When I talked about bias in my previous post about the De Anza rape case I'm sure some people told themselves that biases cannot cause a horrific crime to be unchargeable.
But to see the impact of biases on not only criminal cases, but on crime itself, read this blog post over at Deliberations about the jury selection process in the federal trial of James Seale for kidnapping and murdering two black teenagers, Charles Moore and Henry Dee, in 1964.
The underlying facts in this case are the same as they were in 1964. What has changed is the pervasiveness of the bias which supported this type of crime. I'm sure many of those who held attitudes which made prosecution impossible in 1964 blamed the victims for doing something they shouldn't have done. Others, both black and white, who knew that these actions were wrong knew that this violence could quickly be directed at them.
Thanks to the sacrifices of many people, this bias isn't as pervasive as it was in 1964, but it isn't gone completely. It pops it's ugly head up during various cases where other biases give it an opening. Despite those who said the backlash against the alleged victim in the Duke case had nothing to do with race, almost all of the vile comments sent to my blog about the case were soaked in racial bias which gloried in the prospect of that woman's present and future sufferings. They knew she deserved that suffering not because of the evidence but because of who she was. Any evidence -- or lack thereof -- didn't speak to this particular event, it spoke to all women like this one and to all women who didn't instantly condemn her.
The bias was front and center yet many of those who knew about these vile racially charged statements continued to insist that bias wasn't involved and insisted that the vilest of those who agreed with them should simply be dismissed as if they never existed. We often see the same call to simply ignore those who accuse those openly opposed to rape as hate-filled people and who say to rape survivors, "may you be raped again."
The vilest examples of bias shouldn't be ignored or seen as signifying nothing. These attitudes impact crime and justice. It isn't anger alone which should be judged since there is a clear difference between anger which excuses murder and anger over the commission of murder.
Those who murdered blacks were often excused because they were otherwise good people. The victims of racial violence were often painted as dangerous or foolish people who deserved little sympathy because they brought the suffering down on themselves.
Just as in murder trials, rape cases reveal the pervasive biases in a society which lets us know which rapes are tolerated and which are not. Those who are deciding whether or not to commit a crime ARE listening and a change in bias creates a change in criminal activity. Many people want to commit the crime but only when they are fairly certain they can get away with it.
Change the bias, change the world.