As a race of people African Americans have spent centuries enduring injustice. At one point we were considered property and not even worthy of the rights and guarantees of the constitution. Generations of African Americans were lynched and murdered and never saw justice. On the flip side they were also accused of crimes and faced all white male juries. Justice was not served. Although it was fiction, we often look at the novel To Kill a Mockingbird or the Scottsboro Boys Trials to illustrate the fate of many African American men in the American justice system. I also think of victims like Emmett Till, who lost his life because someone thought he winked at a white woman. The African American community responded strongly to Till’s death with thousands attending his funeral where his brave mother had an open casket so the people could see what happened to her son. Unfortunately Till’s murders never served time for their crimes but this incident illustrates African Americans standing up against injustice.
When I think of this long history of fighting for what is right, the innocent, and the falsely accused I am utterly disgusted that we have degraded ourselves to defending horrible behavior today. In November an eleven-year-old Hispanic girl was raped by eighteen Black men in a small town in Texas near Houston. Community leaders and family members of the suspect have the nerve to be outraged about their arrests! A meeting was held to discuss their concerns about the arrests and the investigation. No concern that eighteen young men did not see anything wrong with raping a child, recording it, and dispersing the tape.
Parents of the suspects argue that the girl looked and acted older. This may be true but I find it really hard to believe that an eleven-year-old could look eighteen. Yes she may have the body and attitude of a fifteen year old, but even that age does not allow her to consent to sex. Regardless of how she looked, the law imposes strict liability when it comes to statutory rape so the rapist awareness of her age is irrelevant. The adult carries the burden of determining the age of their partner. Was this eleven year old probably a “fast tail” girl as my mother use to say. Probably so. Her mother also could have taken actions to curve her reported sexual behavior and adjusted her appearance to that of an eleven year old but all this does not change the actions of the young men involved in this horrific rape.
The bottom line is that we need to quit supporting foolishness! Yes our young men have been wronged and mistreated by the justice system time and time again. Some even argue that our system is set up almost as a trap for African American men. Some injustice does not equal all injustice. The greater injustice in this situation is if the men who perpetrated this crime do not pay for what they did this little girl.
This incident also makes recall another historical moment in the Civil Rights movement. Rosa Parks was not the first person to protest segregated buses but people stood up for her because here was a woman who worked hard, had no criminal record and did not seem to provide a reasonable threat to anyone. An unwed pregnant teenager, Claudette Colvin, and a convicted felon made previous protests. The others were equally wronged by the segregated busing system but due to their past they could not be used as an example because those opposed to the movement could easily find fault in them. I use that story to illustrate that we have to be careful who we put our support behind. The strength of our protest and dollar had not been demonstrated prior to the Civil Rights movement but we saw it was an effective tool when used correctly. We also saw that not everyone was worthy of it. So why now do we throw it every fool who claims he has been wronged? Newsflash everyone in prison or jail claims they are innocent or their actions are justifiable. Today African Americans, particularly African American men are still the victims of improper police behavior but we should not weaken the stories of those in the right by supporting those clearly in the wrong. We know we have a strong voice but if we stand behind people like the men in Cleveland, Texas our support for the true victims is clearly undermined.