Behind America’s Fetish w/ Seeing Black Men in Cages

black men
At Louisiana's Angola Prison, Lawsuit Claims, the Sick Face Neglect, Isolation, and Death

Maybe it’s the warm cuddly feeling of safety and security that America gets at night after watching the evening news and seeing black men plastered on the screen in handcuffs. Quite possibly, that imagery elicits feelings of false security and reinforces negative stereotypes and judgements already pre-programmed into their subconscious minds. The images of nappy hair, dirty braids, dreads and more become stigmatized the more visual association is utilized in relation to the Black man and crime.

Or maybe it’s the generations of hate passed down from parent to child and the notion that one life is worth more than another. That the color of one’s skin is, by birthright, allocated more of the Earth’s resources and privileges given the proper complexion.

Or maybe it’s the death music and entertainment that surrounds the Black men that paints the American Negro so negatively. A music genre dominated by praises to violence, drug abuse, misogyny and more that Black youth lap up like thirsty dogs.

Maybe it’s all of these or maybe it’s none of these reasons but America has an unhealthy Empire or Scandal-like obsession with watching the Black men locked away. The long arm of the law is swift when exacting “just-us” when it comes to the melanated. Cases become slam dunks on coerced confessions and circumstantial evidence. The benefit of the doubt given to police supersedes the law and the burden of proof rests at the shackled ankles of the impoverished, uneducated, and underserved Black males waiting for a great White savior to redeem them.

When it comes time for arresting and convicting, there is much pomp and fanfare. Maybe it’s political pressure or maybe it’s an undisclosed bias but when it comes time to exonerate a wrongly accused person the weight of the evidence has to trump that which sent them away in the first place. Understandably. However if the evidence used to take a person’s freedom is flimsy and prejudiced at best, the holes in that case should not meet the standard of “beyond a shadow of a doubt”. It is unconstitutional and unfathomable to allow such an egregious miscarriage of justice to be prolonged any more than it has to, if at all.

But America has a dirty little secret. A secret which she is making attempts to not remedy or correct but erase. Unfortunately Americas has just endured another mass shooting… this one in Las Vegas during a country music outdoor concert. It’s a tragedy to everyone involved and to America herself. BUT this tragedy and the ones that preceded it (Sandy Hook, Pulse Night Club, Aurora, Co, etc) keep being referred to as the most violent or deadliest shooting in American history. Convenient how America continues to downplay it’s blood-drenched affairs when it comes to its treatment of Black men. Just to name a few incidents that trump what has happened: the East St. Louis Massacre of 1917 with close to 700 deaths, the Arkansas Massacre of 1919 with 854 dead, the Tulsa Massacre of 1921 with up to 3000 dead, and the Rosewood Massacre of 1953 with 154 dead.

The list goes on but that would take away the point of this article. Or maybe it would add context to how there’s an innate need to decimate that which is different from the ruling establishment. In either case, I won’t go there and stick with the recent exonerations of Black men railroaded by the corrupt justice system and the bad apples who put them there in the first place.

The National Registry of Exonerations reports that to date, there have been a total of 2101 exonerations. Out of 2101 exonerations, 980 of them were Black men wrongly convicted and imprisoned because of police bias. Just under half! In respect to fairness, 820 were White, 253 were Hispanic, and 48 fall under “other”. That stat alone is indicative of a disproportionate focus of law enforcement on people of color, in particular, Black.

Behind America's Fetish w/ Seeing Black Men in Cages
Lawrence McKinsey

Lawrence McKinney

Take the story of Lawrence McKinney, 60, of Memphis, Tenn. McKinney was accused and convicted of rape and burglary in 1978. He was sentenced to 115 years in prison. Not even going into the tomfoolery of such a lengthy sentence, McKinney was released in 2009 after DNA evidence ruled him out as the culprit in the case. McKinney was released and after 31 years behind bars the state issued him $75 to go about the rest of his life. No apology. No “my bad”. No system in place to transition him back into the general population. Just $75 and a “thanks for your stay at Tennessee State Correctional”.

McKinney is eligible for up t o $1 million in compensation for his wrongful arrest and imprisonment pending a hearing by the Tennessee Parole Board but they refuse to hear his exoneration case having already denied him twice. Why? The state was quick to lock him up and spend tax payer dollars doing so. He was stripped from society, from his family for 31 years. He was wronged by the system and the system refuses to right that wrong.

Jack Lowrey, McKinney’s lawyer said, “It is not justice for him not to receive compensation for being wrongfully imprisoned” and added that McKinney suffered enough and should be compensated for his time lost due to no fault of his own.

