Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘criminal justice’

What a glorious morning in the Blue Ridge. I’ve been sitting out on the deck with Ms Bean watching golden leaves drift by and listening to the rustle of oak trees in the wind. Soon I will have to bring the plants in from the porch, but for now, this is my season. Warm, sunny days and cool nights, Fall in Virginia is at its most elegant. Only the recurring theme of rape brings my autumn rhapsody to an end, and sends me upstairs to write.

Maybe it’s because we were sailing the Danube when a Stanford swimmer was on trial for raping an unconscious girl behind a dumpster, or maybe it’s just because I’ve been too politically plugged in to think about anything else, but today’s news caught my attention. Brock Turner, the rapist/swimmer, has been released from jail and is registering himself as a sex offender in Ohio. There are a few things about this case I find abhorrent.

First, in the state of California, if you rape an unconscious girl, they assume she has given her consent because she can’t say, “No.” Should I say that again? There are a few states that have crafted laws like this, what shall we call it, the “I Can’t Say No” clause? So, this gentleman was charged with a “sexual assault,” not “rape.” Still, this is how the FBI describes rape – “…penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus with any body part or object, or oral penetration by a sex organ of another person, without the consent of the victim.”

Nothing about the ability to talk, in fact we know some women are so terrified they cannot utter a word. In this case, the woman was “lucky” two men saw her being raped, and chased down the predator. Because if that had not happened, this would have just been another post-party night on campus. The unnamed young victim read a lengthy letter to Turner at sentencing, this is a small part:

According to him, the only reason we were on the ground was because I fell down. Note; if a girl falls down help her get back up. If she is too drunk to even walk and falls down, do not mount her, hump her, take off her underwear, and insert your hand inside her vagina. If a girl falls down help her up.

Three months in jail, a slap on the wrist. Boys will be boys will be sex offenders for life.

Let’s leap across the country to New Hampshire, to another white, privileged incidence of rape that has shocked suburbia. This week the victim of last year’s St Paul’s prep rape case went public. A very brave Chessy Prout, who is only 17 now, was a 15 year old Freshman at the prestigious school when she became a victim of something called the “Senior Salute,” where upperclassmen try to hook up with the new students. Owen Labrie, a 20 year old who looks like a student at Hogwarts, was sentenced to one year in prison after he was found on a train violating his bail. Poor boy, he was only trying to visit his girlfriend at Harvard. http://www.today.com/news/chessy-prout-st-paul-s-school-assault-survivor-sheds-anonymity-t102326

And skipping back a century, if you’ve been following any of Downton’s marathon episodes over Labor Day weekend, you may have been reminded of the lady’s maid, Anna, who was raped downstairs during a concert upstairs. It happened in the second episode of Season Four, and I happened to watch a bit while Bob was working. How could I forget the intrigue of the rapist’s untimely death, the aftermath of arrests at the castle? Who did push the rapist off a train platform to a very Anna Karenina end? Was it Anna, or her husband Mr Bates?

Rape happened in the Bible, and lest you think we’ve figured it out, it wasn’t until 1998 when the state of Mississippi struck down its law that a rape could only be proved if a woman was “pure.” And let’s all thank “King Edward I of England (who) was a forward-thinking chap. He enacted the landmark Statutes of Westminster at the end of the 13th century. They redefined rape as a public wrong, not just a private property battle. The legislation also cut out the virgin distinction and made consent irrelevant for girls under 12…” http://www.motherjones.com/mojo/2012/08/men-defining-rape-history

If you haven’t sat down to talk with your high school and college Freshmen, boys and girls, about these things, you had better plan some time over Parent’s Weekend. Tell them if a girl falls down, pick her up. This was the view from my kitchen last night. Apricot night skies and buttercream mornings. img_5153

 

 

Read Full Post »

“We are now so interdependent that it is in our own interest to take the whole of humanity into account.” Dalai Lama

This week was enough to make all of us cry. First in Baton Rouge, a man selling CDs on a sidewalk named Alton Sterling was thrown to the ground and shot point blank by a policeman. His crime? Carrying a gun while Black. It is all on YouTube thanks to a cell phone video. Then in my brothers’ home state of MN, another Black man was killed by a cop, and another cell phone video went live, so people on Facebook could watch Philandro Castile take his last breath while his girlfriend tells the officer, “You shot four bullets into him sir!” His crime was a broken tail light, and the audacity to tell the police he was licensed to carry a gun, while reaching for his wallet.

When a Black sniper in Dallas, an Army veteran,  decided to take vengeance into his own hands, we all thought this is it. Something has got to give, we cannot sustain our country by buying guns and living behind gates, by living in fear of the “Other.” And for a split second it did seem as if the Red and Blue was weaving itself back together again. But it didn’t last.

When I met a woman from Dallas at a memorial service on Friday, we touched on the troubles. I was truly grieving, so much senseless loss. And she said, “What about Black on Black crime?” and her daughter took her elbow, cautioning her to be careful what she said….I wasn’t sure where she was going. But from the younger woman’s reaction I knew it would be bad.

When White people talk about “Black on Black crime,” it’s like saying all Mexicans are rapists. It’s code for an underlying bigotry; don’t trust them, they’re gangsta. When I taught Head Start in the projects of Jersey City, I remember people calling it a ghetto. The word ghetto actually comes from the pogroms in Russia – it is Yiddish and means: an organized persecution or extermination of an ethnic group, esp of Jews.

When White people say, “Castile was doing everything right,” what that means is he was licensed to carry a gun, he had a good job, he wasn’t selling cigarettes or CDs on the street. He bought the American Dream, he didn’t have to hustle, he worked at a Montessori school for f-sake. And he had a fiancee and a baby girl in the back seat. He lived in a fairly progressive part of the country, but that couldn’t save him from a terrified cop with a gun. And the underlying message?

Since Castile was doing right, all those other unarmed Black men must have been doing something wrong!

safe_image.phpWhen the President compared the Black Dallas shooter to the Neo-Nazi White shooter in Charleston he was making a valid point. There is not much we can do to predict which mentally ill young man will wake up one day and decide to take out a number of people based on race or ridiculous ideology. Why is the gunman of one crime a lone wolf, while another morphs into a terrorist?

Today, social media is turning the tide around these issues. We can no longer ignore a militarized police force. We must witness the mass murder of police in the middle of a non-violent protest march. We are teaching our children to shelter in closets in our schools, because the right to bear arms is so precious to us.

We will always have a few bad cops. And we will always have the mentally ill. The flint to this combustible mixture is the gun, and God help us, if our legislators cannot regulate guns in this country, we may run out of hope. Because racism can be cured; racism needs to be taught, and we as a people can decide to stop teaching hate to our children.

The whole world is watching.IMG_4812

Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: