Monday, July 10, 2000
Houston, Texas
Volume 65, Issue 157 

Cougar Comics Online

Mitchell on perception

Staff Editorial

Letters to the Editor

Editorial Cartoon


About the Cougar

Corrupt system assassinated Gary Graham


Guest Columnist

The assassination of Gary Graham (a.k.a. Shaka Sankofa), illustrates explicitly where the emphasis should be when using the term "criminal justice." Unlike the oxymoronic "military intelligence," the two elements of the term are serendipitous. The race- and class-biased legal system of the United States is capable of doing no better or worse when it comes to human rights and due process than in the relentless liquidation of victims like Sankofa.

In this case, much attention was brought to the process some refer to as "legal" in this society. But the systematic marginalization and gradual liquidation of millions of residents of this country -- an ongoing brutality actively perpetuated by the governmental, civil and economic systems of our dollar democracy -- comes, literally, with the territory.

Poet Robert Frost's "The Gift Outright," presented at John F. Kennedy's inauguration, re-affirmed the myth of origins of this system, a myth that conceals the violent expropriation, expulsion and liquidation of the native populations of the "new world." Contemporary purveyors of the myth speak of "due process," a "system of justice," "compassion" and other catch-words that conceal rather than reveal the reality lived by millions inside the borders of the United States and millions more whose existence is conditioned by the global power of this system.

Where Sankofa died once lived native populations, and later, Mexicans. Many of their descendants experience the publicized fate of Sankofa, many more the socially unacknowledged fate of the unidentified "Sankofas," whose innocence is not debatable. These were never arrested nor tried, but were sentenced by the willful forgetfulness or ignorance manufactured by U.S. civil and political culture, with its simpleminded morality of "good and bad," as exemplified by Margaret Mitchell's column "Blame is on Graham's head, not Bush's hands," (Opinion, June 26).

What makes the Sankofa assassination different is that it was official, sanctioned, acknowledged and approved by all players in the system. It was highly visible and occurred at a time when more people were questioning the process.

Unfortunately, the terms of the discussion brought to consciousness by the televised images of Sankofa's last day are woefully vulnerable. The two-sided and two-faced editorial policies of media coverage (both sides of which are determined by newsroom editors and by editorial boards, all of whom are privately employed and responsible for the profit of their enterprises first and foremost), limit rather than promote discussion.

The perfidious posing of a wannabe president, Gov. George W. Bush, who made an active moral choice to hide behind his lawyers' interpretation of the Texas Constitution, (itself a document based on the myth of the origins of Texas), was about looking presidential before the cameras as much as it was about the deadly, conservative side of his compassion.

He was the last man who could have saved Sankofa, but instead he invoked "justice." And justice in this system has always meant death, in the long run or in the short term, for minorities and the poor. But Bush's lethal posing isn't shocking. His father presided directly over the murderous CIA, now recognized as an international criminal, terrorist-producing agency by most of the civilized world. Why shouldn't the son govern murder in Texas prisons?

I would like to end this meditation upbeat, but I can't. When I drove to work the Friday after the assassination, with my lights on, I felt disgust. Self-loathing, too, and a deep frustration. The crimes of this society on its vulnerable members, who are the majority, remain unpunished and unacknowledged. Buffoons play at public figuring, parading their vacuous non-differences as issues.

The media and its retainers continue to guarantee a debate focused on scandal rather than substance when it comes to deciding whose dollar campaign will win the dollar democracy presidency coming live to a screen near you in November. And all the while, the humdrum and subjection to dire necessity that is most everyone's lived experience threatens what little spark of consciousness, what little outrage, may be kindled through the efforts of tiny groups and courageous, outspoken victims who do not go quietly.

This column was written by a UH staff member who preferred to remain anonymous. Feedback may be sent to dcougar@mail.uh.edu.


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