Legal Double Standards Keep Us in Shackles

Pulling back the curtain on unjust laws

By Oscar H. Blayton | 2/13/2019, 10:06 a.m.
In its most basic form, law, is a process of authoritative control whereby certain members of a particular community establish ...

It's time we stop lying to ourselves. The lying has gone on much too long and every time the lie is repeated, we are all the worse for it.

The lie is that in America, everyone is equal under the law. It’s time to pull back the curtain on this lie, but in order to do so, first we must have an understanding of what "law" actually is. In its most basic form, law, is a process of authoritative control whereby certain members of a particular community establish and maintain a specific public order.

This definition may seem like a mouthful, but history can help us unpack it. Nazi Germany had anti-Jewish laws, the racist regime of South Africa had apartheid laws and the southern states in this country had Jim Crow laws. The Nazis, the Afrikaners and the Southern segregationists all had authoritative control over their respective national and state communities. And with that control, they each ordered their societies in the manner they desired.

In each of these instances, it is not difficult to identify those community members who sought to maintain a specific public order, nor is it difficult to identify the "specific order" they sought to maintain.

For blacks in South Africa and the segregated southern United States, subjugation was the public order where they lived. And in the case of Jews living under Nazi control, it was extermination. For these people, those were the laws.

A law need not be just or fair or benign to be the law. Law, like a gun or any other tool, can be used for good or for evil.

To disguise the fact that laws can be cruel, unjust and designed to harm certain members of our community, "Blind Justice" was the myth created to foster the notion of a fair legal system in America. But observations in most American courtrooms will instruct us that what passes for justice in this country is not color-blind.

Our laws are written with high-sounding words, full of dignity and sensibility but words are not deeds. And as in courtrooms, the long arm of the law, embodied in the form of law enforcement officers, reaches out into the streets and neighborhoods where we witness the double standards that are applied in enforcing our laws written in lofty language.

Even though the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution ended slavery more than 150 years ago, people of color are still forced to wear the shackles that are the double standards in our country's legal system. Bigots and racists use our system of laws and law enforcement to police black and brown bodies, making it clear to people of color that we are neither welcome nor expected to exist in white spaces.

Ohio maintains a specific public order that allows whites to walk the streets with automatic rifles unmolested by the police, but justifies gunning down a black man who is purchasing a BB rifle in an open carry state. And it finds no fault in a police officer executing a 12-year-old black boy for playing with a toy gun in a park. This is the law in Ohio.