Racial barriers still exist

Published 12:00 am Friday, August 17, 2007

To Mr. Michael Benefiel:

I am glad that you saw the best side of Selma. Selma does have many assets, thanks to the people in the black and white community, including the mayor.

You applauded the mayor and encouraged him to keep serving. Please encourage him to address the problems in our police department and municipal court.

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Police harassment of black citizens remains a major problem.

Recently, an elderly black man and his grandson were attacked and the officers are still on the force.

An integrated jury awarded two young black men $310,000 because of police misconduct and under the mayor’s leadership, white lawyers were hired to appeal the verdict.

Most revealing and disturbing is the racial make up of city court. The chief judge is a white woman who has had police arrest two black lawyers in her courtroom.

She convicted a young black man for a crime without allowing him to testify.

When his lawyer objected, she had an officer arrest her and charge her with a crime.

By the way, she is one of the attorneys hired by the mayor and council to appeal the $310,000 judgement that offered some justice to young men assaulted by the police.

The prosecutor is the same white man who served for years under Joe Smitherman.

Even the chief clerk is white in a court where 98 percent of the defendants are African-American. Most of the judges in the Black Belt are Caucasian.

When a black mayor and council had the opportunity to diversify, they also placed questionable white people in places to render justice to black citizens.

People marched and died for change, but sometimes it seems that injustice in the Selma Police Department and city court has not changed.

I don’t think it will change until we change leadership and elect people who are committed to giving justice to everyone, even the “least of these.”

Forest Kimbrough

Marion Junction