Pubdate: Tue, 13 Feb 2001
Source: Advocate, The (LA)
Copyright: 2001 The Advocate, Capital City Press
Contact:  525 Lafayette St., Baton Rouge, LA   70802
Author: Rita Bowman


Dear Editor:

This is written in response to Friday's letter with the headline "No one 
should be exempt from the law."

Yes in this country, everyone is supposed to be treated equally but 
unfortunately we are not. The man who was let go for riding on expired tags 
was justified, I guess. Last summer, I was stopped by white police officer 
and was told I was driving on a suspended license. Why? Because I was a 
black woman driving a blue Oldsmobile.

But, believe me, we all don't look a like. We as African Americans have 
been treated unjustly for years and will continue to be until the end of time.

Last year, a group of African-American men was sentenced to prison for the 
sale of crack cocaine. A law had been passed that first time offenders of 
trafficking in crack cocaine were to be considered for probation. But were 
any of these men probated? No. Was it because they all were black men? Was 
the judge that just took office trying to make an impression on our young 
black men?

Statistics tells us that African American men between the ages of 20 and 29 
are under the control of the criminal justice system. This compares with 
figures of six percent for the white man.

Our black men are brought to trial and convicted more often than whites. 
Once they are convicted, they are also less likely to receive probation or 
a suspended sentence or to be paroled.

So don't talk about the justice in our system.

Also on Jan. 16, an article was placed on the front page of our paper about 
a Wal-Mart robbery involving a black man. Then days later, a woman was 
caught at Wal-Mart. What race was she? Why didn't it appear on the front page?

I have also learned that the disparity between punishment for crack cocaine 
and powdered cocaine offenders has become a major issue for African 
Americans. In 1999, the Supreme Court of Minnesota ruled that a state law 
treating crack more harshly was unlawfully discriminatory against African 
Americans. Why? Because in our country the white man is usually the one 
that deals with powdered cocaine, while the African American deals with 
crack. Therefore the sentences for crack are more harsh.

I know that drugs are illegal but why focus on the small black man. That is 
not going to solve our problem.

This is Black History Month. To all the black people in Danville, we have 
to stay together and stop being prejudiced against each other. And to all 
of the young black kids, stay off of these corners and get an education. Go 
to church and believe in God and leave the drugs alone.

Years ago, the blacks could not get cocaine because it cost too much. The 
white man made it cheap for us to ruin our lives and that is exactly what 
we are doing. And we as black adults need to try to encourage the young 
people, no matter what or who they are. It takes a whole nation to help 
these children. So let's do it together.

Rita Bowman, Danville
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