A little over four years ago, my brother Eric and I rode in his green Sedan Deville from Dayton to Cincinnati, Ohio. One of Erics tires suddenly lost air. He wisely pulled to the soft shoulder of the road to examine the damage. In less than ten minutes not one, but four police cars drove up: two state vehicles and two local sheriff cars. Men from each car jumped out and pulled their weapons. I lifted my hands in the air while yelling at my brother to turn around slowly. What provoked this dangerous confrontation was an allegedly 911 call describing an altercation between two black men. A gun was also supposedly involved.
After explaining our dilemma, and directing the law enforcement officers to look at the blown tire, all four cars left without a real apology. What a scare! This was the ultimate, racial profiling scenario. A computer department manager of one the nations most respected companies and a Christian minister had been accosted by Southern Ohios finest. We were guilty of nothing more than driving while being black a non-felony crime in most jurisdictions!
Blacks know that American justice is not blind as she is often depicted. She sees race. She sees class. She sees gender. The statue of Lady Justice outside of the Federal Supreme Court shows the venerable symbol of our legal system sitting down. Perhaps this depiction best describes our legal woes today. Justice isnt blind she is just sitting down for a while.
Racial profiling, excessive sentencing, violent prison terms and inadequate prison aftercare are all part of the African-American experience with justice. The criminal justice system is broken and needs to be reformed. Yet, there is a subtle, perhaps more dangerous threat to African-American freedom peering through the doorways of the hallowed halls of justice. This threat is at the root of the legal problems in the U.S. The threat is activist judges who shape and create law instead of simply enforcing the law.
The average American doesnt understand the real danger behind the legal wrangling on Capitol Hill about the selection of judges. To most of us, it seems that partisan politics-as-usual is happening inside the Capital Beltway. Were half right about politics-as-usual going on, but its a little deeper than that. What happens with judicial appointees over the next two or three years will affect the interpretation and enforcement of laws for the next twenty years.
The question of same-sex marriage, the application of civil rights laws and many other issues of concern to African-Americans will be determined by a small elite class of unaccountable people called judges. These people are defining our values and shaping our culture. Cultural elites are exalting themselves above the law of the land. Years ago, men with white robes and hoods threatened African Americans and other specified groups. Today, black robed vigilantes operating in the guise of American tradition have taken away the true rights of an entire culture.
Many people ask, What about the balance of powers? My answer is very simple: The judiciary is the weakest of the three branches of government. Its job is very similar to that of an umpire. An umpire does not create rules for a game. An umpire simply makes calls based on the latest rules at the time of the game. The umpire cannot give unfair advantage to one side versus another; he must remain objective. Similarly, judges must call the game, not create the game. The battle for judicial nominees is a struggle to restore objectivity and fairness to the bench.
It seems to me that advocates for issues like same-sex marriage cannot find the popular support to change long-standing institutions like marriage. Therefore, they are using the back door or a legal slight of hand to get their way. For example, a recent Boston Globe survey suggests that over 50% of Americans still believe that same sex marriages should not be legalized. Recently, renegade judges in conservative Nebraska ruled that a same-sex couple must have all the rights pursuant to traditional marriage despite a constitutional amendment put in place in the year 2000 by over 70% of the people. These kinds of rulings are a misuse of the power of the court.
Join me in taking a step towards judicial reform and an even-handed application of the law. All Americans, black and white, need to contact their senators and let them know that the next round of judicial nominees should get an up or down vote instead of the run around called a filibuster. Filibusters are preventing the appointment of judges that will uphold the law of the land.
Lets stand up and let our voices be heard!