*The following is an opinion column by R Muse*
One of the aspects of a civilized society is a dependable and fair criminal justice system. Without a system of laws, enforcement, and a robust judiciary, society would break down into what many conservatives believe would be “real America.” Oftentimes, the “system” appears to fail and instead of even a semblance of justice, there is a veritable license to break the law; usually reserved for the rich, the religious, and sadly law enforcement. When the system breaks down, some individuals conclude the only means of dispensing justice is by taking matters into their own hands: what is regarded as vigilantism.
Late last week one individual took it upon himself to dispense a little justice to admitted racist Dylann Roof. Roof is the Confederate soldier who confessed that his intent in slaughtering nine South Carolina African Americans in their house of worship was to initiate a race war. Even though he admitted gunning down the nine parishioners, Roof has pleaded not guilty. His lawyers say that if the government takes the death penalty off the table, Roof will revert back to confessing his crimes; otherwise he is not guilty.
Likely concerned that Roof would not face justice, or at least not “street-style” justice, an inmate in the Charleston County Detention Center ran out of his cell and administered a proper beat-down of Roof when he went into the shower. The alleged assailant, Dwayne Stafford, was at the Detention Center awaiting trial on first-degree assault, lying to police, and strong armed robbery charges.
Stafford is no longer being held at the Center because he is out on a $100,000 bond thanks to the largesse of anonymous donors. The donations were possible because a page was set up on TASAD (Taking a Stand Against Discrimination) so people could put money into Mr. Stafford’s discretionary spending account to use in the Center’s commissary. No matter how one looks at it, Mr. Stafford earned a nice reward for beating Dylann Roof in garnering enough cash to pay his bond and walk out of jail. Obviously there are enough disaffected Americans who are worried that Roof, like many white police officers guilty of murdering innocent and unarmed African Americans, will ultimately walk away a free racist and escape justice (see George Zimmerman, Mike Brown’s killer, Freddie Grey’s killers, etc.).
As Major Eric Watson noted on the news of Mr. Stafford’s release on bond, the Charleston County Sheriff’s Office has “no control” over who posts bail for inmates; if enough money comes in, the inmate gets out. Officials with the Charleston County Sheriff’s Office cited “obvious violations” by the detention officers tasked with keeping watch over Roof at the time of the beat-down. Incidentally, Dylann Roof declined to press charges.
Now, it may seem that Mr. Roof got what was coming to him and no doubt that mindset contributed to the donations that allowed Stafford out on bond. However just it may seem on its face, that kind of thinking does not contribute to civilized society or any sense of justice. First, although Mr. Stafford was in jail for “alleged” violent crimes, due to anonymous donors he is back on the streets instead of under guard for “alleged” violent crimes. Second, since when is it civilized to reward one ‘suspected’ violent criminal for beating another ‘suspected’ criminal while in custody? One can’t help wonder exactly how rewarding violence equates to justice for the nine slain members of Emanuel AME Church, or how contributing to the release of a suspected violent offender will make the community any safer or help prosecutors get real justice for Dylann Roof’s victims..
It is most likely that the people who donated to Mr. Stafford’s discretionary spending fund and eventually funded his release are of the same mind as, not only Mr. Stafford, but the two men guilty of ambush killings of police in Dallas and Baton Rouge. It is difficult to deny there is raging frustration among many Americans, not just Blacks, at a justice system apparently set up to protect white people and stacked against any and every person of color. Still, rewarding apparent vigilantism is not a solution to a justice system founded on white privilege any more than it will garner mainstream support for a comprehensive reformation to that criminal justice system.
Sadly, it is the condition of being human to naturally celebrate an individual’s dispensation of justice when it appears there is no other alternative, but it doesn’t make it right in a civilized society. Yes, the justice system has failed no small number of African American victims of white supremacy and racism, a fact that is hardly contestable. But the solution is not more injustice at the hands of an understandably disgruntled and frustrated individual. The solution is electing politicians who have the power and authority to reform the system to serve all Americans fairly; that is what a civilized people would do. Unfortunately, America is drifting away from being a civilized society or Donald Trump would not be running for the presidency and white police officers would not be murdering innocent African Americans with veritable impunity.
Audio engineer and instructor for SAE. Writes op/ed commentary supporting Secular Humanist causes, and exposing suppression of women, the poor, and minorities. An advocate for freedom of religion and particularly, freedom of NO religion.
Born in the South, raised in the Mid-West and California for a well-rounded view of America; it doesn’t look good.
Former minister, lifelong musician, Mahayana Zen-Buddhist.