An era of distrust

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An era of distrust

 IM JONG-JU
The author is he Washington bureau chiefof the JoongAng Ilbo.


In the early morning of Sunday, Feb. 14, 1965, two Molotov cocktails flew into a house in Queens, New York. One of them broke through the living room window. Stunned by the noise, human rights activist Malcolm X and his wife Betty Shabazz woke up their four young daughters and escaped in pajamas. The house was burned down, but no one was injured. It was a premonition of serious danger.

A week later, Malcolm was at the Audubon Ballroom in Harlem — the center of black activism — to speak at the Organization of Afro-American Unity. As more than 400 people gathered around the podium, a quarrel started in the audience. When the disturbance was about to subside, three assailants got onto the stage and opened fire. Malcolm X was shot 21 times and was killed. One attacker was caught, and two fled.

Two black men, who were accused as the ones who ran away and served more than 20 years in prison, were recently exonerated. Fifty-six years have passed since then. One is 83 years old now, and the other passed away. Investigations were incomplete, and evidence were ignored. The crime scene was cleaned up in a hurry, and a dance party was held. The Manhattan District Attorney in charge of the reinvestigation apologized that justice had fallen and the law failed to fulfill its responsibility.

On Nov. 19, Kyle Rittenhouse was acquitted of the charge of shooting and killing two men protesting racial discrimination. A self-proclaimed vigilante group member, he walked around with an AR-15 semiautomatic rifle and fired it when he was chased by protesters. The jury saw it as self-defense.

Supporters of the human rights movement were astonished and said the justice system was completely broken. Protests took place in major cities like New York and Chicago, while gun advocates cheered. Former President Donald Trump praised Rittenhouse as a brave man and invited him to his residence in Florida. Some proposed to hire Rittenhouse as an intern at the Congress and raise funds to sponsor him. Rittenhouse became a hero. Controversy over the justice system in the U.S. is heating up.

A few days later, three white men who shot and killed a young black man who was jogging were found guilty at a Georgia court. Eleven of the 12 jurors were white. In the end, it was a surprise, but this case initially got little attention for over two months until a critical video of the shooting was released by a local TV station. Biden said that the justice system did its job, but it was still not enough.

Investigations and court rulings that caught the eyes and ears of Americans at the end of the year ask about the essence of the criminal justice system. Where is justice? We, who cannot avoid the age of distrust, are no exception to that question.
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