In September, the parole board voted 7-0 to deny his exoneration case. Now, it’s up to Gov. Bill Haslam (R-Tenn.), who receives exoneration applications, to have the final say.

Patsy Bruce, a contributor for USA Today, has served on the parole boards that denied McKinney’s exoneration hearing stating that regardless of whatever evidence that is produced, she is convinced that McKinney is guilty.

Bruce wrote, “I heard McKinney for parole and for his exoneration. Remember, as you read these facts, that the two parole boards who refused to grant a recommendation to the governor for exoneration are mandated to have “clear and convincing evidence” of innocence before they can vote to exonerate.”

The DNA evidence was not good enough for her but admissible in court.

Behind America's Fetish w/ Seeing Black Men in Cages
Shaurn Thomas

Shaurn Thomas

In 1993 Shaurn Thomas, 43, was convicted of murder in the 1990 slaying of Domingo Martinez, a Puerto Rican businessman. Martinez was shot while bringing $25,000 from the bank to a check cashing store he owned.

From the beginning Thomas held on to his alibi but his attorneys were unable to sway the jury. 19 at the time, Thomas couldn’t have been the one who committed the murder because he was already at a hearing at Center City’s Youth Study Center on an unrelated juvenile offense. A rock-solid alibi. Or so lawyers thought.

Thomas won his freedom May of this year with the help of the Philadelphia Innocence Project who picked up his case a decade ago. The defense team along with the Conviction Review Unit miraculously managed to locate the homicide case file that police intentionally lost more than 2 decades ago. The case file indicated there were alternate suspects police could have tracked down but instead zeroed in on the boys from North Philadelphia’s Abbotsford Homes housing project.

After 900 pro bono hours by his attorney, Dechert LLP’s James Figorski, and the work of the Innocence Project’s Marissa Bluestine, the relaunched Conviction Review Unit in the Philadelphia district attorney’s office ruled the conviction did not hold up.

Behind America's Fetish w/ Seeing Black Men in Cages
Desmond Ricks

Desmond Ricks

51-year-old Desmond Ricks was released in May after tests proved his claim: that Detroit’s finest intentionally pinned a murder charge on him in 1992. He claimed that police intentionally switched the bullets that were tested in order to win their conviction.

An analysis was done on the two bullets that came from the victim and still in police storage. It was revealed that the bullets did not match the murder weapon that was presented in court. It was then prosecutors decided to drop the case against Ricks but said because of the statute of limitations, they would not be able to go after the officers involved in his wrongful conviction.

“Since the officers cannot be put in prison, this is the only way to begin to right a horrific misconduct and the harm to our criminal justice system,” Ricks’ attorney, Wolfgang Mueller, said. “It’s evil,” he added. “I can’t picture how a police officer who is sworn to uphold the law and be objective could go to sleep at night.”

You would sleep just fine if you had an inherent bias against Black men. Ricks is now suing the city of Detroit for $100 million over the ordeal.

The list goes on. From Florida’s Ralph Daniel Wright Jr. who was convicted in 2014 in the murder of a White woman he had an affair with to Rodricus Crawford, who in 2012 was convicted in a Louisiana Court of killing his one-year-old son. Wright Jr. was acquitted in 2017 on the basis that the purely circumstantial evidence against him was insufficient to convict. The judge ruled “no rational trier of fact could have found … beyond a reasonable doubt that Wright was the killer.” Crawford gained in his freedom this year as well after finding that prosecutor Dale Cox had unconstitutionally struck black jurors on the basis of race. In addition, autopsy results that showed pervasive bronchopneumonia in the baby’s lungs and sepsis in his blood refuting the claim that the baby was suffocated.

There’s Isaiah McCoy in Delaware, there’s Alfred Brown from Texas. There’s Willie Manning from Mississippi, there’s Anthony Hinton from Alabama. The list goes on and on. You can view the list at this link.

America has experienced record levels of exonerations in recent years. There were 166 exonerations in 25 states in 2016, according to the National Registry of Exonerations compiled by the University of Michigan. That included 54 homicide exonerations, 24 exonerated on sex crimes, 15 exonerated for violent crimes, and 73 exonerated for non-violent crimes.

There were roughly 70 cases of official misconduct related to those exonerations, and 74 of those defendants were convicted after filing guilty pleas. A record 94 of the exonerations in 2016 were for cases where no crime actually even occurred.

Don’t believe the hype. The Black man is not the real boogeyman. To the Black man, America is the boogeyman.