Is the American legal system prejudiced against minorities?
The deaths of Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown and the racially-charged protests following their deaths have rocked the consciousness of this country. The waves of demonstrations that followed the death of Michael Brown and the acquittal of the officer involved in his death have shown that there is a part of our society that feels neglected and mistreated.
While it is important to note that these protests have seen their fair share of opposition, as part of an observance of Black History Month the college of NJIT has seen fit to allow speaker Marsha Coleman-Adebayo some time in an official colloquium to voice the side of the argument that sees Michael Brown as a wrongly killed victim.
Coleman-Adebayo is a staunch advocate for many programs that seek to prevent repeats of incidents like the shooting of Michael Brown, and is a coordinator of the Hands-Up Coalition, a group that demands stronger oversight for police in response to the deaths of minorities.
“If you are young, black and poor in America today, are police at war with you?” This is one of the many provocative questions on the site of the coalition.
Additionally, the coalition seeks to engage disadvantaged black youths, and has started a program in Ferguson, Missouri to educate members of the community in the use of technology in a free, 6-week course.
Beyond her work in the Hands-Up Coalition, Coleman-Adebayo is the author of No FEAR (Notification of Federal Employees Anti-discrimination and Retaliation Act of 2002), which is designed to aid whistle blowers employed at the federal level, specifically the Environmental Protection Agency.
In this colloquium, Coleman-Adebayo stressed the need for the Department of Justice to hold Officer Darren Wilson accountable for the death of Mr. Brown by bringing Wilson up on federal charges. Officer Wilson was acquitted of the charge of murdering Michael Brown, but many activists in the Ferguson protests believe he should be brought up on federal charges, as they were not satisfied with the indictment (or lack thereof). Since Officer Wilson was only cleared at the state level, being brought up on federal charges would not violate the laws against double jeopardy, the idea that a man can be charged for the same crime twice. Coleman-Adebayo no doubt believes that stronger oversight is needed in this country.
According to her, police kill black citizens indiscriminately and are not charged because the judicial system is prejudiced against minorities. She noted that while our society has come far in the struggle against oppression, America still has a long way to go if it wants to level the playing field for minorities.