What my First Time on Jury Duty Taught me about the Law and Race in America

Don’t worry I am not disclosing anything about the case, which I barely remember. Jury duty has become the scorn of many for its inconvenience in our lives but it is a requirement that all US citizens have the privilege to participate in. The concept of being judged by ones peers is very noble but anyone who has been paying attention to recent developments following the Michael Brown, Eric Garner or even Trayvon Martin deaths knows that the juries don’t always get it right. These juries aren’t comprised of people who are truly peers but for the most part are a collection of people from the county who may or may not sympathize with the victim in cases of unarmed black men being shot. A recent story in the Washington Post shows that a majority of white Americans still carry racial biases against blackness. So of course I was eager to see how this complicated but important role within the American legal system worked, so eager to the point where I did not let the clerk at the front desk excuse me because I was a student (let’s not even mention how this was my last week of classes and I had papers to START!). Even if I got a criminal case where an unarmed black man was killed by a police officer, any good defense attorney looking out for their client would have immediately asked for me to be excused based on what I study alone. This is part of the problem I feel because in the quest for an unbiased jury you sometimes get a biased jury. Now I may have my own preconceived notions about the juries in Ferguson, Staten Island, and Sanford because of the conservative leanings of the constituents, but when I was in the room before being excused from service, the judge said something profound. He basically said that we have to use the law to base our decision on. Now I always knew this in theory but then I really understood the concept of the laws not being written to protect everyone. I did a presentation for my Contemporary Racisms in the Americas course that covered legislating racism and how laws are used to maintain the racial order in a racist state. In the aftermath of these no indictments and not guilty verdicts, many have heralded that the justice[sic] system had prove once again that it works and they are right. These laws were not designed to protect black bodies but to manage and disenfranchise them. If the laws are written by people with racial biases and are designed to maintain racial order how morally right are they? Though the surface of America may have changed cosmetically with some progress and the election of the first black president, the underbelly is still morally rotten. That is why we need a transformation of the legal system in America or else we will continue to face these problems over and over again. Just because something is legally right does not make it morally right, just look at slavery and all the laws passed to defend it.

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