Guilty Until Proven Innocent
Guilty Until Proven Innocent
I decided to stop telling people about my innocence a long time ago. I haven’t faced the physical beatings nor ultimate stripping of life like Emmett till, Trevon Martin, Gregory Gun, Tamir Rice, and countless others. I have faced the sickness from a system that fails to value black innocence. In the times of slavery and Jim Crow there existed a saying that “the only good Negro is a dead Negro” this simple cliché and practice, although far removed from the lips of the opposition, has yet to be removed from the mind.
If no good exists in any Negro, then a casual killing act makes sense in Virginia. If no good exist in any Negro, then the extrajudicial murder of Oscar Grant is acceptable. Since no good exists in any Negro, why should anyone investigate or expect foul play in the death of Sandra Bland? Since no good exists in any Negro, it’s easy to sterilize countless women without consent in Mississippi until Fannie Lou Hamer spoke out. Since no good exists in any Negro, it’s easy to experiment on men who valiantly served their country during wartime in Tuskeegee, Alabama.
The Bible itself describes the Negro as the cursed seed of Ham. God Almighty finds the Negro guilty and thus cursed him with blackness. As ridiculous as the above statements may sound they are the root of society’s perspective of a black man and why his mistreatment is so palpable. The black man’s goodness in many respects is a myth. No one believes in him, therefore he is oft treated as if his innocence does not exist. His innocence in the mind of society is especially a fairytale.
There is this old cliché that states, “never explain because those who need an explanation won’t believe you and those who believe in you never need an explanation.” Of course this doesn’t apply in every situation in life. Yet for a Black or so-called Negro in America, that simple cliché almost always proves true. He is guilty before proven innocent with or without explanation. He is lynched based on this idea that there is no good in him. In fact he isn’t even considered whole.
Blacks only make up approximately 12% of the United States General population. Shockingly, Blacks make up approximately 42% of the prison population and that’s not even counting corrections control programs like parole or probation. How many times does 12 going to 42? 3 1/2 or 3.5. This means only 3.5% of blacks from the general population in the United States are not incarcerated.
This percentage always makes me contemplate the 3/5 compromise. If the right to vote secures our other rights but convicted felons are deprived of this right, this means blacks only have a 3.5% chance of securing all of the rights. Since the amount of power in any state is determined by the amount of representatives, and the amount of representatives is determined by the amount of residents, the question has always been how do you count the slaves?
The south before the Civil War said let’s count them whole. Yet the north argued that the south can’t count something it doesn’t consider human. A solution was eventually agreed to under President James Madison. They would count the slaves as 3/5 of a person. Today Blacks somehow are still only counted as 3.5%. Some may argue the decimal 3.5 and the fraction 3/5 are not congruent. This is not the point. The point is Blacks continue to be treated less than whole. After 400 years of slavery, convict leasing closely followed. Jim Crow laws were instrumental in filling prisons with the new slave now labeled convicted felon. Nothing has changed.
I remember going to trial for the first time, confident that there was no way I could be found guilty of a crime I did not commit. I had faith in the system I thought held people innocent until proven guilty. I can recall my jury being in deliberation for maybe the second or third day. My lawyer came to me and asked if I was interested in a deal. He could push for negligent homicide or manslaughter. “But I’m innocent “I say.
The look he gave me was one of disbelief. His slip was not because he doubted my innocence. He was shocked that I believed my trial had anything to do with guilt or innocence. He knew what I didn’t. He knew that regardless of what was alleged or denied, I was guilty until proven innocent, because the only good Negro is a dead Negro. Of course there is no good in me. I deserve to be lynched.