Workers Vanguard No. 887

2 March 2007


Serving Ten Years for Oral Sex

Free Genarlow Wilson!

(Young Spartacus pages)

In a case exemplifying racist and anti-sex bigotry in the U.S., Genarlow Wilson, a 20-year-old black man, languishes in a Georgia prison on a mandatory ten-year sentence with no hope of parole for engaging in consensual oral sex three years ago with a younger schoolmate. In December, the Georgia Supreme Court refused to reconsider Wilson’s conviction for “aggravated child molestation” after earlier turning down his appeal by a four-to-three vote in which each of the court’s four white justices voted to keep him locked up. Wilson faces spending the rest of his young adulthood behind bars.

As Wilson and a group of friends were celebrating New Year’s Eve in 2004 in a hotel room, he and others were caught on videotape having oral sex with a 15-year-old girl. Even the girl’s mother testified in court that her daughter initiated the activity. But under Georgia law, where the age of consent is 16, she could not be considered to be “legally consenting.” Jury foreman Marie Manigault has complained bitterly about the jury being misled to believe that they had to convict Wilson. She told Atlanta Magazine (January 2006) that only after announcing the verdict was the jury informed that Wilson would spend at least ten years behind bars. “I just went limp. They had to help me to a chair.” She added, “Because we were ignorant we sent this child to jail.”

The son of a single mother, Wilson was an honor high school student with a 3.2 grade point average, an all-conference football player and track star who was being recruited by Ivy League colleges like Columbia and Brown. His case recalls that of Marcus Dixon, an 18-year-old black high school athlete and an A student who was thrown into prison in 2003 under the same law for having consensual sex with a white girl just shy of 16 (see “Racist Frame-Up in ‘New South’: Free Marcus Dixon!” WV No. 819, 6 February 2004). Even Tyrone Brooks, a black Democratic state legislator who co-sponsored that law, had to admit that the Dixon case was used to send a message that “young black boys better not have sexual relationships with young white girls.”

Amid much publicity over Dixon’s blatantly racist prosecution, the Georgia Supreme Court reduced his conviction to “statutory rape,” cutting his sentence to the 15 months he had already served. Dixon’s case has helped to call attention to Wilson’s imprisonment, which has been widely denounced. A New York Times (21 December 2006) editorial calling for Wilson’s freedom noted: “What makes this case more absurd is that if Mr. Wilson and the young woman had sexual intercourse, he would have been guilty only of a misdemeanor and not required to register as a sex offender, thanks to a provision in the law meant to avoid just this type of draconian punishment for consensual youthful indiscretions, the ‘Romeo and Juliet’ exception. And since Mr. Wilson’s conviction, the law has been changed to exempt oral sex as well. But the courts say that can’t help Mr. Wilson retroactively.” Overturn the conviction! Free Genarlow Wilson now!

Racist forces in the Georgia legislature are blocking a bill that would allow Wilson and others to reopen their cases to take advantage of the recent revision in the law. Leading this effort is state senator Eric Johnson, who rails that Wilson’s acts constituted “rape” and vows to “stand with future possible victims of politically correct apologists who want to turn loose convicted sexual predators.” This racist bigot had earlier promoted a referendum to enlarge the Confederate battle flag that appears on the state flag. Only in 2003 did Georgia overturn a law against “fornication” (banning sex outside marriage) that dated back to the slaveholding era of the 1830s and was used historically against black men and interracial couples.

Dixon and Wilson were sentenced under Georgia’s SB440 law authorizing youth from 13 to 17 to be charged as adults for committing the so-called “seven deadly sins” that include “aggravated child molestation” and “aggravated sodomy.” According to the Georgia Public Defender Standards Council, black teens are five times more likely than whites to be sentenced under this law, while white youth are 84 percent more likely to have their cases transferred back to juvenile court than blacks. Similar laws across the country were adopted throughout the 1980s and ’90s as the racist capitalist rulers deemed a generation of black youth to be innate criminals who must be swept off the streets and warehoused in prisons, mainly through the “war on drugs.” The same 15-year-old who is deemed too immature to consent to the pleasurable activity of sex is mature enough to be tried, convicted and sentenced to up to life in prison as an adult!

Along with Wilson, five others were charged following the New Year’s Eve party. The five pleaded guilty to lesser crimes to avoid long prison terms but are now forced to spend their lives as “registered sex offenders,” targeted for vicious state repression and vigilante violence. Wilson refused such a plea deal, saying it would be “a lifelong sentence in itself.” Even if Wilson could win early release, he would be barred as a “sex offender” from living with his mother, where his eight-year-old sister lives.

Under the 1996 “Megan’s Law” signed by Democratic president Clinton, “sex offenders” must register permanently with local authorities upon release from prison. Their names and addresses are made public, including postings on the Internet, setting them up for assault and murder. More than 370,000 names are on the national registry. A Georgia law enacted in July 2006 forbids “sex offenders” from living within 1,000 feet of a school, playground or church. Terminally ill people, others suffering from Alzheimer’s and even people living in nursing homes have been ordered evicted. Georgia is also among those states that allow the barbaric measure of chemical castration.

Georgia’s reactionary “child molestation” law was one of a raft of measures enacted nationally over the last couple of decades that aimed at both increasing the repressive reach of the capitalist state and bolstering the institution of the family. Along with religion, the family, the principal source of women’s oppression in class society, serves to instill obedience to authority and promotes puritanical morality. This is at the heart of crusades against pornography, youth sexuality, homosexuality and abortion. The Spartacist League and Spartacus Youth Clubs have consistently opposed the intrusion of the government into private life and demand an end to all laws against “crimes without victims,” such as prostitution, drug use and pornography. We oppose reactionary “age of consent” laws, which deny the fact that young people are, and have always been, sexually active. Our guiding principle is simply that of mutual effective consent. Government out of the bedrooms!

In his 1845 Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, this great abolitionist and former slave denounced “the corrupt, slaveholding, women-whipping, cradle-plundering, partial and hypocritical Christianity of this land.” Indeed, religious reaction has historically been bound up with attacks on black rights in the U.S., where the oppression of black people as a race-color caste is rooted in the foundations of the capitalist economy. The desperate conditions facing black youth—police terrorizing the ghettos, mass unemployment and incarceration, the rollback of affirmative action and re-segregation of urban schools—can be eliminated only through the overturn of capitalist class rule by the multiracial working class. We fight to build the revolutionary workers party that is essential to lead the proletariat in this struggle. Black liberation through socialist revolution!

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Contributions for Genarlow Wilson’s legal defense should be made payable to the Genarlow Wilson Defense Fund and sent to Scott Kaye, 729 Piedmont Ave., Atlanta, GA 30308.