When Justice Prevails the Victory Is Always Pyrrhic

Yesterday evening a jury found Daniel Holtzclaw guilty of 18 out of 36 counts of rape, sexual battery and other charges. I got the news via Twitter, as I know many did given the lack of coverage by the mainstream media. In the wake of the verdict there was a lot of celebrating: happy emojis in high concentration and tweets full of schadenfreude. And yeah, the thought of Holtzclaw rotting in prison for the rest of his life doesn’t come without some pleasure. He needs to be locked away from society, if only to prevent him from raping more black women. The punishment aspect of his imprisonment, and the fact the verdict was handed down by an all-white jury, are bonuses.

But after reading a lot of enthusiasm regarding the verdict, my thoughts started to sober a bit. Of course, Deray Mckesson beat me to the punch:

What he typed in a tweet I’m going to type at somewhat greater length. (If brevity is the soul of wit, Deray has already pwned me.)

Our desire to see justice done when someone commits a wrong is a desire worth having. Seeing that desire brought to fruition, it’s only natural we would celebrate it. It is also good, I think, for us to temper our celebration with the knowledge that the justice we sought could only be sought after the fact of crimes having occurred. It’s why a victory for the prosecution in the Holtzclaw trial is Pyrrhic. I live in world where Daniel Holtzclaw raped and sexually assaulted many black women, and was held to account for it. I can’t help but think I would rather be living in a world where Holtzclaw was merely a mediocre cop who never raped anyone, and the women who suffered his depredations didn’t.

In a world where justice has truly, fully prevailed, there will be no need enact justice on anyone. Justice will be an inherent property of our lives and not something to gather around, whether in courts or on the streets of places like Ferguson, Baltimore, or Oklahoma City.

But that world is a utopia. The best we can do in our world is to strive for that unreachable ideal. The Holtzclaw verdict was a step in the right direction.

Addendum 21 January 2016: Daniel Holtzclaw has been sentenced to 263 years in prison, specific sentences to be served consecutively.

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