Fresh eyes and fresh beliefs

Dear President Trump,

Sometimes the Twitter-verse does weird stuff with time like it did yesterday when Laura excitedly read me a Tweet about 19 African American women having been elected into judgeships in Harris County, Texas (Houston area) and how this means that now 25 of the 75 judges in that county are African American women. The initial rush of hearing that news was so exhilarating that it came with the usual welling of tears and “verklemptness” that always seems to accompany super good news.

About a minute later Laura realized that while the post was brand new, the date on the newsfeed item was from a year ago when the elections actually happened. At first we both felt let down because this was really old news even if it was somehow (inexplicably, frustratingly) new to us, as though even very good old news isn’t somehow worthy of a strong positive response. Sigh – humans are such odd, self-centered beings (or at least this one is). Anyway, we pretty quickly realized that in many ways it’s even cooler that they’ve now been serving in their respective courtrooms for nearly a full year. (Sad note: the April Marie Claire article about this informs that one of the judges, Cassandra Holleman, died at 57 from pancreatic cancer only a month into her term and a week after her diagnosis.)

I highly recommend that you (after a full personality and moral make-over so you can appreciate it) read the Marie Claire article. There are lots of articles online about the 19 and how they framed the campaign around the phrase “Harris County Black Girl Magic”, but those articles just give very bare bones, unsatisfying accounts. The MC article provides extended quotes from several of the judges about why they ran and what it was like to work together and have such support. There’s also an overview of how the judges and their colleagues approved a plan to revise Texas’s regressive (racist) bail bond system. The article says that if a federal judge (no specific judge is named) approves it, the laws will be changed, but I’m seeing that the Texas House of Representatives voted to approve it so I’m not clear what the process is. Unfortunately, it’s also not clear what happened to it, but it doesn’t appear that the GOP-controlled Texas Senate ended up allowing it to come to a vote.

Even if the bill stalled out at the State Senate level, it’s highly unlikely that the new judges are going to let the issue drop. Similarly, the MC article notes that the judges have a strong focus on child welfare and stopping the extreme over-incarceration of children of color. It also draws out how they now have a critical mass in positions of power that can work together to address systemic racism in the judicial system. Judge Michelle Moore, who unseated one of the Harris County old guard judges responsible for the sending the most kids of color to prison, framed it this way:

“What I’m really looking forward to is after a year or two, what has happened? We have a fresh set of eyes and beliefs. How does that affect incarcerated people of color? What will it do to those numbers? Our ideas and the way we see the law, it changes everything in Harris County.”

May we all be safe if we have to encounter the judicial system.
May we be willing to change everything.
May we support healthy, inclusive, and equitable representation.
May we celebrate big justice-oriented change and accept the ensuing growing pains.

Tracy Simpson

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