If you see a person in a gown eating with a person in rags, the food belongs to the latter. ~ Zambian Proverb.
WASHINGTON D.C., USA — Basically when you ask a horde of foxes what’s on the menu for dinner, the two rabbits in the room don’t really have a say. In the same way, America’s racial problems, which certainly loom larger than any nation in the world, are at an unfortunate standstill (for African Americans), because every solution put forth by government–whether local, state, or federal–involves the needless opinion or approval of white Americans, often in top positions, who are not only biased inwardly in favor of their own interests but are quick to enforce their will against the fair treatment of Black Americans under the same laws.
Recently, for example, the white governor of Maryland, a state on the U.S. Eastern Coast, halted plans to build a light rail train line to alleviate public transportation woes in a predominantly Black community in the city of Baltimore. The plan to construct the rail line had been in the works for years—even the U.S. government pledged a 900 million dollars subvention to develop the project. Instead, at the behest of white Americans, the governor turned down the federal aid and intends to devote state monies, including monies taken from Black taxpayers, to embark on a project to build highways in a white community—a project that has no benefit for the already disadvantaged Black community.
The white majority in the United States has shown time and again that it only supports efforts that benefit white Americans. So much that the U.S. Federal government, at the heels of African American civil rights protestors in the 1950s and 60s, implemented laws that were supposed to free whites from the lust of insidiously biased judgments that perpetually inflict disadvantage on Black communities. These were the grounds upon which the country’s affirmative action policies were laid—to save society from white Americans’ racial proclivities and provide some recompense for Black communities.
When an African American and white American apply for the same job or to the same college, the tribalistic instinct for white Americans, a tendency they would rather not acknowledge nor admit, is to give the upper hand to the white American applicant, even when their qualifications are below par.
This unfair practice of ethnocentrism and tribalism is what social justice advocates were hoping to counter when they instituted the race-based affirmative action policies, laws stating that when two applicants are equally qualified, or when the African American candidate is more qualified, the latter should be seriously considered for the position; a position they would otherwise lose out to a white candidate no matter the qualifications.
Even then, the majority of affirmative action decisions, particularly the gender-based provisions, have come to disproportionately benefit solely white women, at the expense of the collective African American community, although the supreme intent was to also bridge the racial gap. There is no doubt the persistent bias continues in all American institutions. To overcome this bias, white Americans cannot be expected to use objectively their discretion in assessing the needs of any given institution.
The whole point of using Discretion must be eliminated.
When white Americans are asked to use discretion to decide matters, their reaction—whether knowingly, intentionally, recklessly, negligently—is to only feel sympathy for each other. Their supercilious animus for African Americans remains all the more vicious. Even when laws are themselves written in a non-racial manner, the way they are applied often allows for vast discretion where white Americans truckle to every racist whim.
The most familiar narrative to observers of this dogged oppression of the African American community surrounds bias in the U.S. criminal (in)-justice system. Though whites by far commit more crimes than Blacks, the fervent gusto against crime by U.S. law enforcement begins and ends with African Americans. White Americans only get tough on crime and drugs, to jail and police, to “stop and frisk” Black men and women in inner city communities and perhaps to consistently supply Black bodies to the Prison Industrial Complex that jails more than 25 percent of the world’s prisoners.
When African American communities are afflicted with drug use, white Americans criminalize drugs and militarize their police forces to round up and throw African Americans into jails and prisons en masse. Yet when white American communities are afflicted with drug use, white Americans humanize drugs and discuss rehabilitation and mental health. They resist throwing their fellow white Americans into jails and prisons for the same transgressions that they proudly lock up African Americans for.
No matter that drug use in white American communities is the same, if not higher, than in African American communities. But in white American communities, a militarized police force is everywhere absent. Law enforcement does not lock up white men and women, boys and girls, and toss away the key. They do not mark white men and women, boys and girls, with criminal records stretching over decades and they do not mar the entire lives of children over common drug use.
The discretion in sentencing that is inherent in the application of the law allows white Americans in law enforcement to maltreat African Americans while offering special treatment to fellow whites. This sort of discretion harms African Americans and takes away the already exiguous life opportunities available to them in a racist country. While on the other hand, white juries consistently return not guilty verdicts for white murderers of Black children. This also speaks to the paucity of educational and housing opportunities available to the Black community and sheds light on why Black men without a prison record are less likely to be hired than white men with prison records.
