Thursday, March 16, 2006

Time To Represent

Back when I still lived in the Bay Area I had a friend who was in Law school. As part of a class assignment she had to attend a criminal trial. She just happened to wind up in Oakland at the trial of a young black drug dealer accused of shooting a man to death in 1989. Afterwards she remarked to me how surprised she was to see this young black kid sitting in front of an all white jury ranging in age from twenty-five to sixty. This was supposed to be a jury of his peers yet the gulf between the jury and the accused could not have been greater. They were not his peers in age, economics, race, or education yet they were there to sit in judgement upon him. I hadn't really thought much about it before that, still I was not surprised. Minorities in this country are used to being under represented or not represented at all in every phase of government. They are used to having their rights rationalized away. They are used to seeing rules bent and protocol rewritten and reinterpreted when it comes to how they are represented in this country. This caused me to think about that wonderful clause in the constituition that says "No Taxation without Representation" and what exactly that means.

We now have a Senate and a Supreme Court that is predominantly made up of old White Republican Men. There are no Asians, no Latinos, and I believe there is only one Black person and one woman. Does that mean that Asians, Latinos, Women, and Blacks should be tax exempt due to inadequate representation in the government? And what about Polynesians and Middle Easterners? What chance would a Fillipino man have standing before the Supreme Court trying to explain his actions if those actions were culturally motivated? About a snowball's chance in hell.

As I was thinking about this I began to wonder how this could all be corrected and a government could be put into place in which no one felt excluded or at least would have no justifiable right to. How simple it would be to have stricter more sensible definitions of what representation is and how we define a peer group. Because a system that defines a nineteen year old black kid from the ghetto as being in the same peer group as a sixty year old whiteman from the suburbs is seriously flawed.

A peer is someone from the same generation, same economic level, and same cultural group as you. Someone from another generation, another culture, who makes significantly more or less money than you is not your peer. That needs to be clearly defined in the constitution because the current interpretation is just ridiculous. That would be a start. Next, the Senate, Congress, and the Supreme Court, needs cultural diversity that is respresntative of the American population.

Yeah, I know I'm going to catch a lot of shit for this. I know I'm going to get all the usual shit about being a Black Nationalist or Black Militant and all the other titles people give Black people when they try to change anything. But for the record a Black Nationalist would be fighting for our own separate government not for greater representation within this one. A militant would be talking about overthrowing not amending. Those groups tend to be of the opinion that this governemnt and the ruling majority that mostly control it are hopelessly corrupt. I don't believe this. I think this government is salvagable. But to continue my point, I don't think Senators and Congressman should be picked by State anymore but by culture and ethnicity. We've tried the melting pot thing and it just ain't working. We need to acknowledge that each cultural group in America has different wants, needs, and opinions and that many of these are not being heard by the ruling majority. We are more a nation of races than we are a nation of states. If we went state by state asking people of varying ethnicities what they wanted out of thier government I think we would find more similarities between people of the same race than we would among people who live in the same state. I could be wrong, but I doubt it.

If twelve percent of the US population is Black than twelve percent of Congress should be Black as well. If twenty percent are Latino than twenty percent of Congress should be Latino, twenty percent of the Senate and the Supreme Court should be Latino. Any cultural group that amounts for more than ten percent of the American population should have a cultural respresentative in Senate and Congress. In a country of 240 million people ten percent is 24 million. That's 24 million people who's needs are potentially being ignored all because they did not have the foresight to all move to the same state so that they could pick a Senator and a Congressman and thereby have a voice in goverment policy. We've got a house of Representatives to address the needs of the State. We need cultural and ethnic representatives. This ain't seperatism folks. This is actually something that would help avoid it. Because right now it is almost neccessary for racial groups to segregate themselves in order to have majority votes and thereby have the power to elect government officials. Being five percent of the population of this city, seven percent of the population in that city, ten percent of the population here, twelve here, almost makes you invisible and very nearly powerless. Most groups have figured this out. If you're Asian you have a much better chance of enacting government change in San Francisco than you would in Utah. So why the hell would you live there?

As an African American I can pretty much asure you that these thoughts do cross every minority's mind when they are deciding where to live. If we knew that we would be represented fairly and adequately wherever we went it would certainly make diversity a lot easier. If I knew that if I took a legal matter all the way to the Supreme Court I would be facing a culturally diverse group of judges rather than a sea of old white men I might feel that I had a chance and might actually have a little faith in the justice system. If when we went to court we were faced with an actual jury of our cultural and economic peers perhaps an African American would no longer be six times more likely to recieve the death penalty than a white man who commits the exact same crime. Perhaps this would trickle down to the cops on the street and they'd spend as much time preparing a strong case and making sure they did in fact have the right man when the suspect is a minority as they do when the suspect is white. Perhaps they would be less likely to harrass and brutalize minorities if they knew that when they went to court they wouldn't neccessarily be facing a jury that was stacked in thier favor. Perhaps when a bill was proposed by some redneck senator from Georgia that severely impacted the lives of minorities every minority in America wouldn't go into a panic the way we do now. Perhaps when a bill hit the Senate floor that would have great economic impact in minority communities we'd have a little faith that our best interests would be looked after rather than stomped on in favor of the ruling majority.

Look, America has never been a true Democracy so why pretend that it is? True Democracy, as we all know, results in tyranny of the majority over the minority. What we have is a Socialist Democratic Republic. The only people pushing hard to eliminate the more Socialist elements from our government are the ruling majority and in fact, more specifically, the wealthy ruling majority, though that's a different discussion. The only people comfortable with the way government officials are currently appointed are the ruling majority. We need to be more of a Republic and a bit less of a Democracy in my opinion. Keep the democratic process intact but apply it to a more representative Republic. Otherwise the fear, distrust, and animosity most minorities have for this goverment will only get worse.

2 comments:

billy westwood said...

Good thoughts Wrath.

Anonymous said...

Those thoughts do border on the extreme Wrath.

Still, our government is so obviously racist to anyone who bothers to open their eyes… maybe what we need is an extreme change (and this is coming from a middle class white kid).

Our government’s actions speak louder than any words…

It ignores the genocide in Africa…

It ignores Katrina victims…

The racism may not be intentional… but it is nonetheless present and all too apparent (and yet they call themselves Christians).

/Ash/



I’ll leave you with this quote:

“A testament to our gullibility, with each pull of the lever we lend credibility to an institution which we can only repaint (never reconstruct).

Our perceived power of change is so divided and spread so thin so as to be rendered ineffective.

If the collective voice cannot be heard then the collective wrath must be felt.”

~ J.R. Hayes