Photo Credit Jack Durant
Ever since slavery, there has been an unsettling dispute between African Americans and Caucasians. Though this has been known for some time, we are failing to face the fact that the ideology and implementation of slavery-driven mentalities, have not been emancipated from our Criminal Justice Administration. Over the past 154 years, African Americans –and people of color in general– have been the face of blame that America initially turns to when there is strife amongst communities. We do not see individuals of color or blacks in the chains of slavery per se, however, there is vivid injustice in our Criminal Judicial System and it is highly in favor of Caucasians, while turning a blind eye to every other color. This issue is still dividing our country. Some argue that there is nothing wrong with the way things are now and that there is already work being done to amend this injustice, while others contend that the world is far too anticipatory to punish people of color in any given situation. It is in all of our best interests to challenge our government and law enforcement to take a second look at the numbers and statistics that are screaming modernized, racial oppression. If there is a way that we can numerically shed light on why people of color are commonly targeted and evaluate the the punishment that follows the crimes being committed, our nation would realize just how bias and racist our Criminal Justice System is.
The topic of racial descrimination continuing well into the 21st century, is something that needs to be recognized by all individuals, regardless of the political masks we make fit to our preferred lifestyles. When we divide our communities with the force of racism, we intentionally starve our country of the diverse, free and colorful United States that it was meant to be. When we look at the state of racism in modern day America, there is no sign of physical bondage that oppresses African Americans, but the oppression does not start and end with shackles. The areas that we statistically see racial descrimination and oppression, is within the Criminal Justice Administration. In 2013, America watched a nuanced and vibrant adaptation of the Black Panther Party known as the #BlackLivesMatterMovement. The movement began just shortly after Trayvon Martin, a seventeen year old, African American high school student was shot by George Zimmerman in 2012. The purpose of the movement is to “…affirm the lives of Black queer and trans folks, disabled folks, undocumented folks, folks with records, women, and all Black lives along the gender spectrum.”(Black Lives Matter). The mere fact that there is a movement created for the sole purpose of validating a human life who happens to be a person of color, only substanciates the injustice and racist ideals that are embedded in our Criminal Justice system as well as America as a whole.
When looking at the foundation for a well functioning and sound Criminal Justice Administration, we as citizens expect for our judges and juries to consider our acts of wrongdoing in the most objective and fairly assessed manner. When living in a world that never fails to measure anything when unsure about an event, injustice, bias and division are the results of when our world or community fails to measure something of importance. As our government and figures of power seem to intentionally ignore the statistics of blacks, Latinacs and other individuals of color who are under collective, and conditioned surveillance for potential acts of misconduct, it creates an unnecessary, fear based mindset that warrants protest groups such as Black Lives Matter to measure, acknowledge and validate what our government chooses to evade. The fear that has already been integrated into communities and media about people of color, are based on the grounds of assumption and the fear of “other”, so much so that, “when black men are judged by juries in capital cases… those with darker skin, wider noses and thicker lips are subject to far harsher sentencing than lighter-skinned blacks with less prominent, so- called black features.” (Eberhardt). When the Criminal Justice Administration– the pinnacle of alleged objectivity– chooses to establish the severity of a trial on the foundation of pure aesthetics and the cultural anatomy of a human being, it abolishes and completely defiles any equitable image of why Criminal Justice exists.
The primary factor in determining who will be arrested, detained or added to death row, regardless of the initial crime (if any), all circulate around racial profiling. As human beings, we all have the intrinsic and biological knowledge and personalized, internal codes for identifying a threat. It could be the way that someone looks, speaks or just an overall feeling that does not match our understanding of comfort or connection. No matter what that indicator is, it is natural and simply a part of how human beings respond to others, however, “African Americans bear the brunt of the bigotry; they’re the most overrepresented on death row. In a state that is only 6% black, more than one-third of defendants sentenced to death in California are black.” (Eberhardt). By assigning threat to the way that someone looks regardless of the crime that has been committed, it instills obdurate, subjective and unnecessary fear based on the appearance of a mere individual. Racial profiling is by far one of the most oppressive trainings that law enforcement must undergo. By identifying a threat based on the culture of another individual, there is always the looming question as to whether or not a person of color is minding their business or a threat to public safety. By voting for programs that force law enforcement to look deeper into what motives they have for targeting people of color as threats to public safety, or creating traffic stops where escalation in interrogation is demonstrated, urban communities and people of color collectively would not have to deal with the constant fear of being targeted for simply existing.
In cases of police brutality, where racial discrimination is in question when African Americans are subjected to exessive use of force or police shootings, “murder charges against police officers are too often held up as the gold standard” and do not recieve criminal charges or legal repercutions. (The Case of Stephon clark). It’s highly unlikely for there to be any kind of measurement for racism. Because it does not have its own metric or numerical symbolism, it is often harder for law enforcement to recognize racism as a motive for targeting criminal activity due to the fact that racism is at the receiving end of when a group of people are continuously under harsher treatment and assumption that is failing to be validated or accounted for. When the peace-keepers and law enforcers of our country neglect to measure and validate the mistreatment of others, there is a disconnection between most other issues that have measurable statistics which place themselves at a higher priority. This divide causes the conflict we see among people of color and whites, in view of the fact that whites are viewed as the higher priority in comparison to the presumed menace created by people of color. By creating a format where chiefs of law enforcement can clearly understand what is going on during police stops and arrests, racial profiling would be a much harder motive to prove and agrue for when people of color are dealing with police. If we as a nation continue on our paths blind to the discriminatory atmosphere surrounding us, we lose sight of why our country is founded on the principles that it is.
Is America truly the land of the free? Or just the unbonded, impoverished and vibrant culture that has been oppressed? We do not make fundamental changes by just signing emancipation papers that exclude equity as something of importance, and we do not free African Americans by releasing the shackles and transporting them to prisons. If we want to see a truly free and spirited America, we cannot ignore the voices of those being slandered by loudly unspoken racist structures that are so heavily built into Americas society. This issue is constantly dividing urban communities and people of color as a collective. We cannot continue to live in a world that is ever- so slightly hinting at racial purification.
“About.” Black Lives Matter, blacklivesmatter.com/about/ Eberhardt, Jennifer L. “Bias in the Justice System.” Los Angeles Times, 21 Mar 2019.
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“The Case of Stephon Clark.” Los Angeles Times, 05 Mar 2019. sirsissuesresearcher, https://proxy.yc.edu/login?url=https://explore-proquest- com.proxy.yc.edu/sirsissuesresearcher/document/2262916342?accountid=8141.