In ancient Mesopotamian society a harsher level of punishment was given to people of lower status in society. This distribution of punishment was actually written into law shown in The Code of Hammurabi. I know what you are thinking. Ancient societies were messed up and that way of governing is obviously not fair and completely wrong. Unfortunately, this type of uneven distribution of punishment is still very prevalent in today’s society.
In January of 2015 Brock Turner was only given a six month jail sentence for raping an unconscious woman on his college campus. Brock Turner was a white male athlete at Stanford University. When Brock was given his sentence of only six months the judge felt that Brock was not a danger to society and had too much to lose. There was also already a since of entitlement showed by his family when Brock’s father describe Brock’s crime as only “20 minutes of action.”
In September of 2016 Albert Wilson, a black man who attended Kansas University, was sentenced to more than 12 years in prison for allegedly raping a 17 year old white women. In this case there was no substantial proof of the two having intercourse. Although there was no proof of Wilson’s guilt he was convicted guilty by the court.
In these two cases you see the disproportionate judgement of crimes that didn’t even happen over 5 years ago. In the first case a young white male at a prestigious university got a slap on the wrist for raping another human being. In the first case there was absolutely zero reasonable doubt that he did it. In the second case a young black male got 24 times the sentence for raping another person and there wasn’t even legitimate evidence that they had intercourse.
In today’s society the law is not equal or fair. The law sees color. When and educated white man comes to the stand often times they see him as able to be rehabilitated. When a man of color comes to the stand they see him as a danger to society, as someone who can’t change, someone who is already guilty.
When reading the Code of Hammurabi you can see the parallel of unjust differences in punishments similar to the cases above. The code says “If a man has knocked out the teeth of a man of the same rank, his own teeth shall be knocked out.” This seems pretty fair so far but then the code then goes on to state “If he has knocked out the teeth of a peasant, he shall pay one-third of a mina in silver.” Now this seems outrageous because this is not a very large amount of money it’s really more like pennies on the dollar. The stigma they are building with this type of law code is that if you are a high enough status you can get away with whatever you want. This is the same in the two cases discussed earlier in the blog.
So is the US a modern day Babylon? I would say that is a bit of a stretch but in a lot of cases it is almost spot on. The criminal justice system in the US is basically saying that if you are wealthier or have lighter skin you shouldn’t be convicted as harshly as poorer people with darker skin.