It Becomes Clear How The Title
It becomes clear how the title “In the Dark” was chosen, as black people are unfairly left out of opportunities to succeed or to at least ensure that processes and treatment are equal compared to white people. An example of resource inequality is shown in the communities efforts to raise money to do what they can to help Curtis in the second episode. When holding a meeting to raise money, they were threatened to have their houses burned down by the white side of town and their efforts were ended. Their main resource was each other; to use each other to rally for Curtis. Inequality became clear when white people intervened and took away this resource, along with the fact that Curtis’s family did not have enough resources to pay for everything themselves. Curtis’s mother was working multiple jobs trying to get enough money to help him; her house was burned down and she still made $10,000 that all went to him. Now she has nothing, thankfully a legal team picked up Curtis for free. This proves just how much harder Curtis’s family has to work to try and get to the same level that Evans and his team is on. Because Evans is white, he was able to cheat and pay people to tell lies. Hard work is the only thing they can do and even then they are disadvantaged because of the lack of experience. This inequality exists because of segregation, stemming from the lack of resources that black people have always unfairly been given including run-down school and poor neighborhoods. This resource inequality has produced outcomes that impact everyone living in “black neighborhoods” ranging from hostility from the white parts of town to the actual physical neglect that black neighborhoods face.
Another example of resource inequality is the reward money offered to people who were willing to come forward with information and testify in court in episode two. The producers of the podcast spoke with witnesses who testified seeing Curtis on the street that morning. One interviewee was very upset because her family believed Curtis was innocent. Her testimony helped build the lie Evans formed though, and she was given $30,000 for her information. This resource in the form of money that Evans’s team offers is something that cannot be matched by these poorer African Americans. With an officer pulling people from their homes and throwing money in their hands, it becomes irresistible to go along with a story even when they know it is not true. This inequality exists from the lack of resources and job access black people have and the desperation they face when on the edge of poverty. Blacks in these poorer neighborhoods need more resources including money and when a choice must be made, tell the truth, or feed oneself for a week, the lines of morality are blurred.
In Nina Martin’s study titled, “Black Mothers Keep Dying After Giving Birth. Shalon Irving’s Story Explains Why”, she illuminates how resource inequalities are literally killing people in America. Black women in hospitals are not taken seriously before it is too late and too serious. Doctors are blaming serious conditions on a “low pain tolerance” and adding another stressor on the people who need help. As Martin puts it: “the problem isn’t race but racism”. It is not genetic that black mothers are more likely to die during childbirth, it is the corrupt institutions that refuse to give the same treatment across the board. Given a smaller range of valuable resource, black people are put in more risk every day. These inequalities create a social problem because white people have complete control over all resources and are also the distributors of them and, with deep racist roots, are killing people and limiting what people can do with their lives. It is a social problem because, above all, all people should have equal opportunities for freedom, liberty and to pursue happiness.
An example of power inequality from the podcast is the people who testify seeing Curtis Flowers the morning of the murders from episode 2. Evans’ story included Flowers walking all over town the morning of the murders. Curtis testifies in court that he never walked that route, but Evans had route witnesses who placed Curtis on all parts of the path. The witnesses were black and most had known Curtis very well. Majority of the police statements hadn’t been given until months after the murders though, and there is no reason to believe that they would have remembered a man simply walking one morning months ago. The podcast producers spoke to the witnesses and found that none of them had gone to the police, it was the other way around. Many of the witnesses changed their minds and said that they actually didn’t see Curtis that morning, that they were pressured or tricked into testifying, that they still felt threatened and that even sharing this information was risky. This power inequality is prevalent in the threatening presence that Doug Evans and John Johnson continue to have. Their power goes far beyond what the average African American living in Winona has and they corruptly use it to threaten others into submission. This is not limited to just Doug Evans though, from the beginning, white people have been using fear to get what they want. In the history of the United States, this has always been even bigger than just a social problem. Rooting back to slavery when slaves were punished by whips or worse, white people have used fear to establish their dominance and power over black people. The outcomes are continual racism that shows through the living conditions of blacks versus whites.
Evans struck black members off the jury in order to get a guilty verdict, proven in episode 7. In a state that is 40% black, Flowers’ cases were tried by an all-white or almost all-white jury every time. The court continually found that Evans engaged in prosecutorial misconduct, meaning he was intentionally striking jurors for their race and lying for the reasons. This power inequality favors Evans and exists because of his job and race. Being a white prosecutor, Evans has the power to strike people from the jury for reasons other than race. This system sets up inequality because, even though Curtis’s lawyers could object, Evans made up excuses for striking people and all-white juries were still selected in the end. An outcome is a racist group that will believe whatever the white prosecutor says and will be willing to sentence a man to death.
