On April 20, boxer Rubin Hurricane Carter died at age 76 of prostate cancer. Various newspapers and other media outlets did commentaries on the unjust hardships visited upon this man by the racist criminal justice system that is the cancer of our society.
To them it was just a news story, the personification of yet another racist persecution of an innocent Black person.
Brother Carter’s struggle was our struggle, what they did to him they did to us because racism is the common thread that twines our lives together and the struggle against it is what gives meaning, character and substance to our existence as a people. Also this is why we remember what we remember.
We remember a ten-year-old African-American child defending himself against an adult, white male pedophile who tried to kill him. Yet it was the child who was punished.
We remember a racist cop who would go to any length, including lying and fabricating evidence to imprison Rubin Hurricane Carter. Our brother was a victim of a police crime; he was framed and railroaded by corrupt, criminal cops and prosecutors who advanced their political careers on the backs of Black people.
We remember a mass movement, which we were a part of, demanding brother Carter’s freedom. And we remember a young African America from Brooklyn, NY and some white Canadians joining the fight and staying the course in spite of efforts by the police to terrorize and even murder them.
We remember that day of jubilee when Rubin Hurricane Carter was finally set free after 22 years of imprisonment, torment and torture and how he continued with undaunted courage to fight for others who have been victims of racist frame-ups.
On November 7, 1985, federal Judge Sarokin handed down his decision to free Rubin Hurricane Carter, stating that “The extensive record clearly demonstrates that [the] petitioners’ convictions were predicated upon an appeal to racism rather than reason, and concealment rather than disclosure.” The state continued to appeal Sarokin’s decision-all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court – until February 1988, when a Passaic County New Jersey state judge formally dismissed the 1966 indictments of Carter and co-defendant John Artis and finally ended the 22-year long saga.
I saw the movie [The Hurricane, 1999, starring Denzel Washington] but I didn’t need to see the movie and I read the book [“Eye of the Hurricane: My Path from Darkness to Freedom”] but I didn’t need to read the book because my life, and the lives of millions of Black men, women and children is the same as Rubin Hurricane Carter.
The exception is this: most of us who are unjustly imprisoned don’t get out and that is the book that needs to be written.
Hurricane spent most of his life after prison championing the cause of the wrongfully convicted, but each time he spoke against the system the system responded with even more wrongful convictions.
The prison population is increasing at such a rapid rate because the racist criminal justice system is buttressed by every level of government in order to feed the worse form of capitalist greed since the days of chattel slavery.
And most tragically we remember the criminal cops, prosecutors and politicians responsible for our late brother Rubin spending most of his life in jail were never brought to justice for their crimes. Rubin sowed the wind so look for us in the whirlwind.
Frank Chapman is Education Director and member of the executive committee of the Chicago Alliance Against Racial and Political Oppression.
Photo: Rubin Carter in 2011. Wikimedia Commons.