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June 20, 1980 - Image 4

Resource type:
Michigan Daily, 1980-06-20

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Page 4-Friday, June 20, 1980-The Michigan Daily
The Michigan faly
Ninety Years of Editorial Freedom
Edited and managed by students
at the University of Michigan ,
Illinois defeat
tragic for ERA
I T IS TRAGIC that such a basic guarantee of
equality should fall prey to the political
mangling that the ERA has faced in the 60 years
since the amendment was first proposed.
Wednesday's losing ERA vote in the Illinois
House of Representatives casts a gloomy shadow
over prospects for ERA ratification. A success in
Illinois would have been a strong show of support
that could have had major influence in unratified
states. But now, those Americans who believe the
law should treat both sexes equally face an almost
impossible task of convincing three more states to
ratify the amendment in the next two
years-before a June, 1982 deadline.
In Illinois-the only northern industrial state that
has not ratified the amendment-the ERA has been
the victim of alleged vote buying and political
bargaining. The Illinois House has defeated the
amendment seven times, and the Senate has
refused to approve the amendment four times.
Both chambers have ratified the era once, but the
positive votes were not consecutive.
The problems in Illinois are indicative of the
hassles the amendment has encountered. Plagued
by constant lies and half-truths from opponents,
supporters of equality have had an upward fight.
Anti-abortion and anti-gay forces have rallied
against the amendment, spreading horror stories
of what might happen if the law required that men
and women be treated equally. The ludicrous
statements of ERA opponents that passage of the
amendment would annihilate family life would
seem to suggest that sex discrimination is the cor-
nerstone of the American family.
During this crisis period for the ERA, it is im-
perative that the public-which, according to
opinion polls favors the amendment two- to- one
-elects leaders who will not be swayed by
ridiculous propaganda and will instead translate
this public statement into quick ratification.
0 0 q

Blacks' anger exploded wnen the legai system-often the only support open to minorues-netrayen nem
in Miami.
Blacks trust jstieo
American legal system,

America is one of the few
countries in the world where a By Joel Dreyfuss
court decision can provokea race law has also served to diminish
riot. The fact that an all-white the importance of black leaders.
jury's decision to acquit four When blacks were held in subser-
white policemen in the death of a vience by law, black leaders
black insurance salesman could emerged to argue the moral and
trigger the country's worst racial legal contraditctions of American
incident in more than a decade is society. The struggle was unified
testament to the in its opposition to an inferior
remarkable-almost naive- status for blacks which was an
faith that black Americans have obvious contradiction of the
in the law. ideals of the U.S. Constitution.
Many blacks view the law as BUT AS INCREASING, num-
their only protection against bers of blacks came under the
racism in America. They have no umbrella of constitutional gover-
illusions that justice in America nment, the role of black leader-
is meted out equally to all races ship became more diffused-and
and classes. But since the 1960s less effective. The conflict bet-
blacks have come to expect our ween white privilege and black
legal institutions to make some demands could be arbitrated in
reasonable efforts towards the the courts. When legislators
ideal of equal justice. lacked the courage to confront
THE LAW HAS been the most racial issues, the courts became
effective tool in the struggle for the arbitrator of last resort.
equality in the last two decades. There were no illusions about
Laws and legal decisions made it the quality of justice in the cour-
possible for blacks to vote, to ts, particularly at the local level.
elect each other to office, to at- The average black man or
tend integrated schools, to move woman who came into contact
out of ghettos, to eat, drink, dand with the court system quickly
sleep where they want, even to noticed its peculiar racial
use public toilets. ' characteristics. In most jurisdic-
A complex fabric of Supreme tions, the judges, lawyers, court
Court decisions, federal employees and law enforcement
legislation, executive decrees officials were all white. The
and administrative orders has defendants were primarily black.
enabled most blacks to live in a But even when injustice was
manner which approximates dispensed in a blatant manner,
rights taken for granted by the the black community could inter-
white middle class. Just as the pret the event as an individual
Brown decision of 1954 outlawed problem: a racist judge, an
the apartheid system that inadequate defense or some other
operated in the American South, explanation. There was always
the racial struggle in the 1960s the sense of an ability to appeal to
was shaped by a series of higher authority: state appeals
Supreme Court decisions that ex- courts, federal courts, or the U.S.
panded the ability to blacks to Supreme Court itself. At some
compete for jobs, to live in in- point, the defendants expected to
tegrated neighborhoods, and to find justice. That is why
move closer to full citizenship. In American prisons have a unique
the 1970s, the same pattern breed of jailhouse lawyers who
prevailed. The DeFunis, Bakke keep their law books next to the
and Weber Supreme Court Bible or the Koran.
decisions were at the heart of a THE KILLING OF Arthur Mc-
fundamental struggle over the Duffie has special importance to
distribution of economic and Miami blacks because he was a
educational opportunities. member of the black middle
~The-pendence on the role of class. The fact that his case went

to trial when other reports of
brutality did not had a great deal
to do with class. But if McDuffie
could not get justice from the
legal system, what hope could
there be for the men and women
at the bottom? When the legal
fabric collapsed and McDuffie's
alleged killers were set loose, the
fragile hopes of the underclass
were shattered. The myth that
justice would prevail-at least
for those who had lifted -them-
selves up from the lowest rungs
of our society-had been proven
Confronted with this reality,
blacks in Miami reacted by
retreating to the rage and fear
which is their legacy in America.
Those blacks whom the news
media regularly anoint as
leaders have spent much of the
last decade warning of unrest and
inequities in our society. But they
have been ignored. Now, white
Americans must, acknowledge
that the legal system is all that
stands between -them and the
frustrations of blacks.
BLACK'S FAITH in the law
may well be the reason why in the
last few decades of racial
struggle in this country there has
been relatively little bloodletting
compared with so many other
countries in the world torn apart
by civil strife. In the last ten.
years blacks have been able to
make the justice system more
responsive by integrating it or by
acquiring enough political power
to change it. In Detroit, for
example, a police force that was
six per cent black in 1967 is now 40
per cent black, primarily
because the black mayor,
Coleman Young, made a change
in the police force's composition
a priority.
Joel Dreyfuss is the editor of
Black Enterprise magazine.
He wrote this article for Pacific
Ne wsSerice....._



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