Bench & Bar

SEP 2018

The Bench & Bar magazine is published to provide members of the KBA with information that will increase their knowledge of the law, improve the practice of law, and assist in improving the quality of legal services for the citizenry.

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| SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2018 6 U pon reading this quote at the Legacy Museum in Montgomery, Ala., we initially recoiled at this bold accu- sation against our profession. Without the legal system and lawyers, there could not have been a civil rights movement. How- ever, upon reflection (and a quick Google search of the statistics and data related to race and criminal justice) we knew the accusation was legitimate. Erica and I were in Montgomery, Alabama with the ACLU of Kentucky for the Peace and Justice Summit presented by the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI). EJI is an organiza- tion founded by attorney Bryan Stevenson, committed to ending mass incarceration and excessive punishment, challenging racial and economic injustice, and protecting basic human rights for the most vulner- able people in American society. We also visited the new Legacy Museum, which explains the connections from the domestic slave trade, racial terrorism, the Jim Crow South to mass incarceration. e poignancy of these links cannot be understated. In addition, we were some of the first vis- itors to the National Memorial for Peace and Justice, an artistic and impactful space remembering victims of lynchings in the United States. We have studied Ameri- can history and we knew about lynchings. We had seen the disgusting antique post- cards of bodies hanging from trees sent from giddy onlookers to their relatives and friends. We knew the story of Mary Turner, a pregnant woman ripped apart by a mob in Georgia. What we did not fully appreciate was how powerfully such racism and dehumanization has clung to our col- lective American psyche. e ideas about the lack of humanness of Black people that allowed a family to attend a lynching with their children and a picnic lunch continue to persist. It is the often unrecognized per- sistence of these narratives that compel us to write this letter to the editor today. LETTER from: SOHA SAIYED and ERICA BINDER-WOOTEN After visiting the Museum and Memorial, we were motivated to organize a bus trip of lawyers and judges from Kentucky to visit these places. Why Kentucky? Besides the obvious (Erica and I are from here) the history speaks for itself: between 1877 and 1950, there were more than 150 doc- umented lynchings in over 60 counties. We do not think of ourselves as a Deep South state and the negative associations that often accompany that term. But, Ken- tucky was a slave state; at the beginning of the Civil War, it is estimated that more than 200,000 people were enslaved here. Kentucky was in the top 10 of states with the highest number of slaves and lynchings. LETTER TO THE EDITOR " The most insidious tool of racial discrimination throughout the era of racial terror and its aftermath, the criminal justice system remains the institution in American life least impacted by the Civil Rights movement, and the system's endorsement of racially biased narratives has never been meaningfully confronted. Understanding how today's criminal justice crisis is rooted in our country's history of racial injustice requires truthfully facing that history and its legacy. " to the Editor

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