The power of a presidential pardon is the closest thing we can imagine the Eraser of God would look like. It is the power to redeem a life done wrong or forgotten by injustice past and present, or restore pride to a family name. Luckily for us, there is no gravity of such an option bestowed or practiced on our current president. Over the past month, with the exposure of the President wielding illegal influence in the NFL, there was this swift social justice switch to focus the pardon of African-American heavyweight boxer Jack Johnson for violation of the Mann Act in 1913. (Johnson died in a car accident in 1946.) However, it was the meddling of the president in the NFL which kept, and has kept, former San Francisco Forty-Niners quarterback Colin Kaepernick unemployed, and blackballed.
After the righteous commute of Ms. Alice Johnson for a non-violent drug offense this month, the pardon of Jamaican born UNIA founder and activist Marcus Garvey has been floated by Roger Stone under this administration — he died in England in 1940. The pardon of heavyweight boxing champion Muhammad Ali has been floated as well, even though the US Supreme Court pardoned him in 1971 for his 1967 conviction over his refusal to serve in the military. Stranger still, the president went on record saying this in front of the national media:
“I’m going to ask all those people to recommend to me–because that’s what they’re protesting–people that they think were unfairly treated by the justice system. And I understand that. I’m going to ask them to recommend to me people that were unfairly treated and I’m gonna take a look at those applications and I find and my committee finds that they’ve been unfairly treated then we’ll pardon them. Or at least let them out.”
In the face of this discussion of pardons and second chances, this makes absolutely no sense, even though the intention is righteous. Jack Johnson’s conviction was racially motivated, and he was prosecuted only because he had dated white women. The Mann Act conviction was such that his reputation was irreparable — the Mann Act is supposed to be a protection against men taking women across state lines for ill purposes. He lived his life as a proud black man, and was unapologetic about what it is he wanted to do in a time when black men were supposed to cower and be emasculated.
The pardon of Marcus Garvey was proposed to the Obama administration, and President Obama was encouraged not to grant this pardon by the Department of Justice. The irony is that Marcus Garvey, and to an extent Muhammad Ali, had the same desire for social justice and uplifting of African American people as Colin Kaepernick does — and the current president hates him for. However, I am not fooled. When black men are dead, especially those who were ensconced in the fight for justice, change, equality and fairness, they are no longer a threat. They are no longer a threat to systematic racism, generational oppression or the dismantling of white supremacy.
Dead black men are not a threat.
In pardoning these black men, or other black men who posed a threat to this upending posthumously, the current president can embody the slick benevolence white supremacy offers. He can grant them a clean slate, a restoration they will never be granted to see or exercise. Moreover, this current administration is more concerns with wins that policy and its practice. Here is why: the pardons solve nothing and do not dismantle the institution which ensnared them and their descendants!
This administration is playing Texas Hold ‘Em with us as the Titanic is sinking. They hope to distract with minutia in order to distract you from the immediate peril you are in. This administration wants no part of social change, only spotlight. They have no desire for justice, only juxtaposition. This administration has no concept of restoration, regulation or equality — only political 3-card Monty. Anything which can make it appear they are competent and caring or aware, they are in favor of. The irony which is not lost, and should be examined is these are the same race of men who lived boldly and fought for the betterment of the same people this administration seeks to break and have bow.
The power of the presidential pardon is supposed to be a tool of justice and restoration from injustice, not as royal decrees. In explaining this to a man who defines foreign policy as, “We’re America, Bitch”, seems to be a waste of time, breath and intelligence.
There can be those who see this pardon of Ms. Johnson as something right and fair, even the potential posthumous pardons can be included. However, even if you remove all the web the spider has spun and not kill the spider, what good have you done? You’ve made more work for yourself! If you pardon a man or men, who were advocates and fighters for social and criminal justice and fairness, while belittling and blackballing the men who are living for doing the same, this makes you a hypocrite.
Perhaps, being a hypocrite is essential to “so much winning.”