Harvard scholar Henry Louis Gates Jr. has spent much of his life studying the complex history of race and culture in America, but until last week he had never had the experience that has left so many black men questioning the criminal justice system.
Dr. Gates is in for an eye-opening journey through he annals of of criminal justice policy and practices. I hope that he follows through on his proposed documentary. And I hope that we learn more about stupid policies and practices based on race while addressing a question ignored far too long - why are lower-class people (and people of color) over-represented in the criminal justice system?
One place to start is an examination of race sand the death penalty. The research is quite clear - race of the victim is a predictor of who gets (and who doesn't) a death sentence. The history of rape and capital punishment is even more rife with racial discrimination.
One of the motivations for studying the death penalty is to place it in a larger context and learn more about a society that embraces it despite its adverse impact on poor people and people of color. But that is the legacy of the entire criminal justice system.