When Juries Cannot See Black People as Human

When Juries Cannot See Black People as Human June 16, 2017

philando castile protestToday a jury in Minnesota (not Mississippi or Memphis) acquitted former officer Jeronimo Yanez in the murder of Philando Castile. You may remember this shooting (I know, there have been so many). It was the one where Diamond Reynolds, Castile’s fiance, live-streamed his death on Facebook. Despite the many accounts that said that Castile followed Officer Yanez’s instructions, he still shot Castile seven times. Immediately after murdering him and despite Reynolds recording the incident, when asked why did he shoot, he remarked, “I don’t know.” Furthermore, despite all of this evidence, despite the finding that police had pulled Castile over forty-six times from the time he started driving at 19 until Yanez murdered him at 32, the jury could not see past Castile’s “preconceived criminalized blackness” to convict Yanez at least with manslaughter. I mean, juries are supposed to be made up of the people; us. When we cannot see black people as human…….

Instead of writing something myself, (I mean, what else can be said), I thought I would share the words of Bishop Henry McNeal Turner who lived during the 19th century. If any of this sounds familiar, that should be a problem, but for most folks; especially juries, I guess it is not. Oh well, I will just say that this will continue to happen until we start to believe black truth and juries start to see black people as human.


“I have absolutely no interest in the issues of this bloody, lynching nation, with its brutal supreme court in Washington City issuing decisions against my race which were never dreamed of in hell. I care but little whether the republican or democratic party is successful. Neither of them care anything about the Negro, for the representatives of neither party in that miserable conclave known as the United States congress ever opened their mouths about the way my race is butchered, shot and burnt without law or civil rule. This rotten country has no business being a nation anyway. It is an organized mob from Maine to Texas. Those who do not participate in the lawless murders, Jim Crow car discriminations and every other devilment against my race, stand by and say ‘well done’ by their silence. The people of England are the only ones who can open their mouths about the ‘mob-ocracy’ of this sham nation. I would welcome no information unless it be concerning the reformation or extermination of this bloody-handed country—north and south alike—for one is as guilty as the other.-July 18, 1896

The Negro has no flag to defend. There is not a star in the flag of this nation, out of the forty odd, that the colored race can claim, nor is there any symbol signalized in the colors of the flag that he can presume to call his, unless it would be the stripes, and the stripes are now too good for him. He is only regarded as entitled to powder and lead and the burning fagots. He has no civil, social, political, judicial or existing rights any longer. He may exist, be or live till the lynchers say he must die, and when they get ready to demand his life, the nation, from the President  down, down and down to the most contemptible white riff-raff, says well done!-May, 1899

If the colored man meets in convention he is bound to speak to please the white people of his community, particularly if he is a politician, school teacher or employed in any respect so as to bring him in contact with the whites.  Laws may pass forbidding us of sleeping cars or any other privilege and nothing is said or done about it, and we tamely submit to it and talk about God bringing better times.  God helps nobody that do not try to help themselves, and this we are not trying to do and never will while we are under the grinding wheel of white people.  As for the colored of the north realizing our condition, is next to impossibility.  They are as scared of the white folks as we who live in the south and will speak and write in favor of them, no matter how cruel they act.  I have come to the conclusion that this generation of black scullions will never be anything while the world stands, and as long as we have such papers as yours we are bound to be nothing.-May 1900

To learn more about Bishop Turner, check out the Henry McNeal Turner Project.

Andre E. Johnson is the Founder and Managing Editor of R3

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