The Criminal Justice Lessons Of Du Bois

W. E. B. Du Bois
William Anderson
October 28, 2020

When a scholar like W.E.B. Du Bois teaches, we should take note. Fortunately, he left us with some key insights, often ignored, that can be applied to one of modern Black America’s biggest obstacles.

“The slave went free; stood a brief moment in the sun; then moved back again toward slavery.”

Emancipation didn’t completely free us. This quote from “Black Reconstruction” warns that there’s a difference between abolition and reform. Slavery became convict leasing and ultimately became the prison system.

“The accused law-breaker is tried ... by men who would rather punish ten innocent Negroes than let one guilty one escape.”

The system isn’t failing us, it’s doing what it was designed to do. Du Bois told us so in “The Souls of Black Folk” well over 100 years ago.

“...If America is ever to become a government built on the broadest justice to every citizen, then every citizen must be enfranchised.” 

Du Bois wrote this in “Darkwater.” Black people are still being disenfranchised and excluded from needed resources. Justice doesn’t exist until this isn’t the case.

Daily the Negro is coming more and more to look upon law and justice, not as protecting safeguards, but as sources of humiliation and oppression. The laws are made by men who have little interest in him.”

How can a system that was not designed with Black liberation in mind free Black people?

“Rule-following, legal precedence, and political consistency are not more important than right, justice and plain common-sense.”

Reflecting on the Civil War, Du Bois points out the unconstitutionality of the conflict that upended slavery. When laws and established rules are unjust, breaking them can bring change.

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