Among 500 sanctions that she handed down, “80 percent I believe were unfair and disproportionate,” she said. “I left the bench in 2011 to join the Harvard faculty to write about those stories––to write about how it came to pass that I was obliged to sentence people to terms that, frankly, made no sense under any philosophy.”
In A Case for Reparations, which we covered a while back, Ta-Nehisi Coates calls primarily for America to have a moral reckoning with itself, with the unsettling truths of its past and the obscuring myths of its ideal and ideological premise and promise. I imagine he would see Nancy Gertner’s personal reckoning as a refreshing start. David Simon, The Wire creator, has been saying the same thing about the War on Drugs for a long time, but it’s encouraging to see one of the people responsible for its destructive perpetuity owning her crimes against humanity. Let’s hope her change will inspire others. Given her former position as a federal judge and her complicity in the problematic power dynamics (which is putting the reality of the situation in euphemistic terms) inherent to this War, it would be easy for her to have (a) continued to comply and behave according to the stultifying strength of the status quo, or (b) kept her confession to herself and reckoned with her transgressions in private isolation. Instead, she came out with it in public, and in the process, challenged everyone to do the same.