On solving the diversity problem in the judiciary

Ah yes, diversity. I appreciate the Toronto Star’s recent editorial discussing the issue of diversity in our judiciary. I also always appreciate people grabbing for the lowest hanging fruit.

Pointing out that our judiciary needs more diversity would be stating the obvious. People know that and people see it (and the people who choose to ignore it are already a lost cause). Nevertheless, as the editorial highlighted, the people like Brown/Black/Indigenous folks (note: the editorial only mentioned Black and Indigenous), who are most likely to come into contact with the justice system will have little confidence in the system.

It is always frustrating to read these types of articles. Because in light of the comments such as the people most likely to come into contact with the justice system (or who are overrepresented in same) will have little confidence in the system, those comments suggest that there is a space for people like me on the bench to only serve that purpose: Increase the confidence that Brown/Black/Indigenous folks have in the system.

It is not the entire judiciary that has a diversity problem. Rather, it is the system that is the entire problem.

As someone who believes in complete abolishment of the entire prison industrial complex because of its longstanding history of locking up Brown/Black/Indigenous folks and its historical/present-day links to slavery and colonialism, I am not here to affirm the validity of that entire system; the entire system needs to be re-examined and the power to deliver, find, and re-imagine justice needs to return to communities who are most impacted (negatively) by the justice system.

It is not a hard question to address, “How do we deal with the overrepresentation of Brown/Black/Indigenous folks in the prison system?” Do we need a more representative judiciary? Sure we do. But we also need to stop arresting and criminalizing Brown/Black/Indigenous folks. We also need to actually look at what the prison industrial complex is doing: It is locking up poor, racialized folks who exist at the middle of many intersecting oppressions. Further criminalizing these communities is the heart of the problem.

While I acknowledge and recognize people for their efforts, it is hard to sit back and give gold stars for what people should already be doing (and should have been doing a long time ago) without the public declarations or acknowledgements that they are addressing the problem.

Even still, what is the problem? As the editorial highlighted: Part of the problem is the overrepresentation of Brown/Black/Indigenous folks in the (in)justice system.

If the question goes to the heart of addressing the overrepresentation of these folks, then the legal community and others are solving this problem by doing the least possible amount of work that has to be done. As I said, I am not here to affirm the validity of an entire invalid system.

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