SHAUN KING: The American justice system was not built to provide justice to Black & Brown people. It was built to punish us.
I’ll be brief today. I want to teach you something. For some of you, it will be a new paradigm. For others, it will simply be a confirmation of what you already believed.
One of the most painful lessons I’ve learned over my life about the American justice system is that it was not designed to actually provide justice to Black and Brown communities. Not at all. It was imagined, designed, and built to punish us. It was built as a white supremacist tool of oppression. Consequently, any time we try to squeeze any semblance of justice out of this system, in the rare instance we ever get it, it gives it to us kicking and screaming. No justice has ever come easy for us in this country.
Who was ever held accountable for slavery?
Who was ever held accountable for lynching?
The men who murdered Emmett Till talked about it out in the open for generations.
The man who murdered Trayvon continues to be a public menace.
I could name thousands of names - each representing the most precious loved one of a family - and not a single one of them got justice. Not even a hint or shadow of justice.
For the first 36 or so years of my life, I kept trying to squeeze, and squeeze, and squeeze justice out of this system, and I was right to do so. We were right to do so. But about 4 years ago, I came to understand that the best possible use of my time was going to be to radically change the system itself.
You can’t make a dog meow. You can’t make a cow bark. You can’t make a dog climb trees. It’s not in their nature.
The very nature and essence of the American justice system, (most of us in the reform community don’t even call it the American justice system anymore, but call it the American legal system), is not fairness, rehabilitation, or balance. The very nature of this system is oppression.
I will still fight for families and victims to get the justice they deserve, but I have long since accepted that only about one in every 500 or so of them will get it. That’s why we must fight like hell to tear down the systems and structures and laws that were built, and put people, laws, and structures in place that will finally do right by us.