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The Horrible Price Black People Pay For Challenging The Police

Illustration for article titled The Horrible Price Black People Pay For Challenging The Policeem/em

It is, by now, well understood that if you are black your only goal from a police encounter is survival. If you encounter a cop on the street, you are not to press for your rights, even if your rights are being trampled on. Rights are a theory, you life is a reality that the cops can and will take from you.

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But while we tell black youths that the “proper” place to challenge police authority is in court, the penalties for standing up to the cops in a court of law are pretty severe. If you are a black victim, your entire history, criminal or otherwise, is fair game for the press. Hell, even if you are just a witness to police misconduct, your credibility and competence will be dragged through the mud. Even videotaping law enforcement subjects you to state retaliation.

But victims and witnesses rarely sign up to be the subject of police scorn and everything that comes with it. Marilyn J. Mosby did. She’s a prosecutor and she had this crazy notion that her job was to hold the cops accountable, instead of helping them escape with their crimes in connection with the Freddie Gray case.

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It was always going to be a difficult case to win. Mosby got indictments against six officers related to the Freddie Gray’s “rough ride” and subsequent spinal injury and death. But the six indictments are part of the problem. Which one of the officers killed him or recklessly caused his death? The law is not good at assigning individual blame for group murders. It’s a loophole big enough to drive a lynch mob through. Mosby was always going to have a tough time proving that any officer’s individual actions or inaction led to Gray’s death. When everybody is guilty, no one is to blame.

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Personally, I’d be willing to throw RICO charges against the police. Predicate acts of murder, extortion, and terrorism exist in any city police department. But trying to get a judge to call a police department a criminal organization is more of a stunt than a legal strategy. It’d be me and Tom Hagen against the world.

Once the cops, smartly, decided to have their cases heard by a judge, instead of diverse jury drawn from the community, it was probably game over. The justice system just isn’t designed to criminally punish cops for misconduct. At the end of the day, if breaking a few black spines is what it takes to keep us safe, the system is cool with it.

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But Mosby tried anyway. I give her a lot of credit for that. Prosecutors are pretty much the ultimate frontrunners. They’re bullies who try very hard to only take cases to trial when they know they’ve already won. It’s not about a quest for justice, or even the truth, it’s about their win-loss record.

The community needed to see these officers tried. Open court. Transparency. It’s one thing if a judge or jury says it’s okay for cops to kill black people because they think it was an accident. Even that, acquittal after acquittal, is better than a prosecutor saying “yeah, I’m not even going to bother.” I don’t agree with the acquittals, but I can accept it. I cannot accept a prosecutor telling me that the death of an unarmed black man while in police custody doesn’t even merit a trial.

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I’d like to say that Mosby fought the good fight, and the sisters left her alone. But this ain’t no fairly tale.

Mosby tried her cases, lost, and now comes the white counter-attack. Leading the indignation against this woman who had the temerity to challenge the police is George Washington Law Professor and activist, John F. Banzhaf. From the ABA Journal:

Professor John F. Banzhaf III of the George Washington University Law School said the complaints with the Maryland Attorney Grievance Commission are against Chief Deputy State’s Attorney Michael Schatzow and Deputy State’s Attorney Janice Bledsoe. He alleges they failed to present enough evidence to support even bringing the prosecution. Last month, Banzhaf filed a similar complaint against their boss, State’s Attorney Marilyn J. Mosby, the Sun reported at the time.

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You see, it’s not enough that Mosby lost. It’s not enough that judges disagreed with Mosby’s theory of the case. No, Mosby has to be discredited. She has to be literally delegitimized. The white pride playbook holds that uppity Negroes must be made an example of, so that no other picks up their work and struggle.

And God forbid a black woman actually does anything of note. In that case, it’s perfectly acceptable for a white supermodel to steal her contribution without acknowledging any credit.

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The movement to disbar Mosby is trash, but entirely predictable. Those cops could have been convicted, and there would still be people looking to expunge Mosby from the public record. Dan Donovan, in Staten Island, failed to get an indictment when he had video of the perpetrators choking the life out of a man in broad daylight. His incompetence was rewarded by an election to Congress. Mosby indicted, but couldn’t convict, six cops who bounced around a victim in secret until his spine broke. She went for the higher degree of difficulty, but couldn’t stick the landing. Her reward is public approbation and an attack on her credentials.

This is the price she was always going to have to pay for daring to challenge the police in her own city. The important thing to remember is that she did it anyway.

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