American Slavery: History or Memory? My Jewish Perspective

American Slavery: History or Memory? My Jewish Perspective

Originally featured in The Times of Israel
Photo by Shauli Bar-On

As a proud Jew, I am committed to the principle of the presumption of innocence and defending the disenfranchised, the condemned and even the guilty. I find this consistent with Judaism’s teachings (Abraham bargains with G-d like a used-car salesman over sparing the innocent in Sodom, and Moses eventually begs G-d to spare the guilty Israelites after the sin of the golden calf) and my inner core senses that affording everyone the opportunity to defend themselves is the moral, ethical, and right thing to do.

I watched Bryan Stevenson’s “True Justice” documentary on HBO when it premiered last week, and I read his book “Just Mercy” a year ago. Both works are phenomenal and serve as an essential education for those unfamiliar with the inner workings of the United States criminal (in)justice system. It takes a tremendous amount of ignorance not to see that the United States is far from affording all citizens with equal protection as the Constitution guarantees. As Stevenson explained in his documentary, this is partially because the United States has never formally acknowledged its wrongdoing in orchestrating the root cause of racial inequality: slavery.

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