust him for selling instead of being in possession.

During the trial the white prosecutor kept mentioning the phrase, "If you walk like a duck, talk like a duck, and act like a duck, you're probably a duck." Now this young man was Latino and wore typical hyphy regalia to the courtroom (big mistake, I know, at least wear a nice collard shirt and some slacks, but hey). They had no evidence on the guy whatsoever, it was pretty much circumstantial, he was caught with some pills. Yet the jury (mostly white, a few Asians) believed that he had been selling despite the protets of my coworker that there was no actual evidence of this.

Now let's go back to the "duck" phrase. Why did this prosecutor keep harking on the phrase, "If you walk like a duck, talk like a duck, and act like a duck, you're probably a duck," over and over again. What evidence did she have that he sells drugs, or is a gang member? All she knew was this boy liked to dress in baggy cloths and have prints on his shirt, and that he took ecstasy at club events ("Oh No! Not pills!"). Yet she was "convinced" (or just looking for a nice win in here record) that he was some "gang member."

Essentially what she was preying on was the jury's feelings on race and on youth. In society we are conditioned to look at people a certain way by what we see on the news, in newspapers, books, TV shows, music videos, etc. More often then not young Black and Latino men who are dressed in baggy cloths are shown as gangsters, drug dealers, dead beat dads, ignorant, dangerous, etc. This is the image that is imprinted on the mind of many whites (and anyone for that matter); not to mention the hundreds of years of racial history ingrained in us.

So when this prosecutor kept harping on the "duck" phrase she was, consciously or not, exploiting the fact that this man was young, brown, and liked to dress in hyphy attire. What she was essentially saying was, "If he walks like a brown man, talks like a brown man, acts like a brown man, he's probably a gangsta." Which is essentially saying, "If he's brown and dresses in the cloths most kids dress up in these days he's a danger to (white) society."

If the kid had been white and had been able to afford a decent lawyer (not a public defender) than more then likely the trial would have ended in charges of possession; because honestly, when seeing a bunch of white kids (like the kid pictured above) walking down the street "aping" like their Black, what cop is going to pull them over?

This is why being critical of race matters.

Image From:
Silly Dad


Donna said...

I know someone who served on jury duty who paid no attention to the trial and just voted to convict because the defendant was black. I said to her, you're joking right? (it would be an extremely bad joke, but I'd rather think that than that the man was convicted for his skin color) and she said no. She took one look at him and knew he was guilty of something. Yeah, he was guilty of being black. She also said, they're all criminals anyway. I'm just horrified to think that the guy might be innocent, and now has a record and spent time in jail for something he didn't do, just because he was the wrong skin color for this woman.