A black man talks, but his words turn to jumble
A black man shouts, but no one hears.
A black man dies but it’s all normal
Because a black man is not a man with tears.
A black man has no feelings;
No, it’s impossible for a black man to love
A black man does not have reasons
How can a man-
or actually the lack thereof
Its humanity a black man has none
Its figure is just but a blob
The truth is society only sees a Tommy gun
And through these eyes creates a lynch mob.
Ernest J. Gaines explains the racism plaguing our Criminal Justice System. He talks about the predetermined verdict of the white judge and the white jurors on the case of a black man, Jefferson. However, that’s exactly why racism cannot be solved. No reform in the world could ever mend the racism embedded within our Criminal Justice System. No amounts of change under the same government can lead to an equal system; but even more so, no amount of reforms in the world can ever surmount to an equal America. It’s impossible, and it’s naive to think that there’s hope in the political. Ever since the Middle passage, African Americans’ role in society has minimized to nothing more than a blob. A blob, as in not a human, just black. When a white police officer sees a black man, they don’t see a person, because if they were to see a person, they would think twice before shooting. The white police officer would realize that the black man has a family, a job, a personality, and a life. But, the police officer doesn’t and so they shoot; they shoot without hesitation. The police officer feels a moment of guilt because as much as white people diminish black people in society, white people also need black people. Who else will the white people compare their success to? Who else will white people treat as a basis of comparison? The only way white people know they are successful is because they don’t live in black communities; they don’t live the same lifestyle and they have a different privilege than black people. This outlook runs our society and any arguments of “improvement” or “progress” are rendered useless. Racism is continuously changing forms, whether it be the Jim Crow laws mentioned in Gaines’ book or the unwarranted police shootings seen today. Racism reconfigures its shapes depending on the society, and because of this, racism will never end. Thus, no matter how racist and unfair our Criminal Justice System is, no reform to this system will ever mend its inequality; this prejudice is embedded within people’s mindsets.
This is the philosophical theory of Afro-pessimism. Common authors are Frank B. Wilderson and Frantz Fanon, and while this doesn’t exactly reflect my own views, as I am not African American myself and have not experienced the extremity of prejudice faced by Black Americans every day, I think this theory ties very well with explaining the problems within our Criminal Justice System today. This theory explains why we still preserve the Death Penalty, despite clear racial discrepancies, and it describes why we have biased legal principles like Qualified Immunity. We have clear statistical data that these laws mainly target black people and yet not much has been done to resolve them. Afro-pessimism provides a theory to explain the “why” of these current issues in society.