It has been eight years since New Orleans Saints‘ Defensive End Will Smith lost his life in a traffic accident. Cardell Hayes was convicted of manslaughter in December 2016 and sentenced to 25 years in prison, although the verdict was not unanimous. At that time, Louisiana was one of only two states, along with Oregon, that allowed a twelve-member jury to convict with a non-unanimous 10:2 vote.
In 2020, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled it unconstitutional to convict a person of a crime without a unanimous majority. Hayes appealed his conviction, and after serving four years of his sentence, he was released on bail and granted a new trial.
This trial concluded over the weekend, and this time the jury unanimously found Hayes guilty. This entire tragic incident had to be relived due to a Jim Crow-era law aimed at negating black people’s right to serve on juries.
Two weeks ago, Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley claimed that America has never been a racist country. Her stance was widely criticized. However, the current direction of America suggests that Haley is not the only one who holds this belief.
According to some, the scourge of the day in American society is diversity, justice, and inclusion. At a recent campaign event in New Hampshire, Donald Trump stated that in a second term as president, he will end all diversity, equality, and inclusion programs. A statement that received standing ovations.
Critical Race Theory being deemed archaic has brought a heated DEI (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion) conversation to the forefront. These sentiments force students to feel bad for being white and hold back white men in the workplace. These feelings have led to state governments across the country enacting laws that restrict hiring practices that could potentially contribute to reducing racial wealth disparities and limit what can be taught in schools.
On Tuesday, Utah Governor Spencer Cox signed a bill to ban DEI practices in state governments and universities, where DEI stands for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. Believing that any of these words harm the American public is akin to believing that the country has never been racist. Somehow, for those who believe this, the individual actors have always been the racists and not the laws enacted following decisions by the U.S. Supreme Court in cases such as Plessy v. Ferguson or Dred Scott.
To Haley and others who do not believe that America was ever racist, I present to you the case of Louisiana vs. Cardell Hayes. A case that took eight years to conclude due to a racist law. Louisiana allowed a verdict with an overwhelming majority to count the same as a unanimous verdict because in 1898, it was no longer legal to keep Black people off juries. Just as it was illegal then to prevent Black people from voting, manipulating the system was the strategy to maintain white supremacy
The state of Oregon made the same law in 1934. In 1933, a Jewish man was accused of murder, and 11 of the jurors found him guilty. Due to one refusal, he was instead convicted of manslaughter. Following this decision, The Oregonian published numerous editorials about immigrants from Southern and Eastern Europe being uncouth and unsuitable for American juries. Influenced by the state’s largest newspaper, people voted for a measure similar to the one in Louisiana.
These laws, born out of pure bigotry, stood until 2020. A bigoted law led to the man who admittedly killed former Saints defender Will Smith to endure an unjust trial. All parties had to relive a traffic incident that turned into a tragedy.
As an added bonus, Hayes will likely serve the remainder of his sentence where he spent the first four years – in the Louisiana State Penitentiary, colloquially known as Angola. A place that, according to a report by the Associated Press, utilizes convicts for slave labor and sells their work on-site to various businesses. Yet, DEI is the problem, and America was never racist.