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Friday, June 9, 2017

Meditating on Wretchedness under a Stawberry Moon

Meditating on Wretchedness under a Strawberry Moon

Whether we are trying to make sense of vice or holiness, innocence or guilt, stupidity or intelligence, we are condemned to think with rather than against the tides of media.  Our contemporary fascination with social networking positions us to be complicit.  We resist, then discover resistance does not suffice.  The labels or ideological stances we adopt ----independent, conservative, liberal ---eventually collapse under what both David Walker and Frantz Fanon understood wretchedness to be.  Our souls may escape to elsewhere, but our minds cannot.

Given this scenario, Adam Benforado's Unfair: The New Science of Criminal Injustice (New York: Crown, 2015) should be required reading for the temporary relief it offers.  The book should be required reading in our nation for President Donald J. Trump and his tribe, for members of Congress (especially for those who pretend to be Democrats), for public school and university students and teachers, for all of us inclined to resist from diverse angles.

Benforado pricks consciousness.  Is he selling a fake post-truth or an undeniable fact in the following paragraph?

The news media further distorts our perceptions because our threat-detection system tends to rely heavily on whatever is within easy reach.  Incidents that are prominent in our memories end up taking on an outsize role.  And how easily we can recall an event influences not only our sense of how frequently that event occurs but also our sense of how important it is.  It makes a difference, then, that there is far more coverage of serial rapists and child kidnappings than of diabetes deaths.  Likewise, the disproportionate number of stories on the local news about crimes committed by young African American men increases people's fear of black men and leads to an overvaluation of the threat they pose, which may in turn affect how police officers, prosecutors, judges, and jurors treat them. (xvi)

Is Benforado providing a description of why deliberate suppression of stories about crimes committed by white women and men cultivates fears among non-whites of the collective threat so-called white people present to humanity?

In this instance, it is prudent to use the standard of reasonable doubt in any engagement with Unfair: The New Science of Criminal Injustice, because Benforado backs his claims with testable evidence from research in psychology and neuroscience.  Science does have reasonable credibility, does it not?

The importance of his book pivots on the credibility of "Benigne faciendae sunt interpretationes, propter simplicitatem laicorum, ut res magis valeat quam pereat; et verba intentioni, non e contra, debent inservire" ((trans. Constructions [ of written instruments ]are to be made liberally, on account of the simplicity of the laity [or common people], in order that the thing [or subject matter] may rather have effect than perish [of become void]; and words must be subject to the intention, not the intention to the words.))  There is a reason that the American legal system buries its treasures in Latin. See Black's Law Dictionary.  Benforado's book is a tool for meditating on wretchedness under a strawberry moon.  It is not a solution.  It is guide for action, for bending the arc of history toward elusive justice (286). It tells us what many African Americans know from historical experience, what non-African Americans have yet to learn.

Jerry W. Ward, Jr.                            June 9, 2017

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