The source of racial disparity that pervades the United States criminal justice system, and for African Americans in particular, lies within the bounds of racial discrimination. In order for this treatment to be stopped, members of society must make efforts to alter a mindset that draws it roots from a dark history of slavery and manipulation.
Addressing Diawara’s view that society views whiteness as the norm by objectifying races and creating economic and public policies, Barak Obama’s 2008 Father Day speech, and Ava DuVernay’s movie 13th, are clear examples that racial discrimination often goes unnoticed in the United States due to how the black image is seen within society.
- Far too often law enforcement officers use excessive force against people, especially African Americans. Thousands of cases across the U.S. have been reported where people have been abused by an officer illegally without any reason, as police brutality remains one of the most serious human rights violations. The evidence of unjustified police shooting, severs beatings, rough treatment, and mass incarceration rate among a certain race is outstanding. According to criminal justice facts, people of color makeup 12 % of the United States population, but 34% on the prison population (“Criminal Justice Fact Sheet.” NAACP). Black men are six times more likely to be incarcerated as one in three men are imprisoned. One in eighteen Black females face prison sentences, when only one in seventeen white males and one in one hundred and eleven white females are sentenced (“Criminal Justice Facts.”). “Police officers have killed 852 people in 2018, 1,147 people in 2017, Black people where 25% of those killed despite being only 13% of the population” (“Police Have Killed 852 People in 2018.”). However, the fact of the matter is that most of these incidents go un-noticed. The government’s lack of recognition, and responsibility is an attempt to strike fear among the black community, allowing them to constantly live in fear that a regular trip to the supermarket, or a night out with their friends may be there last. They face the harsh reality that they are three times more likely to be killed by a police officer than a white individual. Too often unarmed black men are being killed by police officers, as in 2015 30% of black victims killed by police officers were unarmed; and the risk appears to increase in police departments with a higher percentage of white officers (“Police Have Killed 852 People in 2018.”). The Michael Brown Legacy: Police Brutality and Minority Prosecution, explains that police brutality is undeniably associated with race. The issue of police brutality is the issue within the courtroom. Police testimonies are often used to determine the outcome of the case. Racial cues are perceived within fractions of seconds, with black racial cues rapidly activating negative information in one’s perspective as that’s how society has trained us to view the black image. Analyzing the Federal justice system, the incarceration rate, and reasons for imprisonment, it is obvious that African Americans have a harder time when dealing with the criminal courts. When society visualizes the black Image within media, crime constitutes the representation of the race. Stereotyping, when used negatively within media, quickly conveys information and expectations about ones character. The portrayal of African Americans in films, is an image that has been continuously reinforced by society. An image that has cost many Americans there freedom, and in many cases their life. A study by the US Sentencing Commission found that black men receive 19.1 percent longer sentences for the same federal crime as a white male (Lopez). In the US everyone is entitled to a fair trial by a jury. However, an African American going on trial is a gamble with their life, as studies show they are more likely to get sentenced to time behind bars for smaller crimes, but also if found guilty sentenced to longer years. A gamble many African Americans are not willing to take.
- Despite the tremendous amount of evidence, police misconduct towards African Americans remains invisible. Not only is society ignoring the violence blacks experience at the hands of police officers, we are also ignoring the racial profiling that happens within the court room. The role that race plays in the criminal justice system is crucial to understanding the disproportionate number of black people in prison compared to white people. Why statistics like these goes unnoticed, lies in the hands of the government and their inability to recognize and address the issuer. In 2008, Senator and future President, Barak Obama addressed Apostolic Church of God in Chicago IL. Obama celebrated Father’s Day by calling out black fathers, to become more active in raising their children. However, the problem of children being raised in fatherless homes lies deeper than the idea of dead beat fathers, but the defining social problem of our times. The problem with fatherless families is the problem with the mass incarceration rate in the United States, which Obama failed to acknowledge. The power of the racial gaze, as Diawara mentions, posits whiteness as the norm by objectifying races and creating economic and public policies which plays a tremendous role in how the black image is seen within society (Diawara, Manthia.) Undeniably statics show, “children who grow without a father are five times more likely to live in poverty and commit crime, nine times more likely to drop out of school and twenty times more likely to end up in prison” (Obama, 2008) – exactly where the system placed their fathers. “The United States is home to 5% of the world’s population, but 25% of the world’s prisoners” (13th). One out of four human beings in the world, are locked up here in America. A country that claims to be the land of the free, homes 2.3 million individuals, 40% of which are African Americans (Wagner, Peter, and Wendy Sawyer). Statics Barak Obama failed to identify while addressing the issues of missing fathers. The Government is at fault for the federal prison systems mass incarceration rate, through the implement of the three strike system that sentenced over 60% of African Americans to life sentences (Written Submission of the American Civil Liberties Union). The reality of force that Bill Clinton put forward through mandatory minimums, and three strikes, were a severe use of political force that placed millions of African Americans into prison, forced families to be broken, and forced children to live without both parents.
Racial discrimination has been a significant problem in the United States. For decades African Americans have endured a system where they faced political, economic, institutional, and social oppression. The impact of the criminal justice system on black male adults calls for an evaluation of identity, particularly that which involves the relation between black bodies and an oppressive system of whiteness. Elements of this American dynamic resembles those of the African American slave experience. Black men are being targeted, criminalized, and imprisoned at an enormous rate in the United States. The racial disparity that pervades the United States criminal justice system clearly states that African Americans are more likely than white Americans to be arrested, convicted, as well as lengthy prison sentence. As members of society we have failed each other in addressing the structural factors that cause police brutality. The problem lies much deeper than a few racist police officers. Police brutality against black people simply reflects the issue of racism in America. Police brutality is in many ways a system to remove one’s privilege, power, and opportunity based on one’s social description of how one looks. It also intersects with the criminal justice system where black people are more likely to be arrested, charged and incarcerated than white folks for the same crime. Police brutality exists because we have yet to address structural racism in the law enforcement system and society. Unwarranted and biased police brutality against black people is a racist problem.