US justice system is a perfect instrument of racist rule

Yannick Giovanni Marshall

Yannick Giovanni Marshall

A judge in Louisiana said: “We have a n****r! It’s a n****r. Like a roach,” on a home video last year.

At their best, apologists for the US “justice system” will call the judge a bad apple and the legal system that produced her – the one she wanted to be a part of –  flawed.

It is a perfect defence. An unbroken line of anti-Black and anti-Indigenous torture initiated by the courts – which kept Dred Scott in slavery, and kept Kalief Browder in slavery, which pushed the Indian off the southeast, and pulled Oklahoma from the Indian – is referred to, regretfully and with downcast eyes, as “an imperfect system”.

If all US judges shared home videos of themselves dehumanising Black people, tangoing while cleaving to Ku Klux Klan robes, and backslapping officials of a white nationalist political party they would be called bad apples. If 100 percent of all sentencing was proven to be consciously racially discriminatory, sentencing would be called flawed. And in this way the liberal view is able to protect white supremacy in action by representing it as always an aberration. Always, despite the preponderance of evidence, the protests and crying behind prison cell doors, despite all history, as being non-racist as a rule. A “justice system” that has not for one hour been anything other than an instrument of a racist rule is sold to its victims as always having non-racist potential.

Liberal hope is what hope would be if it were a racist.

This white supremacist defence of American justice has become so naturalised it might be difficult to imagine what might happen if such a judge were discovered in a fair society. There, it might generate frenzied investigations and public discussions about whether there could be justice in the legal system which let even one person decide cases who so comfortably and laughingly expressed their hatred of more than one billion people.

It might be asked why such a person might be attracted to the legal profession at all? Should not racists be repelled by the very idea of colourblind justice?

If a poisoner was discovered in a restaurant, even if some meals were not poisoned, would it not be better to pause all operations to find out if the poisoner acted alone and if necessary shut down the restaurant? Should we not do the same upon the discovery of discrimination in the institution charged with sentencing people to death by poison?

If a judge was caught calling Black people roaches in Louisiana, how would we know the Black person strapped to a gurney in Florida – who has obtained DNA evidence that he did not commit the crime and whose case was presided over by a judge who may not have uploaded home videos but was seen dining with politicians who fight to make it illegal to document police beatings – should, in fact, be poisoned?

What if the prosecutor was found to consume conservative media which every evening inches closer to speaking of “the Jew”? What if the arresting officer regularly listens to podcast hosts who invite guests to report on the latest in Negro craniometry and the naturally aggressive personality of “the Black”? How can we be certain that the governors who hang up the phone after denying a stay of execution are rubbing their hands in prayer and not with pleasure?

In a society interested in fairness, the discovery of even one weevil in the justice system might set off a panicked uprooting of law books and commence suspender and spotlight interrogations of every judge and prosecutor out of fear that countless lives may be being ruined due to the infiltration of the system by people who share the opinion of slave traders.

In America, it does not. Racists pronouncing sentences, racial disparities in sentencing, racism in arrests, police impunity and the entire regime of racist law and its enforcement is defended as an “imperfect system.”

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