Of course when the semester was just about to end and things were getting intense and los pinches grades were due, I was summoned to jury duty and I’m not talking Metro Court, I’m talking about Federal.
The night before I was scheduled to go in I had made up my mind that like a good resistor of anything oppressively systemic, I would self-sabotage as soon as I got the chance. I would quickly blurt out when asked anything about my background – “I have problems with authority, sir” to “Isn’t the entire legal system inherently racist?” But of course as I was about to walk out of the house, the man says something that completely squashed my plan. “You could be the person that makes a difference.” Ahhh!!
So I show up to court ready with book and coffee in hand and like most other people of color, I feel tense and nervous just being in that space. As I was sitting in the audience I suddenly realized that I was even grinding my teeth and feeling constant waves of discomfort. Of course with my luck and strategy of silence, I ended up being one of the lucky 12. Karma people, that’s all I got to say.
I’m not going to get into the details of the case but here’s the quick and dirty list summarizing what I learned:
- First of all, if you are in any way involved in the selling of illegal substances that make people happy and then fuck them up, please, just stop. Not worth it. Eventually everyone gets caught or caught up.
- The 80s methods of selling and distributing stuff are out people! Keep up with the times and do your research [watching Breaking Bad doesn’t count, I think?]. Code words are outdated and become obvious no matter how creative and clever you think they sound. “Hey, can I get a dozen tamales?” or “We’re gonna cook up those tamales real good” just doesn’t cut it.
- Don’t say anything on your cell phone that you wouldn’t want your spouse/partner or the cops to hear. Serious, nothing, nada. No they aren’t always listening but when they do, they’ll use anything and everything against you. And did you know that they can hear everything that you’re saying as soon as the damned phone starts dialing, even background conversations going on, todo.
- I’ll never say ‘I’m working’ on the phone ever again. Kid #2 to mom: “Mom are you working right now?” Mom to kid #2: “Hell no!”
- For it to be considered distribution, you don’t even have to sell it! It’s considered distribution even if you pass it along to your friends at no charge. So next time you’re having a lil party, just leave all those ‘party favors’ out of the picture. Again, not worth it.
- Next time I will self-sabotage during jury selection. How does “I hate the police!” sound?
- DEA no you’re not cute or entertaining, I don’t care how many jokes you tell, you’re just not.
- If you’re a person of color, good luck with the jury of your peers crock of crap they tell you, it’s completely not true. Hmmm… how did three women of color and nine white folk on the jury equate to a Hispanic man’s peers?
- People will get real ugly real fast during deliberation. Most of them want to find a person guilty immediately. That tendency is exacerbated if it’s a person of color and even more so if they have any priors. As soon as we walked into the deliberation room, there was an angry white man who said, “Guilty, guilty, guilty!” and a young white teacher who laughed and stated, “well this shouldn’t take long!” Seriously? What happened to everyone deserves a fair trial?
- Raza: please think more about the consequences of your actions and decisions. No I don’t believe in that lame pull-yourself-by-your-boot-strap mentality but we can always say no to las movidas que no? Isn’t it better to have an honest job than to succumb to el vicio de las drogas and quick cash?
Thinking about it all, it was a depressing and hard experience for me. Yes I learned quite a bit about the law, how it is written, and basically everything I needed to know about selling and distributing and even making it, but most of what I felt throughout the dreadful time was the weight of oppression making it difficult to breathe. I tried to avoid making any eye contact con su pobre mama but the times that I did glance her way, all I could see was her suffering from the gigantic cruz she has to bear.
I still think about you and as often as I can, I will ask the universe to be kind to you and steer you in another direction.
#lablogadora #juryduty #chicana #xicana