CounterPunch supports the Floyd Rebellion and Black Lives Matter.
Please consider supporting an organization working on police accountability, additional resources on the movement and how you can get involved can be found here.

FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

Had It Been Sally Hemings, Thomas Jefferson Would Have Gone Ape-Shit

It seems close to impossible to get a policeman, any policemen, convicted of unlawfully shooting an African-American. For that matter, it’s pretty damn hard to get an overzealous, gun-toting private citizen convicted of the same crime. We need only consider George Zimmerman’s acquittal in the death of 17-year old Trayvon Martin.

So in those relatively rare instances where the legal system plods along as intended, and justice finally does seem to “prevail,” and a violent person is convicted by a jury of unlawfully taking the life of a young African-American, it hurts all the more when the perpetrator—the person found guilty by a jury of his or her peers—walks away without being punished.

It hurts all the more. In March of 1991, a black teenage girl, 15-year old Latasha Harlins, was shot and killed by the owner of a convenience store in Los Angeles. The owner of the store, a 51-year old Korean woman named Soon Ja Du, claimed that Latasha had placed a bottle of orange juice in her backpack and was going to leave the store without paying.

But eyewitnesses, along with physical evidence obtained at the scene, indicated otherwise. While the girl had, in fact, placed the orange juice bottle in her bag, she had money clutched in her hand, ready to pay, when she was accosted by the store owner, who had aggressively grabbed the girl’s backpack.

Clearly, this teenage girl fully intended to pay for the beverage. However, after being “assaulted” by the woman, Latasha reflexively responded in a manner that made sense. She struck back, in effect, defending herself. And then, in a show of defiance, she angrily threw the orange juice on the counter and proceeded to walk out of the store.

At this point, the proprietor removed a handgun from behind the counter, followed Latasha a few steps, and shot her point blank in the back of the head, killing her instantly. Although she tried to claim that, “fearing for her life,” she had shot Latasha in self-defense, the testimony of two witnesses, plus footage from the store’s security camera, told a different story. In truth, she sneaked up on Latasha and “executed” her.

The jury found Soon Ja Du guilty of “voluntary manslaughter,” a crime that carries a maximum sentence in California of 16 years in prison. But instead of jail time, the judge, one Joyce Karlin, sentenced Ja Du to five years probation, 400 hours of community service, and a fine of $500.

If I’m not mistaken, in 1991, $500 was also the maximum fine you could be assessed for littering. So, very broadly speaking, it could be said that blowing the head off a black teenager, and illegally discarding your sandwich wrapper, were now rendered equal in the eyes of the Law.

In the matter of Latasha Harlins, with the State vs. Soon Ja Du, the jury had performed its duty admirably. The jury had spoken. And Judge Karlin went and made a mockery of it. Two centuries earlier, Thomas Jefferson wouldn’t have allowed such a thing to happen to Sally Hemings, the slave woman he was bedding. Even back when slavery was still legal, there was such a thing as “justice.”

More articles by:

David Macaray is a playwright and author. His newest book is How To Win Friends and Avoid Sacred Cows.  He can be reached at dmacaray@gmail.com

Weekend Edition
June 05, 2020
Friday - Sunday
Jacob F. Lee – Matthew E. Stanley
Direct Action and the Rejection of Monumental History
Louis Proyect
Reflections on My COVID-19 Immunity
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Mad Bull, Lost Its Way
Stanley L. Cohen
Everywhere is War
Louis Yako
America Has Always Been Burning with Racism: Who is the Enemy?
Jefferson Morley
Showdown on 16th Street
Eve Ottenberg
Killing Workers (and Customers) – With No Liability
Peter Linebaugh
Say Their Names!
Melvin Goodman
Trump’s War on Democracy
Paul Street
Dear History Students
Lola Allen
How Has Bolivia’s de Facto Regime Taken Advantage of COVID-19 to Consolidate Its Power and Repress Political Rivals?
Jonathan Cook
As US protests Show, the Challenge is How to Rise Above the Violence Inherent in State Power
Alvaro Huerta
Police Abuse in America’s Barrios
Ron Jacobs
Generals Are Not the People’s Ally
Daniel Warner
Resilience
Ramzy Baroud
‘Wolf Warrior Diplomacy’: Israel’s China Strategy in Peril
David Yearsley
Dam Nation and Woody Guthrie
Sam Husseini
The Barr Coup 
Richard C. Gross
Bunker Mentality
Pam Martens - Russ Martens
BlackRock is Bailing Out Its ETFs with Fed Money and Taxpayers Eating Losses; It’s Also the Sole Manager for $335 Billion of Federal Employees’ Retirement Funds
Marshall Auerback
The Battle Over Free Speech Online is a Volcano That’s Ready to Blow
David Rosen
Trump’s Election to Lose
Jack Rasmus
Confronting Institutional Racism
Joseph Natoli
Ubu Orange
Gary Olson
Jakarta: Force and Fraud at Home and Abroad. What’s Next?
Sister Karen M. Donahue
I’m Outraged by Trump’s Church Photo-Op
Jaelani Turner-Williams
Racism is a Public Health Crisis
Chuck Collins
As 42.6 Million Americans File for Unemployment, Billionaires Add Half a Trillion Dollars to Their Cumulative Wealth
Jill Richardson
It Doesn’t Matter Who Protested and Who “Rioted”
Richard Ward
A Matter of Focus
Colin Todhunter
Food and Agroecology: Coping with Future Shocks
Ariel Dorfman
Literature in Times of Turmoil
Russell Mokhiber
ICE Wants to Deport Marc Petitpierre to Switzerland
Liz Theoharis
Organizing the Rich or the Poor? Which America Will Be Ours After the Pandemic?
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
Social Media Sucks for Reporting News
Denita Jones
Going Back to Work in a Pandemic
Tracey L. Rogers
A Tale of Two Americas
Paul Cantor
Thank You, Peaceful Protesters!
Susan Block
Sadistic Policing
Nicky Reid
Because Imperialists Rape: Anarcha-Feminism In the Ashes of the MeToo Era
Marilyn Bruya
Trump is the Looter to Worry About
Norman Solomon
Solidarity Includes Wearing a Mask at Protests
Kim C. Domenico
Misfit Redemption: Escape from the Cruelty of White Liberal Innocence
John Kendall Hawkins
The Coming Purge of Doppelgängers and the Palast Revolution
Stephen Cooper
America is Burning
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail