2 black women, 2 high-profile cases: Scales of injustice?

Two black women in different parts of the country were railing about injustices in the judicial system, both fierce in defense of their loved ones, their outrage palpable. Both had been largely silent, no doubt cautious not to say the wrong thing while the cases were ongoing. But then their dammed-up emotions came spilling out like a cumulative hurricane:

I was out doing my usual Saturday running around when it struck me how their lives and back stories couldn’t be more different. Yet there they both were, seemingly united in their frustrations with a judicial system that they say failed the men in their lives, African American men.

“The system continues to fail black people,” declared Valerie Castile after a jury found that the police officer who killed her son was not guilty. “My son loved this city, and this city killed my son, and the murderer gets away! Are you kidding me right now?”

She was even more outspoken and also profane in a Facebook Live video posted that day.

Castile was in a car with his girlfriend and a child when pulled over by police, reportedly because he had a brake light problem. His girlfriend recorded the bloody aftermath of the encounter in a Facebook Live post that stunned the nation. Thousands took to the streets in the days following.

Valerie Castile, mother of Philando Castile, at a news conference in St. Paul, Minn. 

 

In Norristown on Saturday, a statement attributed to Camille Cosby was read aloud by a spokeswoman. It said in part, “How do I describe the district attorney? Heinously and exploitively ambitious. How do I describe the judge? Overtly arrogant in collaborating with the district attorney. How do I describe the counsels for the accusers? Totally unethical. How do I describe many, but not all, general media? Blatantly vicious entities that continually disseminated intentional omissions of truth for the primary purpose of greedily selling sensationalism at the expense of a human life.”

I never suspected that Camille, who escorted her husband of 53 years into the courthouse last week wearing an oddly bright smile, had so much fire. Her image all these years has always been one of cool, detached refinement. Outwardly, she gives the impression of being above the fray, as the saying goes. But in the statement, she swung hard, declaring, “Truth can be subdued but not destroyed.”

But who’s really to say that those are even Camille’s actual words? A publicist could easily have penned them, clumsy phrasing and all. After all, Bill Cosby has been largely silent as dozens of women from around the country stepped forward to lob nasty allegations against the man once known affectionately as America’s Dad. Now Camille is expressing her “humongous gratitude” and using non-words such as “exploitively?” It strikes me as odd.

Camille and Bill Cosby arriving at the Montgomery County Courthouse on June 12. DAVID MAIALETTI / Staff Photographer

Her husband’s case involving 2004 drugging and sex abuse allegations by Andrea Constand, a former Temple University athletics employee, ended in a mistrial Saturday after a jury deliberated for five days but failed to reach a verdict. The Montgomery County district attorney announced plans to retry the case. That could be months away, though.

I’m sure the statement hasn’t won Camille fans in the courthouse.

Meanwhile, the wounded cry out. And people everywhere pause and ask, “What just happened here?”  Cosby’s case may have ended in a mistrial, but nobody won. Same as with the former police officer, Jeronimo Yanez, who was found not guilty on Friday of second-degree manslaughter in the Castile case in Minnesota.

Thousands understandably upset about the verdict took to the streets on Friday in protest. The demonstration was mostly peaceful but police arrested 18 protesters. This is far from over, as long as the people whom police are supposed to serve feel victimized. Same thing with the accusers who feel victimized by Bill Cosby.

Black people in this country have always complained that the scales of justice are weighted against them. The Cosby and Castile cases couldn’t be more different, yet the emotional words of two African American women show that we still have a long way to go to change that perception.

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