Tarris Woods is to be thanked for his service as a police officer, but his grasp of history, the Constitution and economics is flawed.
He reflects the “reality” of his experience as a man of color. I reflect mine as well. While Woods, without doubt, had slave ancestors, I have none. I have no ancestors who fought to free Woods’ ancestors. My ancestors migrated to the United States from the Grand Duchy of Finland in the 1880s.
They moved west from New York to Michigan and eventually settled in West Central Minnesota, where diversity was Protestant and Catholic white folks living next to each other. Does either Woods’ experience or mine make one of us more virtuous than the other? I doubt it.
The 13th Amendment outlawed slavery, but there was no specific “exception clause” as Woods writes (“Congress must repeal deadly ‘citizen’s arrest’ law,” The Daily News, Dec. 25-26). The wording I believe Woods refers to simply says “ … except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted … .”
Anyone with a knowledge of the Reconstruction and post-Reconstruction South — unfortunately, too few people — knows that the convict leasing system was a problem in the South. The system was used throughout the country, being written by Unionist politicians, not Southern Democrats, then excluded from Congress, however.
The problem continued into the middle of the 20th century as seen in Paul Newman’s movie “Cool Hand Luke,” which famously illustrated prison farm abuse. Convict labor wasn’t just a Black problem.
By the way, prison labor continues to this day.
We find the concept of citizen’s arrest in English Common Law. It has no specific antecedent in Jim Crow racialism. That an ancient practice was misused in a racialist manner doesn’t mean it’s racist, per se. If Woods desires citizen’s arrest to be abolished, advocate for that outcome using present experience, not the past.
To paraphrase what Jefferson unwisely said, “the present belongs to the living, the dead have no claim on the present.”
As for present-day experience, the Ahmaud Arbery case isn’t the ideal case on which to build. Arbery, now dead without claim to the present according to Jefferson, had trespassed in building sites previously.
What the guilty parties in the case did had no excuse, but because the case was presented as a case of racialist animus, many people will reflexively reject the outcome as an example of “racial payback,” when it was an excellent example of the American justice system working as designed. Justice was “colorblind” in this case.
Finally, Woods conflates what seems to be Black Lives Matter anti-capitalist sentiment with past racial injustice is economic foolishness. That poor people of all races and ethnicities exist isn’t proof of the so-called evils of capitalism. It’s just the opposite.
No sane person of African descent would move to the United States if the nation were irredeemably hostile to people of color without hope of economic advancement. Please explain that to the Haitians, desperate to move here.