Mr. Sajid Khan,
Your recent opinion piece published by San Jose Inside was inaccurate, incendiary, and hurtful in numerous ways, but we would like to focus on a few.
Primarily, as black prosecutors, we do not appreciate the wide brushstrokes with which you have painted all district attorneys’ offices, and by implication, all deputy district attorneys. Your assertions that district attorney’s offices “are actively, affirmatively and proudly dehumanizing black people,” “rob black people of their humanity,” “DA’s offices … repeatedly and flagrantly tell us that black lives don’t matter,” raises especially unique questions for how you view black prosecutors.
If this is how you view all prosecutors, are we as black prosecutors, “race-traitors” in your opinion or are you saying that black people can’t or shouldn’t play a role in the criminal justice system in a way to overcome systemic racism?
While many of us have been attorneys longer than you, we all most assuredly have been black longer than you. Every black prosecutor we know became a prosecutor to curb systemic racism and to protect our communities.
Your opinion piece, whether intentional or not, shows a complete lack of understanding of the role of a prosecutor. To be blunt, Mr. Khan, you have no idea what goes into the decisions to charge, prepare, or prosecute a case.
We neither work for the police nor do they work for the prosecution. We are an independent point of checks and balances in the criminal justice system. As a defense attorney, you have the luxury of advocating zealously for one client at a time without considering the impact on the larger community.
As a prosecutor, we pursue what is just for the victim, the community, and the defendant. Contrary to your assertion, no black prosecutor takes joy in “sending black boys and young men to prison for life and long sentences,” but the reality that you are choosing to ignore is that there are white, Latinx , Asian and black victims.
In our experience, no victim that has had to be comforted and guided through the criminal justice system has ever taken solace in the knowledge that the perpetrator of the crime against them was of their same race.
What is truly offensive in your opinion piece for us is your repeated reference to black men, boys, women, lives, bodies, victims, people and communities, as you attempt to co-opt the murder of George Floyd to push your own agenda.
Black prosecutors do not need you to remind us of the horrors of the killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Ahmaud Arbery, Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice—being black in America is our reality—not an observation.
The story of Emmett Till is practically a bedtime story told to black children by their parents while they are still in elementary school. We are not removed from the plight of black people. Despite our jobs, not one of us looked at the video of George Floyd’s murder and did not think, “that could be me.”
Yet, a condemnation and abdication of the role of the district attorney, as you suggest, merely subjects black people, Latinx people, Asian people, white people, and everyone else to the whims of the wicked. To advocate for such a system merely furthers the continued subjugation of black people in the United States.
We, black prosecutors, respectfully decline your type of “help.”
Black people want to go to work. Black children want to go to school. Black people want to live their lives in peace, raise their children, feel safe and secure in their neighborhoods, and enjoy the rights and liberties enshrined in the Constitution.
Black people are entitled to live their lives free of police brutality. Black people also deserve and are entitled to be free of murder, rapes, assaults, robberies, and the destruction and theft of their property.
Black people want equal justice—period.
Equal justice necessitates that whether black people are the victims or suspects of crimes, that they are entitled to both the full protection of the law and the faithful execution of the law by those entrusted to carry it out. If we are innocent, free us. If we are guilty, convict and sentence us fairly. If we are victims, treat us and our communities with the same respect, care, service, and protection as you would white communities.
Equal justice demands nothing less.
To interfere with the prosecution of those who would deny those rights is racist. Do district attorneys’ offices sometimes make mistakes? Is there bias in the system? Absolutely. But, the system would not be better without black prosecutors.
For black people to achieve equal justice, we need to be a part of every aspect of the criminal justice system that directly affects us: from police on the streets, to defense attorneys, to prosecutors, and judges. That is why we matter.
Santa Clara County Black Prosecutors: