by Ted L Glines
Are you racially biased? Would you believe the testimony of a black man if it conflicted with a white man's statement? Do you believe that blacks are more prone to violence than whites? Where will you find more drugs and rape and other abusive behaviors; in black neighborhoods or white? These, among others, are questions posed to prospective jurors in cases involving black defendants. Questions such as these are meant to weed out racially biased candidates for jury duty. However, experts agree that these questions have no meaning because the prospective juror is not going to publically confess to being racially biased. These same experts hint that jurors are chosen not so much in spite of their biases, but because of them.
This is a can of worms which wriggles through all of case law. It is a fact that black males, along with other minorities, comprise the large majority of incarcerated felons, with whites being only a small minority in our nation's prison populations. Can we objectively judge the merits of this statistic? Can we use this statistic to say that blacks are more prone to criminal activity than their white counterparts?
In many a city police department, in their ready-room (whatever they may call it), you may find a city street-map on the wall with certain residential areas high-lighted (in red?). These areas are the high-alert hot-spots for criminal activities; drug dealing, prostitution, muggings, violent activities. Bad things happen there on a regular basis. I have seen such high-lighted areas in the Texarkana, Texas, police department. East 15th Street. West 15th Street, “The Projects” area of Robison Road. The Nash complexes. West 7th Street. I have been in these areas of the city, and I know what they are. These are areas of deep and abject poverty in Texarkana. The residents of these areas are primarily black.
Pleasant Grove is ... Pleasant Grove. At first glance, it is a suburb on the north side of Texarkana. Nice homes. Some of them are palacial. Wide peaceful landscaped yards. The Pleasant Grove High School has the best jogging track I have ever seen. Almost everything in Pleasant Grove is the best. There are no blacks in Pleasant Grove. The folks who live here are the OWNERS of Texarkana. These folks wear velvet gloves, and they control their interests with iron fists. The police never have a problem in Pleasant Grove. Trisha is a dear adopted daughter/friend of mine whose family owns a hospital and several apartment complexes in the area, and they own a Pleasant Grove mansion. It would match anything in Pebble Beach. From this elegant platform, Trisha and her husband operated a lucrative business -- manufacturing methamphetamines and selling to the dealers on East 15th Street. Life was good.
Sheriff King is a good white man. He manages the business of the Sheriff's Department and he fixes things for his Pleasant Grove constituents. Trisha has known him for years.
I am reminded of South Lake Tahoe. If you saw a black person on those snow-covered streets, the sight came as a shock. Ideally positioned between Reno-Cannon Airport and the San Francisco Bay Area, South Lake Tahoe was known as the cocaine capitol of California. Years after I left there, I was not surprised to learn that the entire South Lake Tahoe City Council had been arrested for drug trafficking.
And then there was Tammy -- a 45-ish white grandmother -- alternately from Michigan and from prison -- who took me many times to East 15th and to West 7th where smiling black men gave her the heaven she could smoke ... because the life inside of Tammy was hell. One of the best dealers was a black man named Lee. Always friendly and accommodating.
A later sojourn saw Tammy making the long drive from Arizona to Orlando, Florida, a mule carrying payloads of cocaine. Not nearly as risky as it sounds. Good pay. She smoked it up.
Years later, after nearly losing a kidney due to cocaine-related side effects, Tammy has stopped using drugs. She is now back in Michigan with her daughter and grandchild. She calls me from time to time, always ending her talk with “I love you.” She still keeps in touch with Lee. He is no longer in the business. He never made any money at it anyway, since he gave too much of it away to friends like Tammy. Tammy always wondered about that. By giving Tammy the drugs, Lee was keeping her from buying poison from some other dealer.
Another outlying Texarkana community is Simms. It has a post office, a tiny store, and a gorgeous school, one of the prettiest and best kept schools in the area. No black kids go there, and no black people live in Simms. The KKK lives in Simms and the police never bother them. There have been rapes and beatings in Simms, and people have disappeared. Every living room and back yard reeks of marijuana and crack cocaine (purchased on East and West 15th Streets). But Simms is a quiet town. Really nice school. It has won awards.
There are more than 700 churches in this county, about evenly divided between black and white. Sundays are a gift to Jesus and most KKK members are devout. As for the rest of the week, life goes on.
And at the police station morning briefing, they once again review the red-marked areas on their map. It keeps them focussed.
Would you believe the testimony of a white man if it conflicted with a black man's statement? Do you believe that whites are more prone to violence than blacks? Where will you find more drugs and rape and other abusive behaviors; in white neighborhoods or black?