The Memoirs of Injustice and Inequality in Picking Cotton

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Throughout history there has been an evolving unspoken standard of living, and if you do not meet those certain standards you can sometimes be looked down or discriminated upon. Any one can be discriminated against no matter who you are. You can be discriminated on for your age, your gender, your religion, or your socio-economic class. In the book title Picking Cotton we read about a real-world example of how discrimination really is through the life of Ronald Cotton.

Perusing through the novel it turned out to be exceptionally clear that Ronald Cotton experienced biases that were normal by any African American man in the 1980’s. Subsequent to perusing the novel, Cotton’s three most apparent profiles are his ethnicity, financial class, and the errors of his past. It is obvious to the peruser that Ronald Cotton was discriminated exclusively by the assumptions that encompassed his race in Picking Cotton. One evident case of the separation of Cotton’s race occurred on page 44. Criminologist Sullivan had found that Ronald had fancied ladies outside of his race, which happened to be white ladies. Since Ronald like white ladies ‘they called him. A real scumbag’ (Thompson-Cannino, Cotton and Torneo, 44). From this piece of the novel it is translated that in those days it was unseen for a man of color to be with a white lady. For criminologist Sullivan to call Ronald a scumbag it implied that it was awkward for him to try and have the idea of a man of color being with a lady outside of his race, which in those days was normal. The race Cotton was attracted to while indicting him for the assault case ought not have even been persuasive to the case. When being associated with a wrongdoing, in light of the fact that their skin is an alternate shading it doesn’t imply that they ought to be dealt with in an unexpected way. In a speech written by Martin Luther King Jr he states, “This note was a promise that all men- yes, black men as well as white men- would be guaranteed the undeniable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”. As an American citizen we everyone has the right to be treated fairly, no matter the color of their skin. Cottons race should have only been pertinent to the investigation when the rapist was identified. His race unfairly was his conviction’s defining factor.

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As a white female college student, Thompson contributed as a weakness to Cotton’s case. In the 1980’s because there was a huge race division between whites and people of color it was easy for those in charge of the investigation to overlook key aspects in Cotton’s case. It made it easier for them to convict Cotton of the crime he did not commit because the eye witness was white woman. If roles were reversed and it was a white man being tried for the rape of a young black girl, I believe that the conviction would have been a little harder to make.

Another example of discrimination towards Ronald Cotton. In Picking Cotton, the criminologists noted, while depicting Ronald, that he ‘has grown up in the projects,'(Thompson-Cannino, Cotton and Torneo, 44) which are low cost housing controlled by the administration that regularly require low rental installments. Since Cotton lived in a destitution-stricken neighborhood, it would imply that he and his family didn’t have the cash to bear the cost of a more pleasant home, which would verifiably attach him to being poor. The pay of the presumed attacker ought not have been a factor by which he was being made a decision by. The primary focal point of the examination ought to have been on realities that would have demonstrated Ronald Cotton liable or not liable, not on the amount of cash he makes. Attackers originate from all financial classes, and the way that Cotton’s monetary status was even considered for his situation exhibits the discrimination the legal framework had against him.

Before being wrongfully convicted of raping Jennifer Thompson, Ronald Cotton had a criminal past that some may have looked down upon. “He had gotten out of prison in February for breaking and entering, and when he was sixteen years old, he’d served eighteen months for breaking and entering with intent to commit rape” (Thompson-Cannino, Cotton and Torneo, 44). Because Cotton was previously convicted of similar crimes his character was pre discriminated against by others. The way Thompson spoke of Ronald Cotton inferred that others who did not know him seen him as a cold hard criminal. We all have mistakes in our past that we are not necessarily proud of, if we were all to be judged on our past mistakes we would all be seen as totally different people. Because Thompson knew the criminal background of Cotton it made it a bit easier for her to put the blame on him. “I was so convinced that I knew who my attacker was, he became a permanent fixture in my brain. But we need to realize that despite a victim’s certainty, eyewitness identifications are deeply flawed”. If the suspect of the crime had been a clean-cut white male with a good paying job and no prior convictions, he would be looked at differently than Ronald Cotton. False memory expert Elizabeth Loftus said, “We all have memories that are malleable and susceptible to being contaminated or supplemented in some way”. It would be easy for any person to convince Thompson that Cotton was the attacker, his criminal was just and added bonus for her conscience to convict him. A person’s past should not be overlooked, but it also shouldn’t be the definite defining picture of their true character. All the time people learn and grow and become better people it is not an uncommon thing, everyone should be able to be given the benefit of the doubt.

Ronald Cotton has not been the only one who has ever been discriminated against, I too have been discriminated against. One thing that Ronald Cotton have in common is the fact that we have both been discriminated against because of the color of our skin. When I was in the seventh grade I used to walk to my after-school program from my middle school, and sometimes I would stop by a store on the way there for a drink or a snack. Everyday it was always a struggle because the store owner would make me, and my friends walk in one at a time to go and purchase what we wanted. He would make sure that he would watch our every move through the cameras, checking to make sure we were not trying to steal. I used to think that he would do that just because there was a big group of us, but this one afternoon we were making our daily stop to get our snacks and there were a big group of kids inside the store and they all had one thing in common. All the kids in the store were not kids of color, and me and my friends were. Because we were African American children, we were assumed to be thieves even though we were faithful paying customers. It was my very glimpse of discrimination towards race, I had heard stories of it, but I never would have thought it would have happened to me. It has never been my character to steal anything from anyone and it was not fair that the store owner prejudged us because of the color of our skin.

I have also been stereotyped because of my belief in God, I am a Christian who believes that Jesus died for my sins. In high school I was often times bullied by classmates because they thought that my religion was a joke. I remember not being invited out with my classmates bowling because they thought I was “weird” for believing in someone who I had never seen before. My religion is important to me, it is apart of who I am, and it made sad that others would rather not be my friend because of who I believed in. Others have stereotyped me because of my socio-economic class, I grew up in low poverty neighborhood just like Ronald Cotton and I cant count on my fingers how many times I have gotten surprised looks when I have opened my mouth because I speak proper English. Just because I came from a low poverty neighborhood does not mean that I am not educated, I know that when others look at me, they assume that I am a young black girl who is loud and speaks broken English. That is not who I am, that is not how my mother raised me to be.

I was raised to speak properly and to have manners, that is the person I want to be when people look at me. Sometimes it can be hard for others to see me this way because today’s society is so judgmental, but one way I can ensure that people judge me based on my character is the use of my body language. The first thing that people notice about you before you even open your mouth is the way you carry yourself. If I want to be seen as the smart young woman that I am, I must first show this through my body language. When meeting new people, it is always important to sit up straight and give them a firm hand shake, those subtle differences could make a big impression on someone.

Someone who often stereotyped in my life is my friend Ashley, she is an African American woman that is a Christian and a lesbian. She has been stereotyped her whole for her race, religion, and sexual orientation. I think that being in her shoes would be very difficult because of all the controversy she has to face on a daily basis, especially for her sexual orientation. She has told many stories about how she would be scared to hold her girlfriends’ hand in public out of shear fear that someone who did not agree with her sexual orientation might do or say to her. I cannot imagine being afraid to hold someone’s hand in public or hiding my relationship because of other people’s opinions. I asked her how she deals with it all and she told me one simple sentence “you either sit back let it happen and live in fear or you call them out and hope for change”. That small statement had such a big impact about my vision of life, you can let people be prejudice towards you and say nothing to them or you could call them out on it and try and help change the world for the better. If we all had this same mentality, we would all be able to work together to make a world where discrimination didn’t exist and we could all truly equal.

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