The Edmond Sun


July 12, 2013

HEY HINK: Racial bias has no place in courtrooms

EDMOND — This week marks the 53rd anniversary of the publication of Harper Lee’s masterpiece “To Kill a Mockingbird.” Some people regard this book as one of the most important literary treatments of racial issues ever written. In light of some unpleasant racial dynamics coursing through America’s social bloodstream, it might be good to revisit this groundbreaking novel.

We all remember the story. Tom Robinson, a black man, is accused of committing a violent attack on a white woman. As soon as the allegation becomes public, a prejudiced segment of society pronounces Tom guilty. Those so eager to convict have no interest in hearing Tom’s side of the story. To their biased minds, he is condemned simply because he is black and the victim is white.

These people see no need to wait for a trial. They had no interest in hearing the evidence. No matter how persuasive the facts, no matter how obvious the truth, they won’t be shaken from their self-righteous certainty that the white victim must be believed and the black defendant must be guilty.

To their shallow minds, they are justified in ignoring the safeguards of the law. They decide to lynch Tom without wasting time hearing the facts or allowing the judicial system to take its course. Tom’s life is saved — temporarily — when the lynch mob, “through the mouth of babes” is brought face-to-face with the sorry nature of its cowardly behavior.

But Tom’s ordeal doesn’t end when the lynch mob disbands. At his trial, any fair-minded person hearing the evidence would certainly conclude the state hadn’t and couldn’t establish guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. But the burden of proof is no obstacle to racial bigots. They hear only what they want to hear. The only evidence they credit is evidence that conforms to their preconceived notion that Tom is guilty. They seize on testimony that is inherently unbelievable offered by witnesses who are patently unreliable and biased. They are blind and deaf to anything that points to Tom’s innocence.

In the end, an innocent man is found guilty, not because he committed the crime, but because he is the victim of racially biased public opinion.

Harper Lee intends for the reader to be outraged and heartbroken at the terrible injustice of a life destroyed when racial prejudice predetermines outcome and blinds people to the truth. Any fair-minded person who reads this book must surely agree that racial bias — of any kind — has no legitimate place in rendering conclusions on matters of guilt or innocence. It would be just as wrong for a white defendant to be convicted because of his race as it was to convict Tom Robinson because of his.

Make no mistake. Those bigots who were so quick to cry out for Tom Robinson’s blood were convinced they were right. This is the disgusting nature of prejudice. It is blind to its own inherent evil.

Many of the most outspoken racists on the American scene today would deny the fact that they are racist. They are so busy pointing out the biased motes in the eyes of others, that they can’t see the racial beams in their own.

Those racists who are willing to acknowledge the fact to justify their prejudice by making arguments that fall under the rubric of “two wrongs make a right.” In other words, because a segment of society was racist and committed wrongful acts, it’s OK to use race as a bludgeon to punish their descendants. But racial justification for punishing others is wrong — no matter whom the punisher is.

I couldn’t help but think of To Kill a Mockingbird as I observed the emotional maelstrom sweeping George Zimmerman toward judgment. There is an aggressive and vocal segment of society that reached a judgment on Zimmerman’s guilt on the strength of race alone. These people would accept nothing short of a murder charge without regard to the underlying facts.

At trial, it is obvious that many observers are totally oblivious to any evidence tending to prove Mr. Zimmerman’s innocence. They are so emotionally invested in seeing him convicted that they refuse to see and hear any fact inconsistent with that outcome.

It would be a sad day in America if law enforcement officers, judges and juries become the hostages of racial prejudice. Bigotry triumphs when law officers fear to do the right thing because of a potential racial backlash. Prejudice is exalted when judges make or withhold rulings in court with an eye toward racial responses outside the courtroom. Injustice is the victor when a jury cannot acquit because racial bias stands in the way. I’m Hink and I’ll see ya.

MIKE HINKLE is a retired attorney and Edmond resident.

Text Only
  • Film critic Turan produces book

    Kenneth Turan, who is the film critic for National Public Radio’s “Morning Edition,” has written a book “Not to be Missed, Fifty-Four Favorites from a Life Time of Film.” His list of movies span the gamut from the beginnings of filmmaking through the present day.
    There are some surprising omissions on his list. While he includes two films, “A Touch of Evil” and Chimes at Midnight” made by Orson Welles, and one, “The Third Man,” that Welles starred in but did not direct. He did not however, include “Citizen Kane,” that was the first movie Welles made, that is  often cited by both film critics and historians as a favorite film.

