Sometimes the exact opposite of institutional racism happens. I was Jury Foreman in the trial of a burglar seen running from the scene wearing white sneakers, jeans and and a green jacket across a street lit by sodium vapour lamps. He was clearly seen by the owner jumping from a window as he got home. He called the police, they arrived and a police dog found the scent at the window he had left the house by. Chasing across that street and through numerous back yards, the dog eventually caught the burglar hiding in bushes with bare feet, jeans and a blue jacket. He was arrested and at the trial his lawyer said “the burglar was wearing white sneakers and a green jacket; my client had a blue jacket and no shoes at all. Clearly he is not the same man. He just happened to be a person of colour in the vicinity of the crime: he should be released without conviction!”
In the Jury room. I explained to the other jurors that a blue jacket looks green under a yellow sodium vapour lamp and that perpetrators with a police dog on their trial have been known to discard their shoes in the mistaken belief that the dog is following the scent of the shoes. One juror still refused to vote the burglar guilty because as a person of colour himself, he believed that the police arrested him for his colour, not on evidence that he was guilty.
I pulled out a photo of the police dog: “The police didn’t choose this guy, the dog did! And while people may sometimes make mistakes in identifying other people, once a dog gets your scent, he will know you from anyone else. And to remove any hint of racism, the dog is black!”
“It’s a fair cop”, the juror said, and my next words were “Guilty, your Honour!”
The Judge then revealed that he had over 50 previous convictions for similar offences, that we weren’t allowed to know about until after the trial.