Do we want another Tawana Brawley?

Tawana Brawley

A conservative friend of mine ended his rant with this line - “How many more Tawana Brawleys and Duke Lacrosse teams do we need before we stop railroading and judging people guilty on a whim?” Let me stand back for a second. With regard to the Trayvon Martin case, as I have said repeatedly (here, here, here and here), all anyone in the United States should want, all we should ask for, is for justice to be done. I’ve never called for a speedy investigation. I want a thorough investigation wherein all the rocks are overturned. It is that simple.

I’ve also mentioned repeatedly that we need to focus on the investigation and not the sideshow. For the sake of this post and clarity today, I will address the sideshow. Conservatives have consistently over the last few weeks focused on the sideshow. Several have focused on how the family wants to try this case in the court of public opinion. First, we must try to understand the frustration the family must feel after their son has been shot and the police simply stonewalled them. The police appeared to “kill” the investigation. Secondly, there is no doubt that there are many people and organizations who simply cruise the Internet and look for opportunities to jump on the bandwagon of race-based issues. I would like to think that their agenda is to improve equality in America, but I think we have seej time and time again that their agenda is to elevate their own individual status or organizational status.

I find it fascinating that many conservatives have decided to bring up Tawana Brawley case. Basically, a brief review – in 1987, Ms. Brawley, a 15-year-old girl, had been missing for over four days. She was found near her home in Wappingers Falls, New York, in a dumpster lying in a garbage bag. She was disheveled. Her clothing was torn. She was covered in feces. She had the words, Bitch, KKK and N!gg*r written on her in what appeared to be charcoal. She claimed that she had been repeatedly raped by three white men. Her behavior in the emergency room can only be described as bizarre. She and the family requested to be interviewed in the emergency room by a black officer and this was granted. This was the case that vaulted Al Sharpton into prominence. He was the first black personality to latch on to this case and scream that justice be done. There was a huge public outcry. Many celebrities (Bill Cosby and Spike Lee included) got involved. There was fundraising and there were marches. There was tons of finger-pointing. There were prominent attorneys.  In spite of the characterization that many conservatives have of this case, the outcome was 100% correct. There was a thorough investigation. There was a Grand Jury convened and the conclusion of that Grand Jury was that there was no rape. There was no sexual assault. You can read the rest of the Grand Jury conclusion here.

So, in spite of the mischaracterization that many conservatives have of this case, justice was served. Nobody died. Nobody went to jail unjustly. There was a thorough investigation. There was a thorough review of the evidence. There was a clear and unmistakable conclusion which the vast majority of Americans have accepted as correct – whites and blacks alike. What can we learn from this case is a couple of things. First, the black community, no surprise, is very mistrustful of our justice system. This needs to be fixed. I don’t know how to do it. The perception in the black community is that the criminal justice system is completely and 100% stacked against minorities. There was a Chicago police shooting in which an unarmed female was shot to death.  There was an 18-year-old male who was jailed for marijuana possession who seems to have been allowed to hallucinate and cry out for help for hours in jail before he died in jail.  There’s Alan Gomez, who appears to have been an unarmed 22-year-old who was somehow shot by police. In spite of a thorough investigation, the circumstances of his death remain somewhat mysterious. The official investigation cleared officers of all charges.  There was the shooting rampage in Tulsa which now appears to be part revenge and part racially based. Now, I’m not saying that the police were right or wrong in all of these situations. Instead, what I’m saying is that there is a preponderance of situations in which minorities die and it seems like the overall justice system is not adequately responding to the cries of the minority community. Secondly, as I mentioned earlier, there are individuals and organizations who latch onto these racially charged issues like leeches. They do little or nothing to illuminate the situation. As a matter fact, in my opinion, they muddy the waters. I’ll go so far as to say they should be ignored.

Trayvon Martin

Much of the problem that I see in the United States has developed over a lack of compromise from both sides. Everyone wants to say that they’re right. No one wants to admit that the other side may have a point. Our society is slowly evolving into left versus right, progressive versus conservative, white versus black. In fact, we have to acknowledge that our country is much more complicated than that. We have to acknowledge that we have not solved the problems of racial inequality and social economic inequality in this country. We should recoil at the statements of Rick Warren, pastor of a large mega-church, who asked, “…or does fairness mean that everybody has an opportunity to make the same amount of money? I do not believe in wealth redistribution, I believe in wealth creation.” He’s just repudiated the teachings of Jesus. This is not about socialism. Instead this is about opportunities for all. Currently, in our highly toxic talk environment, there is no middle ground. How can you compromise with the man is supposed to be a Nazi and wants to murder your kids? This is our problem. Extremism. Until we all pull back to the center, our country is in trouble.

So, where does that leave us with Trayvon Martin? In my mind, we’re still at the beginning. We are continuing to patiently wait for the thorough investigation to conclude. Until then, I will continue to hope and pray that justice will be done. It is that simple.