In John Blume’s article, “The Dilemma of the Criminal Defendant with a Prior Record—Lessons from the Wrongfully Convicted”, he explains that innocent people who have been previously convicted of crime are more likely to not testify at trial again “because of the risk that their credibility would be impeached with evidence of the prior record” and that the jury would vote guilty “based on their prior misdeeds”. Blume is exposing a loophole in a corrupt system in which power is unequally distributed to people with a record, being predominantly people of color. Perhaps the largest contributor to racism is power inequality. Because white men tend to hold higher positions of power, it disables people of color to not only reach that same level of power but of respect also, especially when black people have been convicted of crime, even when proven innocent. Seen everywhere but most prevalently in police brutality primarily directed at black men, white people in positions of high power become drunk on their influence and develop obliviousness to the fear they are implementing in large communities, even entire races. In this same way, Doug Evans scares people into lying to contribute to his argument and even strikes black jury members in order to form the story he attempts to tell. This unequal power distribution works for his advantage and is rooted in a racial disadvantaged society where no black person could ever fight with the same level of power.
Status is not earned for Curtis Flowers, it is given to him by white people of a higher status and exaggerations and lies become the basis of his character in court (episode 9). Curtis worked at Tardy Furniture for 3 days which was enough time for an assumption of his character to be made. In the “Christian atmosphere” of the store, Curtis stood out and rumors began to swirl that Curtis had been fired from his last job because of drugs or gang affiliation. Both of these rumors were proven false, Curtis had been let go because he simply did not show up to work. It was enough to make the other employees suspicious though. The white men but especially the women who worked there felt uncomfortable with the ways Curtis looked at them but say Curtis was never threatening. Curtis broke some batteries and missed a few days of work. He was let go but he was not upset because he had only been working there for a few days. Doug Evans, on the other hand, dramatized this story saying that Curtis was fired right after breaking the batteries, he was angry that it came out of his paycheck and this was his motive for murder. This status inequality exists because people would rather trust the “reliable white people” than the suspicious black man. His character was entirely determined by the opinion of a few white people and it was exaggerated and bent enough to characterize him as a murderer. This contributes to the social problem of all generalization of black people as dangerous and more likely to commit crime. With stereotypes like these in the backs of everyone’s mind, harsher punishment and more brutality is more likely to be focused towards black people (i.e. police brutality).
Another example of status inequality is in episode 3 when ballistics are used to determine that two bullets were shot from the same gun. The man doing the forensic tests on the bullets never wavered and was 100% sure that the bullet from the mattress at the store was the same as the bullet in a tree in Curtis’s cousins’ backyard. The producers of the podcast spoke to another bullet analyst who argued that forensic ballistic evidence is never a “science”, it is just a guess and it is impossible to be 100% sure about any bullet. The bullet in the mattress was found weeks after the crime scene had been cleared and days after the bullet in the post was found. It seems unlikely that it could have been missed, yet the ballistics analyst determined the two bullets to be fired from the same gun. His job title gave him credibility, and it is believed that Evans used this status to his advantage to continue feeding lies that seem undeniable to the jury. When he became a prosecutor, Evans promised to let no crime go unpunished. This inequality exists because he is unwilling to see innocence because of his promise and he lies and cheats to maintain it. He moves past justice for his own personal gain and for the name that comes with it. The unequal outcomes are obvious, that people are being wrongly accused because prosecutors such as Evans use their high status to paint the perfect crime on easy targets of low status.
In Cecilia Ridgeway’s article“Why Status Matters for Inequality”, she details how “micro-level social relations” constitute beliefs about “competence and suitability for authority”. This, in turn, generates material advantages based on group membership (such as race) alone. Certain assumptions about all black people could create an image in the jurors’ mind before they even meet him. This is a social problem because stereotypes control the images of people of color as unworthy of honor, esteem and respect and translate to the jobs they get and the opportunities they pursue. It is also bad because white people attempting to uphold their status will make immoral choices instead of getting to justice. With people of color at an automatic lower status, it will take a major social change to shake assumptions and stereotypes that are subconsciously made but have a very real effect on the lives of minorities.