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    The Beginning of Understanding

    By Randall Kennedy, Tony Norman, Dax-Devlon Ross, Jetta Grace Martin, and John J. Lennon

    November 24, 2021

    The Autumn 2021 issue of Plough featured Ashley Lucas’s “The End of Rage,” the story of Russell Maroon Shoatz, a former Black Panther incarcerated in Pennsylvania. We invited several prominent writers to respond, and have compiled their pieces below.

    At a hearing on October 25, five weeks after Plough published its profile, Shoatz’s lawyers and doctors presented evidence that the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections was either unable or unwilling to administer sufficient medical care to their client, who is seventy-eight and has stage 4 cancer. Shoatz was given an opportunity to speak for himself. As he did in Lucas’s article, Shoatz told how humiliation and rage steered many of his early life choices and how he had freed himself of that rage despite decades of continued humiliation. Expressing shock at Shoatz’s condition and substandard care, Judge Kai Scott granted “compassionate release” and transfer into hospice care. Shoatz had spent forty-nine years behind bars, including twenty-nine in solitary confinement.

    A Double Standard for the Oppressed?

    Randall Kennedy, author of Say It Loud!: On Race, Law, History, and Culture

    Criminal law in America is racist and cruel, but that is no excuse for the oppressed to be cruel or selfish.

    A Law Unto Themselves

    Tony Norman, columnist for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

    Every Black kid in the back of a Philly police car in those days felt like the next Emmett Till.

    Did Armed Black Radicals Fail?

    Dax-Devlon Ross, author of Letters to My White Male Friends

    Killing is always wrong, but the threat of violence by Black Panthers made King’s nonviolence more palatable.

    The Roots of Rage

    Jetta Grace Martin, coauthor of Freedom!: The Story of the Black Panther Party

    Even if person has committed a crime, he should still be treated as a human being.

    Who Deserves Mercy?

    John J. Lennon, contributing editor for Esquire

    What Russell Shoatz did was an affront to society, but the era he lived in was a blight on American history.

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