    July 28, 2014

  • Logan County’s disputed zone

    Watchers of “Star Trek” may recall the episode from the original series entitled, “Day of the Dove.” In this episode, Captain Kirk and his crew are forced by a series of circumstances into a confrontation with the Klingons. The conflict eventually resolves after Kirk realizes that the circumstances have been intentionally designed by an alien force which feeds off negative emotions, especially fear and anger. Kirk and his crew communicate this fact to the Klingons and the conflict subsides. No longer feeding upon confrontation, the alien force is weakened and successfully driven away.

    July 28, 2014

  • Russell leads in Sun poll

    Polling results of an unscientific poll at show that Steve Russell, GOP candidate for the 5th District congressional seat, is in the lead with 57 percent of the vote ahead of the Aug. 26 runoff election. Thirty readers participated in the online poll.

    July 28, 2014

  • Healthier and Wealthier? Not in Oklahoma

    Increased copays, decreased coverage, diminished health care access, reduced provider budgets and increased frustration are all the outcomes of the Legislature’s 2014 health care funding decisions. Unlike some years in the past when a languishing state economy forced legislators into making cuts, the undesirable outcomes this year could easily have been avoided.

    July 26, 2014

  • Medicaid reform a necessity

    Historically, education spending by the state of Oklahoma has been the largest budget item. This is no longer the case. In recent years, the state of Oklahoma spends more on Medicaid (operated by the Oklahoma Health Care Authority) than common education and higher education combined, according to the state’s Comprehensive Annual Financial Report.

    July 25, 2014

  • Remembering lessons from 1974

    This week marks the 40th anniversary of an important milestone in America’s constitutional history. On July 24, 1974, the Supreme Court voted 8-0 to order the Nixon White House to turn over audiotapes that would prove the president and his close aides were guilty of criminal violations. This ruling established with crystal clarity that the executive branch could not hide behind the shield of executive privilege to protect itself from the consequences of illegal behavior. It was a triumph for the continued vitality of our constitutional form of government.

    July 25, 2014

  • RedBlueAmerica: Is parenting being criminalized in America?

    Debra Harrell was arrested recently after the McDonald’s employee let her daughter spend the day playing in a nearby park while she worked her shift. The South Carolina woman says her daughter had a cell phone in case of danger, and critics say that children once were given the independence to spend a few unsupervised hours in a park.
    Is it a crime to parent “free-range” kids? Does Harrell deserve her problems? Joel Mathis and Ben Boychuk, the RedBlueAmerica columnists, debate the issue.

    July 24, 2014

  • Technology that will stimulate journalism’s future is now here

    To say technology has changed the newspaper media industry is understating the obvious. While much discussion focuses on how we read the news, technology is changing the way we report the news. The image of a reporter showing up to a scene with a pen and a pad is iconic but lost to the vestiges of time.
    I am asked frequently about the future of newspapers and, in particular, what does a successful future look like. For journalists, to be successful is to command multiple technologies and share news with readers in new and exciting ways.

    July 23, 2014

  • New Orleans features its own “Running of the Bulls”

    On July12, the streets of the Warehouse District of New Orleans were filled with thousands of young men who were seeking to avoid being hit with plastic bats wielded by women on roller skates as part of the annual “Running of the Bulls” that takes place in New Orleans.
    The event is based on the “Running of the Bulls” that occurs in Pamplona, Spain, that is  part of an annual occurrence in which a group of bulls rampage through the streets of Pamplona while men run from them to avoid being gored by their sharp horns. That event was introduced to the English-speaking world by Ernest Hemingway, who included scenes from it in his critically acclaimed 1926 novel “The Sun also Rises.”

    July 22, 2014

  • OTHER VIEW: Newsday: Lapses on deadly diseases demand explanation

    When we heard that the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had created a potentially lethal safety risk by improperly sending deadly pathogens — like anthrax — to other laboratories around the country, our first reaction was disbelief.

    July 22, 2014


The runoff race for the 5th District congressional seat is set for Aug. 26. If the voting were today, which candidate would you support?

Al McAffrey
Tom Guild
     View Results