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The politics of Black murder by Whites


The recent lenient judge’s ruling in the Kim Potter case that involved her killing Daunte Wright, a young Black man, under the color of law did not surprise a large percentage of southern-born or bred Black folk in this country. Of course, we all want to truthfully say that things have indeed gotten better for Black folks in courtrooms, but……nah. Not really.

The guilty verdicts against the White men who killed George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery,  were, admittedly,  pleasant surprises. But Trayvon Martin is not forgotten, and neither are Michael Brown and countless other examples of Black male injustice. The jury is still out this week on the three officers accused of aiding and abetting Derek Chauvin in the videotaped murder of George Floyd, but the safe bet is that, if found guilty, those sentences, too, will be on the less harsh side. Most people, in fact, do not even believe they’ll be convicted, though this is a federal rather than state trial and even the Rodney King perps (four of the police at least) got convicted on civil rights violation charges back in the day.

Taking a Black life is just not the same as taking a White one yet in this country.  But understanding this difference gives one a heads-up in coming to grips with exactly what Critical Race Theory (CRT) actually means.

CRT explains that the American justice system has within it the means to provide African-Americans, and all citizens, real color-blind justice, and conversely, it also contains the means and elements to continually deliver color-coded injustice and racial punishment to Black folk and others.

But here is a historical tidbit that should bring a smile or two. In Mobile, Alabama on March 21, 1981, a 19-year-old Black man, Michael Donald, was kidnapped, beaten, and lynched by members of the United Klans of America (an Alabama faction of the KKK). The Klan, at this time, was one of the largest, most voraciously militant groups in the country. From information that came out in the trial of the two White men who were eventually caught and charged with the murder, Mr. Donald had not been a target because he had insulted a White woman or committed some other social outrage, nor had he been accused of breaking the law and in need of a tune-up.

James Knowles and Henry Hayes, the two White men who were eventually caught, tried and found guilty of his murder and mutilation had just done it, because they felt they could. There was also a local issue that had put a few Black citizens on a jury that deadlocked on a decision concerning a Black man accused of killing a White man. The Klan felt that order and White dominated civility had to be restored and Knowles and Hayes got the assignment.

Not being satisfied with just their conviction, however, Mr. Donald’s mother, Beulah Mae Donald, in spite of loud and persistent threats against her person, sued the KKK and won a million-dollar judgment against the organization. The Klan could not pay the judgment, and had to relinquish their Klan headquarters to Mrs. Donald in partial recompense. She sold that property and bought herself a comfortable house. Because she also demanded the rest of the judgment in cash, the Klan had to eventually declare bankruptcy in Alabama, and shortly thereafter, in the rest of the country. (In the modern day, the Klan has seen a modest resurgence.)

No, it did not make us even or whole, but sometimes, bad things do come for bad people. And we can’t be mad at that.

Professor David L. Horne is founder and executive director of PAPPEI, the Pan African Public Policy and Ethical Institute, which is a new 501(c)(3) pending community-based organization or non-governmental organization (NGO). It is the stepparent organization for the California Black Think Tank which still operates and which meets every fourth Friday.

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