Letters for the week of June 1-7, 2005 

Patrick McCullough takes on Uhuru House; readers muse on race and jury selection; a Chateau resident disparages the bourgeois; and Randy Ward's detractors have more to say.

"Baiting the 59th Street Vigilante," East Side Story, April 27

Who's the bigger problem?
Most people have a good feel for what happened, so I won't get into the facts anymore here. However, one thing should not escape the readers: With my detractors as example, the adage holds, a fool and their folly are not soon parted.

It's hard to know who's the bigger problem: the hoodlums who despoil the sacrifices of those who fought and/or died for civil rights, or the perpetual victim enablers and poverty pimps whose only idea of an acceptable black man is one groveling on his knees or in need of their help. People like Ms. Snyder and her cohorts seem comfortable only with those they can pity and feel superior to, like the criminal and uneducated who might fall for their ridiculous rhetoric. When they run into people like me -- who read Lenin, Mao, Malcolm, and Fanon before belated cultists like her solidarity group began marketing their self-deceit -- they are at a loss to explain the incongruence in what they had thought was logic. Instead, they revert to lies and more rhetoric.

By their lead we should: Ignore the deaths caused by drug dealing and hoodlum activities and blame it on the civic-minded homeowner. Don't see sideshows as dangerous, for they are only an expression of boredom. Believe that failure to do homework isn't really a sure way to stay ignorant and impoverished, it's really just a step to being a recording artist.

Black people should know that with solidarity committees composed of people she allies with, there is no need for a greater enemy.
Patrick Kevin McCullough, Oakland

"Jury Rigged?," Feature, 5/4

Blind justice indeed
Will Harper's excellent article on jury selection and peremptory challenges reminded me of a jury experience in Richmond some years ago. The defendant was a young man of brown skin, perhaps Latino, perhaps Filipino. I was amazed to observe the defense attorney, an inexperienced young white woman with little to recommend her but her legs -- which she apparently believed were an asset -- using her peremptory challenges to bump black after black potential juror. What gives? The accusing party turned out to be a black policeman. The irony of this course was that the two black women on the jury presented no problem in coming to a rapid decision in favor of the young defendant, while the two holdouts were both white men.

I had identified these guys as potential problems while we were standing in the hall, before the jury was seated. One was a little milquetoast who was reading American Rifleman (the publication of the NRA). The other was a sweaty, beer-barrel guy in a dirty, ill-fitting polo shirt: you knew all that sweat was the product of too much liquor and too much rage. In deliberation, Milquetoast folded easily, but Sweaty held out for a while against all our persuasions, because he "just knew" that the defendant was in the wrong. However, we finally reached a unanimous verdict of acquittal, thereby no doubt confirming in the defense attorney's mind that her use of the peremptory challenge had been justified.
Jeffrey M. Dickemann, Richmond

DNA: Do not assassinate
In reporting on the issue of jury weeding, there were two missing factors. One was the short shrift given to African-American women. The other was the question, unasked and unanswered: why? Why Jewish people and African-American women?

I cannot speak to the motives of a body of people, and I am no scholar of Jewish law. But while preparing for an appeal of sentence back in the days when the Religious Freedom Reformation Act protected and respected religious legal systems far beyond those of the Christian right, I came across this useful information regarding Judaic law on capital punishment. Witnesses in capital cases are held to an extraordinarily high standard. If a witness' testimony is influential in a guilty verdict, and if there was the slightest doubt or the tiniest error in that testimony, the witness is forever after responsible for the extinction of the defendant's line. Is this widely known by the population? I doubt it. But perhaps we have elements of "do not assassinate" in our DNA.

Another insight that may be of interest, particularly to American Jewish men and women in the eighteen-to-forty age group, dates back to the Vietnam era when a Judaic court ruled that Jewish law does support draft resistance. Though the act itself is long gone in the land of the free, we may soon learn if, in practice, it remains in the home of the slave.
Sarah Seeds, Berkeley

Thanks but no thanks
Thank you for your stories on anti-Semitism at UC Berkeley and the charges that Jews are excluded from capital juries in Alameda County. These are both issues of great concern to the Anti-Defamation League and have not been thoroughly examined by other media.

I also appreciate your apology for printing an offensive stereotypical caricature of a Jewish man being lifted out of the jury box on the May 4 cover. The artist could have made his point without using crude stereotypes. Such visual depictions have justified anti-Semitic attitudes, defamation, and discrimination over the years. Please continue to explore significant and often untold stories without resorting to eye-catching but offensive graphics.
Jonathan Bernstein, regional director, Anti-Defamation League, San Francisco

"A Tale of Two Animal Houses," City of Warts, 5/4

Bourgeois 1, activists 0
As a resident of Le Chateau I resent, first of all, the association with a bunch of idiot frat boys and secondly the accusation that, unlike them, we have not struggled to keep our house alive. This struggle with the neighbors has been going on for fifteen years, and their victory is a sad indictment of how much power bourgeois homeowners have over the city and, even more incredibly, over the board of the USCA. I am sure that in the face of such opposition the frat would have folded long ago.

Chateau, situated as it is on a fairly quiet residential street, is a far easier target for those wanting to suburbify Berkeley than a frat house surrounded by other frats. We did fight, we just lost -- indeed, it was in part our association with Barrington that sealed our fate. I know I sound bitter because that is what I am, so please don't rub salt in the wounds by suggesting we just rolled over and gave up, because we didn't. Otherwise, your article was far more sympathetic than most, and I thank you for that. You should come check out our farewell party.
Fred Morgan, Berkeley

"The Caustic Reformer," Feature, 4/27


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