Race And Justice In North Carolina: Sinking Into The Past

Death row inmate Marcus Robinson listens in Fayetteville, North Carolina as Judge Greg Weeks found that racial bias played a role in his trial and sentencing. It was the first case to be decided under the North Carolina's Racial Justice Act (Photo Credit: Shawn Rocco/Raleigh News & Observer/MCT via Getty Images).

Death row inmate Marcus Robinson listens in Fayetteville, North Carolina as Judge Greg Weeks found that racial bias played a role in his trial and sentencing. It was the first case to be decided under the North Carolina’s Racial Justice Act (Photo Credit: Shawn Rocco/Raleigh News & Observer/MCT via Getty Images).

I grew up in Durham, North Carolina in the 1970s. Racism – the Jim Crow kind – was still there in pockets, but it seemed to be receding; or at least it was being replaced by the less overt, white-flight variety. I left home for college in the 1980s and watched from a distance as North Carolina continued to struggle to extricate itself from its legacy of racism.

The death penalty is one of the ugliest vestiges of that ugly legacy, but North Carolina has not executed anyone since 2006. There were no death sentences in 2012. A poll earlier this year showed that majorities of North Carolinians support replacing the death penalty with life without parole.

In 2009, when the state passed the historic “Racial Justice Act“ - a law that forthrightly acknowledged the history of racism in the state’s judicial system and allowed death row inmates to more easily make claims based on allegations of racial bias – I felt genuine pride in my home state.

Acknowledging the seamier side of your history is not easy, and the Racial Justice Act was a courageous attempt to begin to right past wrongs and correct injustices.

It isn’t going to last.

The new North Carolina legislature and its new Governor, elected in 2010 and 2012, have lots of plans for my home state. Suppressing legal challenges based on racial bias and restarting executions are high on the list. The state legislature has repealed the Racial Justice Act, a repeal which will soon be signed into law.

Evidence of racial bias infecting the state’s courts – and the cases heard under the Racial Justice Act exposed plenty of evidence – will now be ignored.  North Carolina’s problems with racism in criminal justice will no longer be acknowledged; they will be swept under the rug. Some folks will pretend that such racism no longer exists.

But it does.

History in a place like North Carolina is like gravity; it’s a powerful force that’s hard to pull away from. After years of struggling to get beyond their past, North Carolinians are now seeing an example of their state sinking back into it.

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4 thoughts on “Race And Justice In North Carolina: Sinking Into The Past

  1. How tragic. I live in Arizona, and we have our own issues with "profiling," in the form of people of Mexican heritage. I have no problem when it applies to illegals, and by definition, "illegals" are "criminals". However, Arpiao conducts "sweeps" that pull in anybody who appears remotely Hispanic, including those who are US citizens. You may be aware we still have the death penalty
    here. Until a few years ago, I was pro death penalty, but no longer hold that view. It seems we are rivaling Texas with the number of people we have put to death.

  2. Tell all the facts A.I. I dare you. Cry me a river for this guy. Waived his Miranda rights and confessed to shooting a 17 year old in the face. After having targeted him, he and a buddy asking him for a ride and then exposing his shotgun pointing it at his head and instructed where to drive to an isolated area. Got him out of the car – told him to lay on the ground and proceed to fire his shotgun into his face point blank. He and his buddy then split the money on the victims wallet. Previous to the murder he told friends he was going to "waste a whitey" — which he did. Yes Amnesty International — celebrate Mr. Robinson as the "victim" of racism.

  3. Tell the truth about Mr Robinson and the details concerning his targeted victim and the murder. I dare you to share with your followers the details.