California Tea Party leader Jesse Peterson has said that he believes that the Constitution doesn’t apply to “black thugs.”
Peterson, of the Brotherhood Organization of New Destiny, said he’s bothered by the fact that “black thugs” like Michael Brown and Trayvon Martin get the benefit of the doubt, according to Right Wing Watch.
The irony of Peterson’s comments is two-fold: First, that anybody in the Tea Party thinks the Constitution doesn’t apply to whatever groups they don’t like; and second, that Jesse Peterson is a black man who is an apologist for white racism. Speaking on Steve Malzberg’s radio show, Peterson said:
“I’ve said from day one that Michael Brown is a thug,” Peterson declared, using as evidence “the fact that he was running from the cops, period, because good folks do not run from police officers, they follow their instructions.
I just think that it’s a shame, that in America today, that criminals are given the benefit of the doubt – especially black criminals because white criminals are not – but black criminals are given the benefit of the doubt and the police officers are the suspects. I don’t know what has happened to my country.”
Here’s the problem with Peterson’s claims: We have this little-known concept called “innocent until proven guilty” in this country. White people do, in fact, benefit from that far more often than black people. John Hurwitz and Mark Pfeffly, authors of a book titled “Justice in America: The Separate Realities of Blacks and Whites” told the Washington Post:
“But in our data many whites (about 60 percent) believed that blacks deserve to be imprisoned more frequently. They often based their explanations of racial discrepancies in the prisons on racial stereotypes: Blacks, they believed, are more inclined to commit crimes or just less likely to respect authority. To a considerable extent, therefore, African Americans attribute outcomes to procedural bias, while whites are more willing to attribute them to character flaws of blacks.”
Could this (gasp!) extend to law enforcement officers? Until the evidence clearly shows that someone is guilty of a crime, everybody should get the benefit of the doubt. Even if they are clearly guilty of a crime, where any videos or photos, and the victims, and the witnesses all agree a crime occurred, do police have the right to just shoot them? The answer is, no, they do not, unless the suspect’s actions are putting someone in danger. The suspect still has a Constitutional right to due process.
What’s even worse is that some police feel that people need to fear them. Business Insider has some reactions to Ferguson from other law enforcement officers, and one said the following truly scary thing:
“They think that as long as they are unarmed, the officer won’t shoot. So they don’t really have a healthy fear of the police, they expect us to play by the rules and take our lumps. Sometimes they don’t get shot and sometimes they do. Why chance it?” [emphasis mine]
That’s frightening. While one can assume that the quote above is talking about people who’ve committed a crime, that can, and sometimes does, extend to everyone, turning “innocent” into “criminal, because reasons.”
Even a criminal shouldn’t fear the police, though they may fear the system that will try and convict them of their crime.
People like Jesse Peterson, and like the officer above, want us to head to a “guilty until proven innocent” system of justice, particularly, it seems, where black people are concerned. Like most in the Tea Party, Peterson believes in following the Constitution, except for where he doesn’t.