I never ever thought I'd experience the humiliation Black folk felt in the Deep South, forced to ride in the back of the bus, but today, in Federal Court in Brooklyn, New York, U.S.A. on the first day of the Charles 'I-didn't-do-anything-to-Abner-Louima' Schwarz trial, I got the full-force brunt of what it means to be 'Black and in the Back.'
At 8:25am seven of us early-arrivers were led by Deputy Marshall Jaime Morales into 225 Tillary Street Federal Court, as New York's Press Corps stood behind hastily-erected barricades (the first time they were backed up that far into the nearby park), watching us being herded up to the metal detectors. When we arrived at the courtroom door, we were met by "Debbie," another Deputy Marshall who, in response to our queries about the fact that of five rows of seats, only one was 'for the public,' and that one was in the very back - holding only about ten persons on each side of the courtroom, said, that the "...seating is according to the judge...I have nothing to do with the seating...!" "This is outrageous!" - one older Black woman said as she took one of the seats upfrom "Scott," the tall white male Manhattan attorney, who had arrived at 7:10am - the very first 'member of the public' on the scene. "Why did you come here today?" -he was asked. "I came because it's an important case - an important issue." "Which is?" "Police conduct."
The case is about a Black man, Haitian Abner Louima, who was sodomized by now-jailed cop Justin Volpe and, as prosecution stated in the opening remarks, held down for the sodomizing by
Charles Scwarz. Incredibly, the young white (in fact, all of the gallery, including the judge was white) female prosecution attorney stated emphatically to the jury that "...this case is not about Black or white..." - (So why say that?) The jury was comprised of eight white males, two Black males and two white females - this in
"This is such a farce!" said one Black spectator in an audience of approximately 114 whites, where only 16 obvious- Blacks were allowed. Lynch of the PBA, Steve Dunleavy (without the usual odor of stale alcohol) from a local newspaper rag, ex-politician from Staten Island, Guy Molinari, sitting next to Schwarz's wife, was there, large as life after putting up his own house as collateral for Schwarz. Defense attorney Fischetti was overheard asking "Debbie" - Deputy Marshall, for extra seats for "...some of my law students..."
The sign, reserving some of the seats..."Reserved for the official Press," made me wonder what
group comprised the ' un - official' Press. I asked the big fat white male guard squatting in the end seat his name..."We don't give our names," he growled. The all-white court players reminded me of nothing less than the expression - "...unearned privilege of white skin color...." As the Prosecution completed her opening address, an old Black woman in the back of the (bus) courtroom sat with her face solemn, tears coursing down her face - the scene, redolent of the 'Good Ol' South, humiliating, nauseating, insufferable, tragic and outrageous taking us "minorities" right straight back into history fifty years.
Just - US in