The atmosphere in America continues to tow the same line. White Americans are poking holes at the mass incarceration system, but it is not because they are realizing that harsh mandatory minimums and three-strike laws, especially for first-time or nonviolent offenders, are cruel, unusual, and unruly. White Americans are only jumping on the bandwagon of mass incarceration reform because the tentacles of those policies have started creeping into white communities too. A growing number of white boys and girls, men and women are being strapped with some mandatory minimums. Especially without discretion, judges cannot tiptoe around these sentencing guidelines to fit their wanton empathy for white Americans at the expense of African Americans. Mandatory minimums and jail time have made it possible for white Americans to taste a dose of their own medicine.
This is why recent criminal injustice “reform” in the U.S. which insists on more and more discretion for judges and law enforcement is the old way back to the pain African Americans have always experienced in America without the concerted sympathy needed to understanding the issues. To rid the system of mandatory minimums, per se, only re-introduces African Americans’ to the arch nemesis of discretion – this where white judges choose to penalize Blacks and set whites free. Racial equality advocates have no reason to celebrate such sly alterations to the criminal injustice industrial complex.
Widening discretion will not reform the system; it will only make it more unequal. Sure, both Black and whites will not always undergo mandatory minimums, but whites will certainly get more lenient sentences than Blacks, at the biased and racist discretion of white judges.
The stories of racist police tactics and of racist public policies in Baltimore, Maryland are reflective of the dealings that abound throughout the nation, riddled by the evils of white racism. White Americans aim to first control the operations of all spheres of Black communities, and when they are outnumbered, they manipulate government laws, policies, and judicial proceedings to deprive Black people of their constitutional rights and freedoms.
Since time immemorial, from the Pilgrims to Plymouth Rock, discretion has for far too long benefited white Americans. When whites Americans have discretion over the establishment and implementation of laws and policies, the laws and their execution benefit white Americans at the impecunious expense of Blacks?
Through discretion, white Americans have refused to extend basic freedoms to African Americans while entrenching whiteness in superimposing fashion. When a policy or law will provide a small patch towards correcting centuries-long histories of white wrong-doing against Blacks, white Americans ask: why should we support that policy? What’s in it for us?
This strategic manipulation, at every turn, is what prevents racism from fading into oblivion. At any moment where there is a hint of discretion, white Americans choose themselves to take the cake and while at it, run away with the crumbs.
Continuing to give whites discretion over the direction of the country will only result in more of the same, with institutional and structural racism that leaves Black brains out of the classrooms, separates Black men and women from having families, and spills Black blood on the sidewalks from the bullets of white artillery.
Fairness is impossible when the people who are supposed to institute fairness are themselves unfair. When bias is innate within the decision-makers, which we have centuries of evidence to prove – the epigenetics of white racism – white Americans are incapable of making fair decisions in the interest of all irrespective of color.
If whites in America are ever to take personal responsibility for their centuries-long torment and brutality against African American communities, then they have to accept that they are neither fair nor impartial in their judgment of issues. Indeed allowing white Americans to adjudicate any matter is the biggest barrier to achieving racial equality in America. With white discretion, the game is rigged, the dice is weighted, the outcome is racist, and the odds are forever against African Americans.
The last thing African Americans need is more discretion. When practiced for centuries, discretion is the sole reason why America’s race problem persists. If the U.S. eliminates discretion, it will show the rest of the world that it is serious about changing its position as the laughingstock of the racial inequality in the world.
The solution then, is not to have discussions about what is in the best interest of the whole nation. Those discussions are pointless and biased; white Americans have always voted and advocated for solutions that, no matter how benevolent, only serve to benefit white Americans the most, and quite often have an intended effect of destabilizing and destroying Black communities.
If the nation is serious about treating its rabid disease of white racism, there needs to be absolutely no discretion allowed in the institutions of America. To combat rampant racism, the society needs hard and fast rules that apply to all in society, no matter the wealth, rich or poor; color, Black or white; gender, man or woman; or any other point of difference.
What would eliminating discretion look like?
If heroin is a dangerous drug and Black people are being arrested for its possession and use, then white people should also be arrested for its possession and use. If Black men and women are denied jobs, livelihoods, and freedoms on the basis of race, then white men and women should also be denied jobs, livelihoods, and freedoms on the basis of their race.
The absence of discretion offers an equal playing field and enforces meritocracy. Everyone takes a universal examination like the common core and those who score best, are guaranteed admission into the nation’s top schools. It goes without saying that the questions on the examination will be taught in schools and not bought from private corporations under the guise of “test prep” materials.
Furthermore, if there is a law that says government emails should not be downloaded onto private servers, people who violate that law would be reprimanded and not treated like they were above the law because they belong to some elite fraternity. Public transportation and sound roads would be a right to all and not a privilege for a few. And by all means, police would not just stop and frisk or ticket and arrest whoever they feel like harassing (which is currently majority African Americans). Jails would not serve Black people alone, schools and institutions of gainful employment will not serve whites alone.
