I've known about a miscarriage of justice for over a week or two, and I've said nothing about it. But today I'd like to make a small point in light of a story with legs.
The story is that about Shaquanda Cotton, the black girl from Paris, Texas who was sentenced to about 7 years in prison for shoving. That's right, shoving. Shaquanda is 14 years old.
The youth had no prior arrest record, and the hall monitor--a 58-year-old teacher's aide--was not seriously injured. But Shaquanda was tried in March 2006 in the town's juvenile court, convicted of "assault on a public servant" and sentenced by Lamar County Judge Chuck Superville to prison for up to 7 years, until she turns 21.
Just three months earlier, Superville sentenced a 14-year-old white girl, convicted of arson for burning down her family's house, to probation.
It doesn't get any plainer than that. Chuck Superville is begging to be compared with Mike Nifong as legal terrorist of the year. Surely there are other officers of his court that are complicit in this travesty of justice. With any luck, he'll be run out of town, and investigated until it hurts. But you never know. If there's anything to be learned about life in America, it's how godawfully difficult it can be to fire attorneys. What do you think are the chances that we could get the law changed so that lawyers are easier to fire? Speaking of which, who the hell represented Cotton?
Spence brings this to my attention today with regard to the Kwaku Network, which as all Cobb readers know is my term for the informal backchannel of communications of African Americans. I hesitate to say that the network is broken, because it has no particular goals or discipline. It is what it is. But some days I wish that it were a little bit more efficient and pinpointy accurate, a bit more timely and not so reliant on external sources. You see right about now, as I become emotionally attached to this story, I want to hear about what's up in Paris, TX from folks in Paris, TX. I mean, any internationally famous director can make a cute movie about a place we've never been and will never go, but why should we believe him?
It comes down to storytelling, and this is something we all ought to be incrementally better at. We the people. For our own damned survival and for the survival of liberty in this country. Some days I get the feeling that more and more of us are turning into iPod People, walking around connected to some device that robs us of articulateness. We pick a band and let their lyrics do our talking, while we're transported out of the present as we walk down the street. Who saw Shaquanda do the shoving? Who was the witness? How did it come to be that such an incident happening right in front of somebody's face got punted to the cops?
People who believe in fairness and justice need to recognize that they are the justice system too. This is where the people of Paris, TX failed Shaquanda and her arsonist neighbor too. And I have to write about this because I'm just as capable as any newspaper editorialist. I can't evade that responsibility either. I'm not going to let the MSM go on a ratings tear about racism still alive and well in 2007. That's not what this is all about. This is about the failure of citizenship, and a failure of adults to protect children and consequently the failure of children to respect their elders. This is about the breakdown of society in a town called Paris, TX and how much that town is just like yours because it is full of people just like you who talking into their cellphones and taking video pictures of tragedy instead of using your hands, your hearts and your minds.