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Posts Tagged ‘Justice’

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I, like many of us have been tuned into the George Zimmerman trial since it began. I almost typed “Trayvon Martin” trial because, at times, it was hard to understand just who was being tried. Today jurors in the case heard the closing arguments for the defense and the final rebuttal from the state. The defense rode on the platform, if you would call it a platform, that Zimmerman had every right to act the way he acted, that he was a regular man with aspirations of protecting and serving his community but was attacked by a young man who refused to “run away” upon being followed. The defense went as far as to say that Martin had plenty of time to run— four minutes. Defense attorney O’Mara went on to list all of the things one could do in four minutes, but that Martin chose to stay put. My question is, why would a person run if they’re guilty of nothing? If I am minding my business walking to the store and I notice a man following me, am I to assume he is going to kill me?

I understand that the defense attorney had to do his job and try to convey to the jury that, all things considered, Zimmerman acted logically considering these circumstances, but there were times during his argument where I wondered if even he, believed himself.

“When I first got this case, I thought it was going to come and go in 20 minutes,” Defense Attorney O’Mara said.

These were not his best moments. Many times during his argument, O’Mara sounded insensitive, condescending and even patronizing in his attempt to get his point across; certainly not a good technique when speaking to a jury of women.

This trial has ignited quite a movement via social networking, as many know. I have seen countless tweets refuting the support behind the #ZimmermanTrial and the apathy about the young black men dying in our own communities. My problem with this is that no one black man’s death is more important than the other. This case was yet another reminder of the racist society that we live in, not an attempt to diminish the violence that runs so rampantly in the African American community. We have to fight one battle at a time, or get enough warriors together to fight them all.

Trayvon’s parents decided to reach out to media to bring about some justice for their son. If every parent of every slain teenager in Chicago, Philadelphia, or Atlanta made it a point to speak out on their child’s behalf, would we still be marching to our city courtrooms or wearing hoodies to show support? Don’t answer that. That answer is too complex. If Troy Davis, Caylee Anthony, and Trayvon Martin have taught this country anything, it’s that some of the laws and the policies that are effective in this country are not JUST at all. Getting upset has to do more than a hoodie and a march. Getting upset has to send you to your local politician- has to send you to your post office with your petition- has to encourage you to get up and DO SOMETHING about it, or else, we’ll be back here, not long from now, protesting about another person killed in cold blood because of a culture that ignores hatred if it doesn’t directly affect them.

 

Disclaimer: (I wrote this post on my lunchbreak so please excuse typos and punctuation!)

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A city council hearing was held Thursday at City Hall. Among the bills up for first,second or final passage was an “Earned Sick Days” bill which would give small business owners a certain amount of sick days a year, similar to what most union workers are entitled to.

The bill I was there to support however, was the “Ban the Box” bill.

According to The Pennsylvania Prison Society, “Ban the Box legislation prevents individuals with criminal backgrounds from being automatically screened out. Employers must delay inquiring into an applicant’s conviction history until he or she has been given the opportunity to interview.”

This is BIG for the city of Philadelphia and for all people. The Pennsylvania Prison Society reports that “employers who inquire about criminal history on the job application are likely to reject the application without further consideration.” Studies also show that employment is one of the major determining factors in whether or not a formerly convicted person returns to a life of crime or prison.

Being able to provide for one’s family when released from prison is crucial. Prison is supposed to be a reform system. Prison is supposed to be a place you are sent to in order to pay your debt to society and come out a better person.

A speaker at the hearing indicated that close to 78% of Americans have a criminal history of some sort. That’s a huge number. Imagine how many of these people didn’t get a job that they were qualified for because of this reason alone. A formerly convicted man also spoke up at the hearing. He said that the prisoners could work lower end jobs but the discrimination from employers doesn’t even give you that chance. “You have people with Master’s degrees washing dishes,” the man said. Some would blame this on the present state of the economy rather than employment discrimination but that’s a topic for another time.

When employers discriminate against a person because of a criminal history, they never get the chance to prove they have changed. Everyone deserves a shot a redemption don’t they? The “box” on these applications lessens the ability for one to feel any kind of acceptance back into society. This is especially true for men. Most men don’t feel complete until they are able to provide for themselves and their families financially. There is something to be said about the pyschological trauma that occurs when one is sent to prison, voiding them of all freedom, released with limited freedom and then told you still aren’t good enough to be ‘half-free.’

The Ban the Box bill passed on Thursday, March 31, 2011 with 13 yay’s and 4 nay’s. The bill was sponsored by Councilwoman Donna Reed Miller.

This legislation has already been enacted in the following states: California, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Hawaii, Minnesota and New Mexico. The bill was also passed in over 25 cities and counties including: Atlanta, GA, Boston, MA, Minneapolis, MI, Austin, TX, Chicago, IL, New Haven, CT, Baltimore, MD, Detroit, MI and Seattle. WA.

Supporters of the Ban the Box bill in Philadelphia hope to get the legislation reviewed at a national level.

Stay tuned for updates on the progression of this bill and the people working to enforce and sustain it.

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