Because white Americans have proven for centuries that they cannot make unbiased decisions – that their decisions always benefit themselves over African Americans – a non-racist America would require Black cops for Black communities. Law enforcement, as well as the justice system and every other structure in which racism is deeply embedded, should be overhauled. In this process, it is imperative to recognize that getting rid of discretion—which is by all accounts decision-making by racists—as the first step in alleviating the pathology of white racism is vital.
“We cannot change hearts,” says Hillary Clinton. We cannot wait for white Americans to wake up and we cannot wait until their cold hearts warm up to the humanity of African Americans. We cannot wait for white America’s bullets, redlining, mass incarceration, media propaganda, lying and brutality hurting African Americans to stop.
What we need is a disarmament. What we need is to get rid of all allowances in the law and in decision-making for discretion. We need to disarm the offenders, to stop white men and women from holding the weapon of discretion. Since every time they’ve had it, they’ve used it for their wanton indiscriminate discrimination against African Americans.
Discretion breeds more control in an already racially controlled nation. In a nation plagued by persistent racism, giving whites who are in top political positions more discretion to act on their racist inclinations worsens the state of Black life. Afiya X’s theory is an important revelation in race relations in America. She believes that discretionary laws and discretionary application of laws in the US especially in Public Institutions sit at the root of persistent institutional racism in the US.
Examples include, policing, college admissions and the allocation of funds for social amenities. Afiya would rather see institutions abide by stipulated criteria for executing their duties rather than rely on discretion. With discretion, whites in America seem incapable of extending to Blacks the same humanity they extend to fellow whites. By eradicating discretion, American institution may become fairer and more egalitarian – meritocracy will become the norm. There will be no need for affirmative action if the Common Core is the standard examination based upon which college admissions are made. This is an important rethinking of the solutions needed to eradicate institutional racism in America. This is groundbreaking theory.
I suspect that Afiya X has chanced upon an important theory. The conclusions are obvious. If the US is the most racist nation on Earth, then it makes no sense that the government should allow for discretion in the day to day dealings of Public Institutions. It makes absolutely no sense. Discretion in the US law enforcement must be eradicated. Discretion in the US law court system must be eradicated. Discretion in the US educational system must be removes. All should be based on detailed instructions for law enforcement and admissions. This make more sense to me now. Perhaps the US Federal government will start paying some much needed attention.
So we get then to a point with stipulated criteria where the letter of the law is followed above the spirit of it, a familiar pattern where bureaucracy enforcing an ideal corrupts it. Far from being reason to not proceed down the path of using stipulated criteria, we can see it’s use towards informing an evolution of the use of discretionary power, because justice depends to a significant degree on the context of each situation, so we need discretion. It is a matter of broadening the understanding of those in power, not excluding voices, because virtue must rule the day and virtue is only such because it is freely chosen. We must live together, family is all about the character we want to promote, and that character must be chosen, and that happens in an environment of love.
I am sorry Matt Scofield, it just so happens that in the Wet Dream of America which you seem to have or hope for, “justice” actually depends to a significant degree on the context – whites get treated well and Blacks get maltreated! So, the US (in)-Justice System does not need discretion. It needs strict criteria. Because love is all great when it’s only whites – some with Prison records – who own 300,000 dollar homes without a college degree while Blacks with college degrees languish in poverty. That is not love.
I think Tamir Rice’s mother would appreciate a little bit of love. I think Trayvon Martins mother would appreciate a little bit of love. I think love goes both ways but in US society it has since worked for whites and worked against Blacks. You must be careful when you want to factor love into institution building and the running of institutions that continue to show that they are inherently racist. The exact opposite of love is hate. I do not doubt that American whites love one another – for example, the white youth or Heroin hot-heads of New Hampshire have gotten that love. They are going to receive treatment while little Black children continue to rot in jail for lesser crimes.
I am learning other experiences here yet felt compelled to make a point, normally I don’t find it too much my place to comment in this particular forum, thank you for your reply which I read in full. The urgency for justice is something I hope not to discount with my thinking, thus other experiences informing me.
Virtue is not hereditary; Wisdom is knowing what to do next; Virtue is doing it; Virtue rises above all laws; yet everytime we look into the US Justice System or College Admissions we see racism. It must not be Virtue that guides the white gates of US Public Insitutions. It must no be even be Wisdom. It’s certainly something lower; thus the need to clearly mandate that public servants obey strict criteria in the decision making processes involving public funds. This is simply to get rid of Discretion and remove all bias. It’s an elegant solution, Matt Scofield and Narmer Amenuti.