As a public defender and a Black girl, I come across myself inquiring now extra than at any time: “How does the felony process and mass incarceration keep on to grow and worsen even with all these men and women opposing it?” I have appear to think it is for the reason that absolutely everyone is much more aligned than we assume. We have been educated by the identical well-known society — taught to settle for the same cruelty as the status quo.
It may seem to be cliche to blame societal ills on the media, but the marriage involving our country’s consolation with mass caging and the depiction of criminal offense and punishment that we see in preferred lifestyle looks additional than coincidental. Media use is what we all have in widespread. It is why even my mother, who lives in the Bahamas, typically tells me “some people belong below the jail,” or that “some individuals are just evil, Olayemi.” She, way too, has expended a long time observing Law & Purchase: SVU.
I see this link most plainly when I assume about the interactions I’ve experienced with a extensive cross-portion of actors in the felony lawful method. Regardless of wherever people today slide on the spectrum of aid for improve, they seem to function on a shared established of assumptions so embedded in our society that we barely notice they exist.
I think about a person of the numerous instances I was misidentified as a felony defendant in court, when a court docket officer angrily screamed at me to get out of the 1st row, exactly where attorneys sit. I was sitting there with my colleagues, dressed like them, keeping court files like them. The only distinction in between us was that I am a Black woman. I told the officer I was in the proper seat for the reason that I am an lawyer. He remaining the courtroom and when he returned, he explained, “My undesirable, Ms. Olurin I imagined you had been a defendant.”
The conversation was illuminating not for the reason that he assumed I was a defendant mainly because I’m Black (racism is not novel), or even that he was mistreating me mainly because he thought I was a defendant the illuminating component was that he advised me. He was keen to give me an rationalization of his mistreatment mainly because he assumed it was reasonable. In his brain, it was flawlessly acceptable to scream at a person accused of a criminal offense. So suitable in reality, he anticipated that even I, a legal defense lawyer, wouldn’t item. When I replied, “It would’ve been unacceptable even if I were a defendant,” he seemed confused.
I feel about that confusion….
I assume about the Queens district lawyer, Melinda Katz, who declined to demand an officer who kneeled on the neck of my client, SirCarlyle Arnold, irrespective of stating that she “supported the spirit” of the Say Their Title Reform Invoice, which promised New Yorkers an conclude to the NYPD’s use of unlawful choke holds and neck restraints. I imagine about why Mayor de Blasio condemned the officer who killed George Floyd but refused to have the officer who killed Eric Garner fired or charged.