Terrol Spruell, 50, a crack offender from Virginia Beach, Va., is a smart, articulate observer of society. I first talked to Terrol in 1993 when the one-time Virginia State University senior was featured in a story about racially discriminatory crack cocaine sentences.
Recently, Terrol sent me his perspective on the recent killings of three unarmed black men. This good man and non-violent offender won’t be released until 2021. I’m honored to publish his writing. — Dennis Cauchon, editor
By Terrol Spruell
In light of the recent deaths of Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown and Eric Garner, many people in the Afro American community and around the world are upset with the racial overtones these events suggest.
As a member of the Afro American community and as a federal prisoner, I am well aware of the double standard of justice that Afro Americans receive.
Afro Americans make up 13% of the U.S. population yet nearly 40% of the total U.S. prison population.
Yes, it is a statistical fact that Afro Americans receive longer sentences across the board for the same crimes whites in America commit. (Many white people do not know or believe this fact.)
In light of this, I am going to present a few incidents when white America has determined that justice has been served while those of us within the Afro American community strongly disagree and believe the system has let us down again.
Killing dogs vs. killing black men
Michael Vick, a multi-million dollar superstar athlete, was indicted for dog fighting and the killing of some of his dogs. America in general was not pleased with his behavior.
But we can safely say that white America and PETA were very vocal about wanting him to be indicted, prosecuted and sent to prison for his behavior. And, as we know, he was.
Can you recall anyone else being sent to federal prison for dog fighting?
Yet Trayvon Martin, a black unarmed teenager, can be racially profiled and stalked by a white unauthorized neighborhood watch officer as he returns home from buying tea and Skittles and be murdered by this white man.
Yes, people in the Afro American community want to know straight up how a million dollar athlete can be sent to prison for fighting and killing dogs, but the killer of an unarmed black teenager can be allowed to go free.
The value of a black life
It’s safe to say that members of the Afro American community do not have a lot of faith in the U.S. justice system.
In the United States, we put a major emphasis on statistics when it comes to crimes, violence, presidential approval ratings, unemployment numbers and the percentage of wounded veterans able to get quality care at VA hospitals.
Yet when it comes to acknowledging that Afro Americans are being incarcerated more frequently and for longer periods of time than white men, these staggering numbers are ignored.
In the Afro American community, there is a strong feeling that white America has tried to demoralize and reduce a blackman’s life and/or worth as if it is nothing of value.
The role of history
In America, we love to talk about our good history but, in the Afro American community, we feel like the slavery model is till being applied but just with more modernized methods (sometimes).When blacks were brought to America as slaves, many/most of the men were married with children. The majority of the men were separated from their families and/or sold to other slave owners. The thinking was if you remove the man from his family (tribes) then you could more easily control the women and children.
When the government created a government-supported housing program, many black families in need of stable housing jumped at the chance. Part of the deal was that our husbands/fathers would not be allowed to live with the family. This was a big step in the demise of the black family.
The war on drugs also has destroyed the black family even more.
A black man’s worth today
The disregard for a blackman’s life continues to go on even in 2015.
Yes, Michael Brown did something stupid in the store. But the encounter with the police officer is hard to understand.
Officer Darren Wilson stated that he felt his life was in danger. But how can that be the case when Michael Brown was over 100 feet away when he was shot and killed?
Lastly, Eric Garner was choked and killed by a white police officer in New York City for simply selling cigarettes on the sidewalk.
In each of these cases, it was a fight to even get prosecutors to put forth the evidence to a grand jury. In each of the incidents, nobody went to prison.
What’s it all mean?
I understand when white people say we get so upset when a white person kills an Afro American but we do it to each other all the time — or that we’ve killed each other more than the Klan ever did.
No doubt we need to do a much better job within our own community and, yes, we should complain even louder about black on black violence.
But the criminal justice system does not fail to prosecute or imprison blacks who kill blacks (or whites).
Maybe I see it all wrong … but until someone can help me to see and understand otherwise, then, yes, I do feel like a blackman’s life is not looked upon as being worth the same as a white person’s or even an animal’s.