American schools should require black studies for all students, Bruce M. Wright, a black criminal judge from New York City, said last night in a lecture about his judicial experiences.
Speaking before about 30 people at Harvard's Afro-American Center, Wright said white Americans know nothing about blacks and so they have had to invent "legends about them which have seeped into the judicial system."
This "ignorance and stupidity" amounts to a "crime against the criminals," Wright said. Prejudices lead to uneven sentencing, and invariably hurt minority defendants, he said.
As an example of injustices in the judicial system, Wright cited the case of a policeman who, at a range of three feet, allegedly mistook a ten-year-old child for an adult robbery suspect and shot and killed the child.
The police officer who killed the child testified that he fired upon seeing the color of the child's skin, Wright said, but an almost-all-white jury acquitted him of murder charges.
A colleague of this policeman allegedly lied under oath about the shooting, but the police department presented a police-radio tape recording that showed the colleague was covering up, Wright said.
A middle-class black woman on the jury went along with the verdict, Wright said, adding that in his eight years as a judge he has learned that a middle-class black will never "offend the establishment."
The same problem exists with most black judges, Wright said. They do not "make waves" because there are too few black judges, and because many do not want to jeopardize their $50,000-a-year salaries, he said.
Wright said some people have dubbed him "Turn 'Em Loose Bruce," and more recently, "Civil Wright" because of his opinion that it is not the criminals--but society--which should be rehabilitated.
In response to a student's question about how he can continue to fight against such entrenched opposition, Wright said he has hope that racism will be lessened, if only grudgingly.