Convicted murderer Dontay Carter gave quite a impassioned speech on racism and crime at his sentencing hearing in Baltimore Circuit Court Tuesday: He complained that black people, particularly young black men like himself, remain enslaved by society, no matter what the Thirteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution says.
He charged that there are two systems of justice in America -- one for blacks and one for whites; and that people accused of killing whites are treated much more harshly than those who kill blacks.
He warned that putting him behind bars will do nothing to address the root causes of crime; and he expressed his personal disappointment at the lack of courage displayed by today's black leaders when it comes to addressing the problems of the inner city.
Carter, 20, was convicted earlier this year of the kidnapping and murder of Vitalis V. Pilius and of the kidnapping, attempted murder and robbery of two other men. All the crime victims were middle-aged, middle-class white men who were snatched from the downtown business district last year. The abductors later used the victims' credit cards and identification to treat themselves to a shopping spree.
The crimes sparked a tremendous outburst of public passion. Downtown businesses threatened to flee to the suburbs. Police officers and state employees who had fumbled opportunities to capture the culprits were either fired or reprimanded. The state Motor Vehicle Administration bought a multimillion dollar computer to prevent the misuse of drivers' licenses in the future.
"What's the media circus for?" said Carter during his 35-minute speech. "Because a black man had the audacity to come home [from prison] and do something to a white man. Why is it so special when a man is killed and he happens to be a white man?"
"If in fact I did it, why did it happen?" Carter demanded at another point. "My world and your world are vastly different." And at another point he declared: "I love my people. . . . I love being black."
What bunk! What stupid, misguided, uninformed, pathetic bunk.
Much of what Carter had to say about racism and injustice and the need to address the root causes of crime is undoubtedly true. Indeed, scholars and social scientists and civil rights leaders have been making similar points for years.
But Carter apparently just doesn't get it: Wrapping himself in the rhetoric of civil rights doesn't make him a revolutionary. Calling upon 400 years of slavery and oppression doesn't make him a martyr. In fact, crime is the easy way out; a sissy's response to oppression.
There are thousands of young black men who grew up in the same miserable living conditions that Carter says he experienced. They attended the same under-funded schools, were exposed to the same negative stereotypes in the media, and shared the same hostility and harassment from police. Once out of school, they are confronted by the same meager job market that Carter faced.
But every day, these young men go mano a mano against oppression. They prepare themselves for the job market in defiance of the policy decisions that result in an impoverished school system. They snatch a living from the grips of a hostile job market. They demand -- and slowly achieve -- change. And they do volunteer work with teen-agers.
I would have welcomed a speech about racism and oppression and the inequality of justice in Baltimore Circuit Court from any one of these young men. But Carter makes a mockery of the truth. He makes a mockery, in fact, of the efforts of his hard-working peers, each of whom is a better man than he is.
The elders in my community used to say: "A little bit of learning is a dangerous thing," referring to know-nothing know-it-alls such as Carter.
But the young folk had a saying that seems much more appropriate: "He talked the talk, but he couldn't walk the walk."
By the way, Carter vowed in court that he would soon be back on the streets: "You can't keep a good man down!" he declared.
Baltimore Circuit Court Judge John N. Prevas decided to give it a try, anyway; he sentenced Carter to life in prison without parole, plus 190 years.