Two cents worth: on the benefit of the doubt

Comedian D. L. Hughley said on his radio talk show recently that “the benefit of the doubt” was definitely racist.  His crew on the show laughed, as did myself and many other Americans, similarly situated.  We laughed because we didn’t want to cry.  The fact is that the benefit of the doubt i.e. innocent until proven guilty seldom, if ever, applies to African Americans.  Here’s my two cents worth on it.

Just looked what happened in Texas on September 6, 2018. A 26- year-old, black man, alone in his apartment after work was shot to death by an off duty female white police officer, who thought he was in her apartment.  The victim, Botham Jean had just text his sister about his plans to chill for the evening and catch a football game on television.  He lived on the fourth floor, the cop officer Amber R. Guyger, 30, lived directly below him.  Somehow, she got off the elevator on the wrong floor, went in through and open door and fired her service weapon twice, striking him once in the torso. He died later at the hospital: tried, sentenced and convicted by a cop’s fear.

So it should be no surprise to anyone that African Americans know very little about the benefit of the doubt.  There are more cases like this than I have space to write about. You know there’s the infamous Central Park Five.  Back in 1989 five young black men were wrongfully convicted of raping a woman jogging in New York City.   Then real estate baron, Donald Trump, led the charge condemning the boys, even signing full-page newspaper advertisements implicitly calling for the boys to be put to death. Not surprisingly, all five of the boys were found guilty, based on circumstantial evidence alone: no eye witnesses; no DNA, just confessions of juveniles after many hours of questioning without their parents. They were sentenced to jail terms, ranging from five to 10 years and five to 15.  (Note: the oldest of these boys was tried as an adult, yet was under 18 just like the nominee for SCOTUS.)

Then in 2002, a serial rapist and murderer, already serving life inside, came  confessed to the Central Park rape. A re-examination of DNA evidence proved it was the convicted rapist alone, whose semen has been found on the victim’s body.  After three years, just before Christmas that year, the convictions against each member of the Central Park Five were vacated by New York’s supreme court.

There were no newspaper ads about that. You know how the benefit of the doubt was not accorded  these guys and they had been wrongfully convicted.  None of that. So please forgive us, when there are credible allegations against a nominee for the Supreme Court, when a victim gives a gut wrenching first hand account, and it is ignored, for thinking that the benefit of the doubt must be a part of a privilege we are not afforded as citizens.

Maybe we should be glad Kavanaugh got it.. One thing for sure is that we should pray and hope that from this day forward, black folks, red folks, brown folks, immigrants, LGBTQ and others will all get to know what it’s like to be innocent until proven, beyond the shadow of a doubt, to be guilty.  What scares us the most are the words of the poet, Langston Hughes, “America, never was America to me.”


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