Past, present and future. Our top two stories last week, one dealt with the past and the other the present and future. “Howsie shakes up public defender’s office,” deals with the present and future, while “Tuskegee Airmen celebrates 70 years” with the past.
First the past. The Tuskegee Airmen are a symbol of what we as Black people had to go through in this country to be treated as equals. We had to fight to go on the front lines to be killed in World War II and previous wars. Blacks were not considered to be intelligent enough to be able to fight in the war. Also many Whites didn’t like the idea of Blacks being trained to handle a gun and fight, for the fear that they would use that newfound knowledge on them. So instead they were the cooks, they dug the trenches and all the other brainless labor jobs.
The Tuskegee experiment was supposed to fail, because Whites knew Negroes didn’t have the mental capacity to fly plains, let alone, fight in the skies. But led by General Benjamin Davis and many others all these myths were proven false. But can you imagine the humiliation these men had to go through, not just the pilots, but the mechanics that kept the planes flying, but also the foot soldiers who only wanted to be treated like any other American, to be able to be on the front lines fighting. But despite all the obstacles they adapted and overcame to the point that they became one of the most successful groups ever to hit the skies.
The Howsie story deals with the now and the future. There has been much criticism of Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald’s commitment to the Black community. But his appointment of Howsie and his support is one of the most outstanding accomplishments any politician has done for the Black community. Why?
The court system—because of racial profiling and stupidity of our young Blacks, has become “Just Us.” The criminal court system is predominately Black victims and accused, which has led to our jails and prisons being packed with young Black males wasting their lives away. Far too often the White people you see in the criminal or juvenile court system are the lawyers and employees, the rest are Black. We don’t make up a large percentage of either, when it comes to the people getting paid.
So the Howsie effort to change the status quo is commendable because if he’s successful this can be a model for the entire country. All of us, regardless of our income, should be treated equally and fairly in the court system, but we all know that isn’t the case. It’s generally those with money or who know the system that get off, while many innocent people are hauled off to jail, many serving time they shouldn’t and others serving far more time than they should. And it can happen to any of us, as long as our skins are Black.
With the legal system being so expensive, it won’t take long for most of our little savings to be gone, and then we find ourselves depending on the public defender. What is fair about a district attorney’s office having all the funding of the state government behind them for prosecuting when you have practically nothing but an overworked, no caring, no time public defender? Who’s going to win most of the time? So the Black defendant goes to jail, comes out with a record and if it’s a felony record it’s almost impossible to find a job so he or she ends up right back in the criminal justice system.
Racial profiling has increased over recent years mostly related to drugs. Even though more Whites use drugs and sell drugs the prisons and jails are filled with Blacks. With all the arrests related to drugs this is critical to the survival of the Black community. We can’t survive with so many of our young Black men in jail. These are men who should be helping their children grow up. These are young men who should be helping improve the community. But instead they are wasting away in jails taking up precious tax dollars that should be spent on educating them instead of incarcerating them.
Fitzgerald and Howsie are to be commended on their effort to turn this very critical issue around in an effort to bring true justice to the justice system.
In saying that, I must end with this, 12 homicides last month. Are you kids going crazy? Is the money you are making selling drugs really worth all these lives? One incident stated that a 17-year-old girl shot a 19-year-old boy because he pushed her. Wow. Does life mean anything to our young people? If that was all there was to it, it means that she not only took his life, but her own. She will probably be spending most of her young life in prison, instead of enjoying life. Guns are not the answer, young people.
Just think what all our ancestors had to go through, such as the Tuskegee Airmen to get an opportunity, and how they must feel watching our young people blowing it away with stupidity.
Looking at the general condition of our young people and our communities, and most importantly the criminal court system the question that comes to mind is, was the fight the Tuskegee Airmen and others fought in vain? Are we moving backward? Well, if Howsie is successful much of that can be turned around. Just imagine how many of our young men could be going to college or otherwise living productive lives instead of prison if they got a fair trial.
(Ulish Carter is managing editor of the New Pittsburgh Courier.)