April 18th, 2010

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Dear John,

I saw an op-ed piece that you wrote in the newspaper about racism in the criminal justice system. It was very moving and shocking. I’d like to see it get wider distribution.


Dear Maurice,

Thanks for your kind words of support. Many white people in this country believe that racism was a problem, but that the civil rights movement in the 1960s took care of it. Regrettably, this is far from the case. Here is what I wrote in the op-ed piece to which you refer, titled “Is the American judicial system racist?”

“Is it racist when young black males make up 6 percent of the U.S. population, and 50 percent of the prison inmates?

Is it racist when, in Massachusetts, blacks and Hispanics make up 9 percent of the state’s population, but 83 percent of imprisoned drug offenders?

Is it racist when African-American teens are more than ten times as likely to be incarcerated in California Youth Authority facilities than white or Asian youth?

Is it racist when Harris County, Texas, which includes the city of Houston, and has sent more people to death than any other state in the country, blacks make up 20 percent of the population but 70 percent of death row inmates?

Is it racist when Danville, Virginia, which regularly executes more people than any county in the country outside of Texas, has never once since its incorporation in 1890 executed a white person?

Is it racist when Dallas, Texas, has sent dozens of people to death row, but never a single one for killing an African-American?

Is it racist when no white person in Georgia has ever been executed for the murder of an African-American, and the death penalty has never even been sought in such a case?

Is it racist when, in the state of Georgia, every one of the 46 state district attorneys – who alone decide whether to seek the death penalty – are white, but 55 percent of those sentenced to death in the last 20 years have been black?

Is it racist when half the time black people have been executed in Georgia in the last 15 years, there were not only no black people in the jury, but no black people even in the jury pool?

Do white Americans who speak proudly of ‘liberty and justice for all’ have any idea at all what black Americans live with every day of their lives?”

Thanks for your concern for this vitally important issue.

Yours for justice,


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