Hilltop Views

Jack Johnson pardon opens up discussion about race and imprisonment

Sierra Rozen

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To no one’s surprise, President Trump is once again making headlines for doing things that have nothing to do with our current political climate. Considering that politics are a mess right now, from Trump engaging in Twitter conversation with Kanye West to him trying to cover up his affairs, you would think he would be trying to improve them.

Award-winning actor Sylvester Stallone made a phone call to Trump asking him to pardon African American boxer Jack Johnson. Let’s look into the history behind the call for the pardon.

Jack Johnson was an American boxer, who, to this day, remains a legend in his field. He was also the subject of racial criticism because of his defeat of James J. Jeffries, a white boxer, and his multiple relationships with white women.

When Johnson attempted to cross state lines with the woman he was dating at the time, he was arrested and charged with violating the Mann Act, which forbid one from bringing women across states for “immoral purposes.” This was obviously a racially motivated charge, as he was doing nothing wrong.

Johnson ended up fleeing to Europe before returning to America to serve his time. Clearly, he was wrongfully imprisoned and people are still outraged to this day about it. Johnson ended up passing away in 1946.

Fast forward to the present, with Stallone calling Trump and asking him to pardon Johnson over 70 years later. Trump then took to Twitter to say “…yes, I am considering a Full Pardon!”

I want to first say that I think it is amazing that Trump is considering taking this step, considering all of the problems he has had in the past with minorities. Of course, it would be wonderful to have him pardoned for a charge that should not have been brought against him. But is now the correct time for it?

Historically, prison has been used as an institution to wrongfully imprison people of color, and allow people to exert their racism in a way that earns them money. Johnson is one example of this. However, there are millions of people who are now living with a crime on their record because of this very problem.

In the past, we have seen African Americans being forced to serve multiple years in prison for being caught with drugs, while white people are seen having marijuana themed weddings. We even have convicted sexual perpetrators serving less time than someone caught with drugs. This is obviously a way to abuse and imprison minorities.

I think that Trump should be putting in more effort to help these so-called criminals than pardoning a man who has been dead for 70 years .Trump has also mentioned his push for using the death penalty for drug dealers, a punishment that far outweighs the crime, and is clearly an excuse to target racial minorities.

I would also like to call attention to how easy it was for the pardon to come about. If one single phone call from a celebrity can do this, what does this say about our political system? It almost makes it seem like a joke, which it has been proven to be at times.

Overall, we should all be pushing for better criminal reform. It would also help if these issues weren’t treated like something that can be solved in a phone call.

About the Writer
Sierra Rozen, Viewpoints Editor
I am Sierra Rozen – Communication major, Journalism minor and Viewpoints Editor for Hilltop Views. This is my sophomore year at St. Edward’s University. I enjoy reporting on social justice issues and advocating for basic human rights. In my free time, I love downing tea, exploring downtown Austin, and contemplating what life is all about.
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Jack Johnson pardon opens up discussion about race and imprisonment