OLD LYNCHING, NEW LYNCHING….The Senate voted yesterday to apologize for never having passed a federal anti-lynching law. Deborah Crawford, whose great-grandfather was lynched in South Carolina in 1916 after arguing with a white farmer over the price of cottonseed, said she had mixed feelings about the whole thing:
“I feel that there should be something else, something more than an apology, but I don’t know what,” Crawford said.
By a curious coincidence, though, “something more” happened on the very same day:
The Supreme Court, overturning the murder convictions of a black man in California and another in Texas by nearly all-white juries, warned judges and prosecutors Monday that they must put an end to racial discrimination in the selection of jurors.
….The pair of rulings puts new teeth in earlier decisions that ordered trial judges to watch over the process of selecting a jury. Judges were to make sure that neither prosecutors nor defense lawyers excluded potential jurors because of race.
It’s about damn time. There’s value in symbolic actions like the Senate apology, but there’s a lot more value in recognizing the reality of how racism continues to work today and then doing something about it. Of course lawyers routinely consider race when they pick juries, and most judges know it when they see it. Giving them the authority to put a stop to this helps prevent the modern day equivalent of lynching ? which, for my money, is the best way there is to apologize for the actions of the past.
Of course, my real preference would be to eliminate jury selection by lawyers altogether, and just let judges do it. But I guess I’ll have to be satisfied with this for the time being.
UPDATE: Apparently, even apologizing for old style lynching is too much for some senators. Guess which party they mostly belong to? AMERICAblog has a list.