•  HOME 
  •  BOOKS 
  •  WWP 
  •  DONATE 
  • Loading

Follow workers.org on
Twitter Facebook iGoogle

Another kind of justice

Published Dec 23, 2009 2:58 PM

When deputy U.S. marshals came to the Washington, D.C., home of Banita Jacks to serve her with eviction papers in January 2008, Jacks was arrested instead of being thrown out onto the street. The decomposing bodies of her four daughters, ages 5 to 16, were found in the home.

On Dec. 18 Jacks was sentenced by D.C. Superior Court Judge Frederick H. Weisberg to four consecutive 30-year prison terms, or 120 years in prison without parole, for the murders of her children.

Weisberg, who heard the case in July during a nonjury trial, denied defense counsel’s pleas for a 30-year concurrent sentence that would have allowed Jacks to receive psychiatric medical care and eventually be released. Jacks had refused to follow her attorneys’ advice to invoke an insanity defense during her trial.

Jacks purportedly “had been living like a hermit, with no electricity and little food.” (Washington Post, Dec. 18) According to news reports, her home was “filthy” and “squalid.” Six workers from the city’s Child and Family Services Agency were fired because of the Jacks case; three have been reinstated to their jobs.

Prosecutor Deborah Sines opined in court, “These children were betrayed by the one person who’s supposed to protect all of us: the mother.” (Washington Post, Dec. 19)

In a tragedy like this one, it seems there is always finger pointing and someone to blame.

Karl Marx wrote that the prevailing ideas of any age are the ideas of the ruling class. The ruling class today, made up of superrich capitalists, militarists and others who support their system, always seems to want to blame individuals, a group of people or even whole countries. This keeps the capitalist system off the hook and prevents people from merging together in solidarity and unity against their oppressors.

But workers and the poor are the majority. We should refuse to be atomized and blamed when things go desperately wrong.

Banita Jacks was a young, impoverished African-American mother, possibly suffering from mental illness. We don’t know much about her or her children. But we can imagine a life like hers, because tens of millions of working-class women, men and children live with similar hardships.

You lose your job; or can only find a part-time job; or you work, but the pay is so little it doesn’t go far. You have children and a family to care and provide for. You lack health insurance and pray you or your kids don’t get sick or break a leg or have an accident. You have little money or few financial resources and you struggle to pay your rent or mortgage. Or you’ve lost that battle and face foreclosure and eviction.

Your children’s schools are in shambles and more teachers just got laid off and the class sizes are growing, or your neighborhood school has shut down altogether. You endure and face down racism and/or sexism and/or lesbian/gay/bi/trans/queer oppression on a daily, weekly, monthly basis.

You are not alone.

In the pages of this newspaper we have continued to report on and analyze the devastating impact the capitalist economic crisis is having on workers and oppressed people globally and especially here in the U.S. Often our coverage is from the frontlines of battles to demand jobs or income and free universal health care, to stop home foreclosures and evictions, to stop utility shutoffs, to fight budget cuts. These are life-and-death issues facing millions in the vast, multinational, multigenerational working class.

There is no sustainable solution to these problems within the confines of the capitalist system. Indeed, it is the capitalist system itself that generates and fundamentally causes these crises of survival. Only a system based on planning to provide people’s needs — socialism — can turn things around and guarantee people’s basic rights to all the necessities of life and fulfilling their human potential.

Then real justice will prevail. Then we’ll see 120-year sentences meted out, not to the poor and oppressed who fill the jails and prisons in this country today, but to the bankers and mortgage lenders, the speculators and investors, the corporate CEOs and robber barons, and all the minions of capitalism whose actions and system have caused so much misery.