It’s the logic that allowed a large section of Britain to dismiss both the shooting of an unarmed Mark Duggan in London and then the misleading of the public, because of Duggan’s “criminal record” and “criminal connections”. “Duggan was a gangster not Nelson Mandela,” wrote the Daily Mail’s Richard Littlejohn, ignoring the fact that even if he was, he would still be entitled to a fair trial rather than summary execution.
This is less of an esoteric point than it might first appear. A study last week revealed that almost 50% of black men in the US under the age of 23 have been arrested; that’s roughly the same percentage as black boys who fail to graduate with their appropriate year group. Meanwhile, almost one in 10 young black men are behind bars. Born in the poorest areas, herded into the worst schools, policed, judged and sentenced in the most discriminatory fashion, by the time African American men reach manhood the odds have been heavily stacked against them. Many have less than stellar credentials. That does not give the state the right to strip them of their manhood or deprive them of their human rights and dignity.