This may be the last post on the “girl who cried rape” essay topic.
As an earlier post tells the story, a teenager blamed her imagined pregnancy on a randomly-chosen “rapist” to protect her boyfriend, and pursued her charge (perhaps unwillingly, especially after she realized she wasn’t pregnant) through the trial and conviction of that hapless man. After he had served eight years in prison, and she had been “born again,” she tried to undo her lie, but the judge told her a conviction that had been based solely on her testimony could not be reversed solely on her changed testimony. She turned to the press and then to the governor, and finally the governor pardoned the man. My students were to write about whether or not justice has now been done.
The student who wrote today’s Horror wanted to argue that justice had not been done, and began by challenging the pardon itself (on the grounds that the governor has no way of knowing if he’s pardoning an actual rapist). You can just feel the fire in his veins in that passive-voice sentence, can’t you? He won’t even own his own argument.
Obviously he has also confused ethics and ethnicity. I know this for sure because nothing was mentioned about race or ethnicity in the fact-sheet they were working from, and nothing in his essay suggested that he was making assumptions about that either.
So for him, it’s just a Wrong Word Choice. The words do look a lot alike: ethic and ethnic. But when they start to acquire suffixes, they part ways: ethicality, ethnicity. Was he inventing the word ethicity and “helped” by an officious Spell Check that inserted an n? Or did he confuse the words from the beginning?
He wanted to ask whether the pardon was ethical. I knew what he meant, and I just provided the correct term for him and moved on.
But, had he known it, he did have a point. There has long been a demonstrable ethnic bias in American jurisprudence and law enforcement; that this was not an element in the case he was writing about makes that fact no less factual, and no less regrettable. Ethnicity comes into play less often in pardons than in convictions, though.
The long-ago executions of Sacco and Vanzetti were linked with ethnic bias. The recent execution of Troy Davis in Georgia is another, most recent, case in point. The pardon denied these people (and others) had better not be waiting for any judges or governors up there at the Pearly Gates.
And now in Florida we have the killing of Trayvon Martin, a case where ethnicity seems to have played a role in the killing itself and in the police handling of the shooter and the victim. With the entrance of the Department of Justice into the case (after nearly a month) we have to hope that any questions of ethnicity, except where it might be motivation for crime or negligence, are set aside and justice is actually pursued.
There’s a reason the iconographical statue of Justice wears a blindfold, and it isn’t because she’s trying to ignore truth; it’s because in the rendering of justice she doesn’t care about looks, wealth, family name, or ethnicity or race; she just cares about justice. If there is “ethnicity” in some governor’s thinking, it had damned well better be questioned.
I write this in memory of all those whose racial or ethnic “identity” came between them and justice at one or many points in the process (act, arrest, trial, or execution), and especially:
In memoriam Sacco and Vanzetti.
In memoriam Troy Davis.
In memoriam Emmet Till.
In memoriam Trayvon Martin—may his killer be brought to justice.