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Legal system: A model for calling out racism




Re: “Judge: Racism permeates U.S. legal system — and Spokane case proves it” [May 18, Local News]:

I give many thanks to Judge George B. Fearing for his courageous opinion, calling out the racism he perceived in the case of Darnai Leon Vaile in Spokane. In 42 years as a lawyer, I was too familiar with the racism that indeed permeates our “justice” system.

Men of color always described as angry and dangerous, even when I knew they were frightened. White citizens calling police for innocuous behavior by Black people, especially men. Law enforcement responding with assumptions of guilt and the need for force. Arrests and criminal charges disrupting jobs, homes and families over trivial or falsely exaggerated conduct. Prosecutors and judges accepting without question the words and perceptions of police officers.

Prosecutors routinely excusing jurors of color.

If lawyers called out “racism,” judges and prosecutors accused them of “playing the race card,” an illegitimate move discrediting the lawyer as well as the claim.
Fearing’s opinion models how lawyers can articulate our society’s racism within the system. He provides all of us a pattern for recognizing, and addressing, these effects within the system. And he gives judges permission to respond appropriately, with understanding and justice for all.

Lenell Nussbaum, Seattle

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