Saturday, October 13, 2018

Injustice for All

The Atlantic staff writer Jemele Hill penned an interesting piece on Black men who, essentially feel that Judge Brett Kavanaugh. Ms. Hill notes that she "expected to hear frustration that the sexual-assault allegations against him had failed to derail his Supreme Court appointment." Instead, she relates, she encountered sympathy for him. Expecting that the most left-leaning audience of The Atlantic might find this odd, she notes: "The caping for Kavanaugh does make a twisted kind of sense."

The bulk of the article concerns itself with the case of one Brian Banks, an aspiring football player whose goal of playing in the National Football League were pretty much totally derailed by an accusation of a high-school classmate that he had sexually assaulted her. Ms. Hill, while saying that she understands the parallels between Judge Kavanaugh's case and Mr. Banks', says that "it’s impossible to look at [the Banks case] closely without arriving at a very different set of conclusions" than "identifying" with Kavanaugh. The difference, according to Ms. Hill, is that Judge Kavanaugh was priviledged and Mr. Banks was not.

As a Black man myself, I find this beside the point. I'm very clear on the fact that if someone from my high school or college years were to come forward today with an accusation that I'd sexally assaulted them, I too would have: "no legions of well-connected friends to vouch for [me], no army of partisan defenders, no politicians rallying to [my] defense." It would be me against the credibility of my accuser. And I am under no illusions as to who would have more credibility if someone like Dr. Ford were to point an accusing finger in my direction.

Being accused of a crime that you believe yourself (rightly or wrongly) to be innocent of sucks. And, even without firsthand knowledge of it, I believe that it sucks enough that I wouldn't wish it on anyone, regardless of how much unearned privileges I felt they'd been given. And while it may be very true that what can happen to someone like me may not ever happen to someone like Judge Kavanaugh. But if it happens to him, it most certainly can happen to me. And insisting that what happens to people like me must also happen to people like him is unlikely to change that. And so I understand that while effective due process protections for people like Judge Kavanaugh might not protect me, I have no chance at them if he doesn't.

But even beyond that, justice spreads much more easily via generosity than it does via hostage-taking. While both approaches may fail, standing up for the due process rights of others strikes me as more effective way to secure them for myself than wishing on them the same sorry fate that people might expect (or even wish) would befall me. For Black men to be frustrated that Dr. Ford's allegations didn't do Judge Cavanaugh's nomination in isn't to wish for a better world. It's to wish for a worse one, out of a sense that if we can't have something, no-one should. Who does that serve?

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