Eng 122 Week 5 Assignment

Topics: African American, Crime, Racism Pages: 25 (7375 words) Published: April 28, 2015

Race and American Justice System:
A Study of Role Race Plays in Racial Injustice
LaMichael Saunders
ENG 122
Instructor Storey
November 25, 2013

Race and American Justice System:
A Study of Role Race Plays in Racial Injustice
The U.S has roughly 5 percent of the world’s population, but about 25 percent of its prison population. Further, over two million Americans are in prison or jail. Crime statistics and incarceration rates reveal that young African American men are prosecuted and imprisoned at higher rates than their Non-Hispanic White counterparts. Appallingly, of those incarcerated just under half (40 percent), are African American (Lawrence, 2011, p. 4). To put this statistic into perspective, as of 2010, African Americans made up just 12.6 percent of all Americans (U.S. Census Bureau, 2010). This gross disparity may be hard to believe, but it is an unfortunate fact that cannot be denied. For many it is an unacceptable fact, but for others, just a symptom of reality. The question that begs asking is: why? Why are American prisons so disproportionate in their racial makeup? According to Lawrence, for every 100,000 black men, 4,777 are behind bars (p. 4). Further, one out of every three young black men will be incarcerated at some point in his lifetime (p. 6). When evaluating these numbers, one must consider the role that structured inequality plays. As Alexander (2010) notes, “The unfortunate reality we must face is that racism manifests itself not only in individual attitudes and stereotypes, but also in the basic structure of society” (p. 179). There are many sociological, academic and political explanations to the above questions. They range from those that blame the above disparities on supposed black criminality to those that look to larger social factors for causation. The one community that most of them share however is their focus on the issue of race, because when discussing the racial disparities in the criminal justice system with regards to incarceration, policing, and the like, it’s a highly important factor no matter the perspective. As within many facets of society, the issue of race in the criminal justice system is like the elephant in the room. Everybody knows it’s there, but everybody sees and approaches the situation differently. For the purpose of this paper I take a critical approach and study the causes of racial disparities in the criminal justice system that go beyond criminality along racial lines. My basic question is this: what role does race play in the criminal justice system and is the system truly colorblind as many whites believe it to be. With this country’s shameful past of slavery, the Jim Crow laws, and numerous other racially based injustices, it seems obvious that race plays a factor in many facets of the criminal justice system, such as who is more likely to come in contact with it and who is more likely to be incarcerated. I begin this paper with a discussion of slavery and its early ties to the criminalization of freed blacks, the Jim Crow laws, and a history of punitive crime policy in the United States and its connection to the Civil Rights Movement. I then study the role race has in two important facets of the criminal justice system: the War on Drugs and capital punishment. I then offer an analysis of implicit/unconscious racism and stereotypes and how they affect and shape the criminal justice system. I argue that it is nearly impossible to claim the American criminal justice system is colorblind and racially fair, as negative attitudes towards African Americans are still pervasive throughout society. I end with a discussion on the criminality argument proposed by many as the cause of the above racial disparities and argue that it is a faulty, oversimplified argument. Post-Slavery: The Early Beginnings of the Race/Crime Link

A discussion about race and the criminal justice system is incomplete without considering the ways slavery and its...

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