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Friday, March 22, 2019

“There can be no deep disappointment where there is not deep love.”  – MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR.

“Make me want to holler, way they do my life.” – MARVIN GAYE

I find myself burdened by the faith of my elders.

They were generations of cooks and farmers, poets and laborers, of porters and housekeepers, soldiers and slaves, and they navigated a very different America.

It was an America of signs barring entrance, and torture killings in the town square and how much am I bid for this fetching wench who is sure to bear you a litter of pickaninnies.

Yet somehow, for the most part, they never lost the conviction that this thing called America could be hammered into conformity with its own values if only they were patient enough, tough enough, resilient and excellent enough, to see it done. So they hammered at it.

And they hammered at it.

And in the course of time, they passed the hammer down to me. And I have hammered as best I know how.

But Lord, I am just tired.

On Monday, a jury in South Carolina deadlocked in the trial of a former North Charleston police officer who shot a black man named Walter Scott in the back.

There was cell phone video, so jurors knew that when Michael Slager said he feared for his life, he was lying.

What threat is posed by the back of an unarmed man — even a black one — who is 18 feet away and running from you?

And yet, a panel of 11 white people and one African-American could not find it in themselves to hold Slager accountable for this summary execution, could not bring themselves to say that this black life mattered.

This comes a year after a Cleveland grand jury declined to indict a police officer who shot 12-year-old Tamir Rice dead, two years after a Staten Island jury declined to indict the police officer who choked the life out of Eric Garner, three years after a jury in Sanford, Fla. acquitted the self-deputized neighborhood watchman who stalked and killed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, 24 years after a jury in Ventura County, Calif. acquitted four police officers who beat Rodney King very nearly to death, 61 years after a jury in Sumner, Miss. acquitted two white men who murdered 14-year-old Emmett Till so savagely that he was found with his right eyeball resting on his cheek.

It comes four years after the Supreme Court tore down the Voting Rights Act because it worked too well.

It comes a month after white supremacy was elected president.

And it comes about four months after NFL player Colin Kaepernick, later joined by other, mostly-African-American athletes, first refused to stand for the national anthem.

Infuriated white conservatives could not understand why this handful of black people would not rise to honor America. Frankly, the marvel is not that some black people don’t stand, but that most still do.

You get tired of being disappointed, you know? You get sick of being let down.

Yet I am challenged by the hope of my elders.

I hear King reminding me how the arc of the moral universe is long but bends toward justice.

I hear Thomas L. Jennings declaring that “our claims are on America.”

I hear Curtis Mayfield ordering me to keep on pushing and Sam Cooke prophesying that a change is going to come and Mahalia Jackson testifying how she got over.

And I know that probably, eventually, my elders will beguile me back into faith, convince me there are reasons to keep hammering at America’s ideals, or stand for America’s song.

But in this moment of fresh betrayal? Sorry, elders.

I’m damned if I can think of one.

Leonard Pitts is a columnist for The Miami Herald, 1 Herald Plaza, Miami, Fla., 33132. Readers may contact him via e-mail at lpitts@miamiherald.com.

IMAGE: Judy Scott (R) is held by her son Rodney after a hung jury was announced in the trial of former North Charleston police officer Michael Slager outside the Charleston County Courthouse in Charleston, South Carolina December 5, 2016. REUTERS/Randall Hill

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2 responses to “Deadlocked Charleston Jury Is Another Big Letdown”

  1. William Jouris says:

    If the reports that I have seen are correct, there is actually some cause for hope from the hung jury in the Slanger trial. Even today, with white racism having a resurgence, even today, in the deep South and with 11 white jurors, only one juror stood between Mr Slanger and a guilty verdict.

    Compare that with the other trials you mention, where the killer got off with a Not Guilty verdict. Or, in some of the older ones, never got to charged at all.

    Clearly we have a long way still to go. But the arc of the moral universe is visibly bending, as Dr King assured us it was. No matter how far it still has to go.

  2. Sand_Cat says:

    How could Mr. Pitts suggest that white racism still exists? Doesn’t he know – as does every white conservative, especially those who troll here – that the only racism in America is that of “liberals”? What’s the matter with him? He even suggested in another article that those good conservatives who compared Michelle Obama to an ape were actually motivated by racial animus rather than the true concern of American patriots for her husband’s Muslim socialist agenda and hatred of white people.
    It’s long past time that Leonard Pitts and all those other racist, hate-filled members of “the far left” admitted that what little white racism and discrimination against black people existed prior to the completely unjustified and unnecessary Civil Rights and Voting Rights acts was instantly and magically extinguished by the good, conservative folk of the south and elsewhere when they saw what an excuse it was providing said “far left” for undermining American equality and justice and endangering Christian values! Shame on Mr. Pitts and all other advocates of reverse-discrimination and slander against the pro-life family values that once made America great, and are about to make it great again!!!!

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