The Condemnation of Little B Book Review

Elaine Brown, former Black Panther chairwoman and founder of Mothers Advocating Juvenile Justice draws from her activist roots in her book The Condemnation of Little B to challenge the trial and prosecution of 13-year-old ???Little B???. Michael ???Little B??? Lewis was arrested and sentenced to life in 1997 for allegedly shooting and murdering Darrell Woods, ???model father and citizen??? within the black community. Through Brown??™s personal investigation she offers evidence of what she believes actually happened the night Woods was murdered. To Brown the swift and unjust conviction ???Little B??? becomes emblematic of the racial problem that America is facing today. She uses the story of ???Little B??? to frame her main argument that asserts that racism in America has evolved into a ???New Age??? in which our societal institutions, such as the media and the justice system, are currently serving to disproportionally marginalize millions of African American youths further into poverty and incarceration. Brown??™s book is intended to challenge the way, in which one views the media in America and our current justice system and it??™s relationship with race. I found Brown??™s book to be every intriguing and challenging and I recommend it to everyone.
One of the thought provoking themes that Brown highlights in her book is related to what she says is a ???collective consciousness??? that angry whites and certain segments of the black population have come to share. Brown argues that this ???awareness??? stereotypes black male youth as menaces to society that are responsible for the deterioration of America. According to Brown this ???consciousness??? has become the common sentiments that most Americans share. She provides evidence for this with the presentation of the numerous sensationalized editorials and opinion papers about ???Little B??™s??? case that unanimously condemn and demonize the boy. This media created myth of the ???predatory black teen??? supports her overall thesis that there are societal institutions that not only perpetuate ???New Age??? racism but also serve to opportunistically scapegoat the black youth.
Considering Brown??™s association with the militant Black Panther party, I thought that her argument about there being societal institutions that disproportionately target black youth was going to be filled with extremist sentiment and lack credible evidence of this actually occurring. But on the contrary, Brown does a sensational job citing numerous high-profile cases where the media, community, and legal system unfairly target the young black defendant as ???super-predators ???. Brown notes the 1998 Chicago rape and murder case where two prepubescent black boys were charged with the rape and murder of an 11-year-old girl. Brown states, ???The Times transformed this Chicago crime report into an issue of national significance??¦[that was] captured with the subhead that identified the boys as ???Perhaps the youngest Americans charged with murder??™???. The case eventually was dropped when a white man sitting on death row confessed to the crime. But as Brown rightfully so points out, the media was uninterested in reporting the evidence and clearing the names of the two young black boys. I agree with Brown that sensationalized reports such as the Chicago case are problem in America because they usually serve to detrimentally elicit extreme responses from the community whom usually call for the condemnation of the young black defendant, much as in the case of ???Little B???.
Following along the lines of the medias influence over populations of people (and more specifically races) are publically perceived, Brown cunningly compares the portrayal of white and black youths by the media. As she develops her argument that black youth in America are depicted as savage ???juvenile predators??? , she contrasts it with how white teen violence in America is portrayed differently by the media. Brown notes that ???as Michael Lewis [???Little B???] was being held up by the local press as an evil presence in society??¦ a teen ticking time bomb was exploding in America??™s heartland??? . Brown was alluding to the nineteen nineties trend of mass murders committed by white suburban ???true sons of America??? . The media attention surrounding these heinous acts of violence were surrounded by a sympathetic rhetoric that seemed to displace all responsibility on the white perpetrators. Brown notes that reports like the Associated Press wire story about Woodham, a sixteen-year-old boy who murdered his mother and classmates, place the blame not on the accused but on the circumstances of his surroundings.
I think Brown is completely right with her conclusion that there is a double standard for violent crimes committed by young people in America. Crimes committed by the black youth population in America are typically met with harsher laws that seek to maximize punishment, e.g. ???Little B??? being tried as an adult,
as compared to crime committed by white youth. Brown cites the case of Mitchell Johnson where a white juvenile who murdered four girls, one teacher, and injured eleven people as an example of how the double standard exists in our society. ???Although Johnson was the same age as Little B at the time of the arrest, he was tried as a juvenile??¦ After pleading guilty both were sentenced to confinement in juvenile facilities until the age of eighteen??¦ for Johnson, this will mean five years of incarceration ???.
Examining the way in which Brown presents her argument about the medias role in portrayal and favorability within our justice system, she does a great job of convincing her audience. She doesn??™t bore her readers with endless statistics of blacks in prison, even though she easily could, but rather she uses editorials, newspapers, and specific instances that make the audience think. The side-by-side comparison of trials from defendants of different races really illustrates the injustice of our society to the reader. I was surprised by how much I liked the book, because considering Brown??™s Black Panther background I expected to be reading a book driven by emotion instead of facts and evidence. Brown actually does a phenomenal job using editorials and newspapers to reflect the sentiment of greater suburban America. Her rhetoric is filled with passion but it is backed up with statistics and actual examples. Brown??™s almost revolutionary zeal and enthusiasm is intended to challenge her audience??™s beliefs and issue wake up call to the injustices that the media and legal system are perpetuating towards the black youth population. I highly recommend this book to anyone particularly interested in our justice system and American media. 1