Sunday, June 24, 2018
Opinion

In court, color still matters

When I was a boy I remember a fateful day when my father, who was a lawyer, got a call from a client. His name was Ernie, and he was a plumber. A few days earlier, Ernie went into a building, lit his pipe and was enveloped in flames because of a gas leak. He was severely burned on his face and arms.

I also remember the day my father came home from court. He was jubilant. "How'd you do?" I asked. "Great!" he replied. "We got $100,000." Then he sighed, "I only wish he'd been white."

I never forgot those words uttered more than half a century ago. Despite significant gains by African-Americans in our society since then, the evidence indicates their lives are still not valued the same as whites by our legal system. A 1985 study of 9,000 cases in Cook County, Illinois, found black plaintiffs received three-fourths of the awards of whites in tort cases. Law professor Jennifer Wiggins analyzed disparities in damages awarded to blacks and whites in tort settlements between 1865 and 2007 and concluded "race and racism have affected the calculation of African-American claimants."

Courts have traditionally relied on race and gender-based tables as guides for establishing damages in tort cases, but this works to the disadvantage of African-Americans because their life expectancy, wages and lifetime earnings are below whites. Law professor Martha Chamallas concluded after reviewing this issue that race- and gender-based tables result in significantly lower awards for minority men and women.

The inflammatory rhetoric surrounding the Trayvon Martin case should not distract us from a critical analysis of the institutional biases that persist in our society against people of color and women. Regardless of the outcome of this case, it should serve as a catalyst for needed discussion about the issues of racism and sexism — subjects that will keep resurfacing as long as they are denied and neglected.

H. Roy Kaplan was the executive director of the National Conference of Christians and Jews for Tampa Bay. His most recent book is "The Myth of Post-Racial America."

Comments
Editorial: Handing out gift cards like candy at CareerSource

Editorial: Handing out gift cards like candy at CareerSource

Itís hard to pick the biggest outrage in the financial and ethical swamp that has swallowed Tampa Bayís two primary job placement agencies, CareerSource Pinellas and CareerSource Tampa Bay. Is it the boiler room atmosphere where CareerSource recruite...
Published: 06/21/18
Updated: 06/22/18

Family separation crisis is not over

The family-separation crisis that President Donald Trump created is not over. The executive order Trump signed Wednesday purporting to end the routine tearing of children from their undocumented parents stands on uncertain legal ground. U.S. border a...
Published: 06/21/18
Updated: 06/22/18
Editorial: State help needed to staff hotlines with veterans helping veterans

Editorial: State help needed to staff hotlines with veterans helping veterans

Veterans can help veterans deal with trauma resulting from military service in a way no one else can. Thatís the theory behind a special hotline set up in the Tampa Bay area that proponents are hoping to take statewide.The expansion would cost some $...
Published: 06/21/18
Updated: 06/22/18
Editorial: With Supreme Court ruling, Florida should collect sales tax from online retailers

Editorial: With Supreme Court ruling, Florida should collect sales tax from online retailers

It turns out the U.S. Supreme Court has a better grasp of the economic realities of the 21st century than Congress or the Florida Legislature. The court ruled Thursday that states can require online retailers to collect sales taxes even if the retail...
Published: 06/21/18
Updated: 06/22/18
Editorial: Congress should ban splitting kids, parents

Editorial: Congress should ban splitting kids, parents

The shocking scenes of immigrant children crying after being taken from their parents at the border exposed a new level of cruelty by the Trump administration, and though the president reversed course Wednesday, Congress needs to end the shameful pra...
Published: 06/21/18
Sessions kickstarts action on marijuana

Sessions kickstarts action on marijuana

Good job, Jeff Sessions! It seems the attorney generalís misguided attempts to revive the unpopular and unjust federal war on marijuana may be having the exact opposite effect ó prompting a new bipartisan effort in Congress to allow states to legaliz...
Published: 06/18/18
Updated: 06/21/18
Editorial: A court victory for protecting Floridaís environment

Editorial: A court victory for protecting Floridaís environment

A Tallahassee judge has affirmed the overwhelming intent of Florida voters by ruling that state lawmakers have failed to comply with a constitutional amendment that is supposed to provide a specific pot of money to buy and preserve endangered lands. ...
Published: 06/18/18
Updated: 06/20/18
Editorial: Trump should stop taking children away from parents at the border

Editorial: Trump should stop taking children away from parents at the border

Innocent children should not be used as political pawns. That is exactly what the Trump administration is doing by cruelly prying young children away from their parents as these desperate families cross the Mexican border in search of a safer, better...
Published: 06/17/18
Updated: 06/19/18

Editorial: ATF should get tougher on gun dealers who violate the law

Gun dealers who break the law by turning a blind eye to federal licensing rules are as dangerous to society as people who have no right to a possess a firearm in the first place. Yet a recent report shows that the federal agency responsible for polic...
Published: 06/17/18
Updated: 06/18/18
Editorial: Encouraging private citizens to step up on transit

Editorial: Encouraging private citizens to step up on transit

The new grass-roots effort to put a transportation package before Hillsborough County voters in November faces a tough slog. Voters rejected a similar effort in 2010, and another in 2016 by elected officials never made it from the gate. But the lates...
Published: 06/15/18