African Americans and the Criminal Injustice System
This is an era of mass incarceration in America. America holds the highest number of prisoners which is about 25% of the world’s prisoner population. The number of Americans incarcerated in prisons in America is more that 2.1 million, which as a very rapid increase from the 200,000 prisoners in 1972. African Americans constitute the highest number of prisoners at 28%. Some statistics proved that one of every three black guys born in 2001 would go to jail in their lifetime.
African Americansbeing terrorized and murdered by mobs has escalated for many generations and does not show any sign of stopping. Th federal law enforcement officers, local officers and lawmakers have failed to act accordingly to end the racial profiling. Getting to understand the current dehumanization and racism, it is crucial totrace back to its origin so that we can find a better lasting solution to this problem once and for all.
African people were brought to America as slaves in seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. 12 million of them were kidnaped from various counties in Africa and chained before being transported by ships as commodities. In the United States of America, the forced hard labor that the slaves were subjected to resulted to economic growth. The white supremacy ideology was created to make slavery morally acceptable. The demandofslaves increased in the nineteenth century because of the thriving plantation economy. The domestic slave trade that thrived in the nineteenth centuryincreased slaves’population in the South.
America adopted the Thirteenth Amendment that abolished slavery after a civil war that saw the South get defeated. The racial hierarchy and white supremacy that continued afterwards revealed that slavery was actually going on as it evolved with time. Many whites reacted violently to the law that required them to treat the black people, who they had been treating as their property, as equal human beings. New Orleans and Memphis cities were violence sites as blacks demanded equal rights from the whites after the thirteenth amendments.
Slavery evolved to convict leasing where black people were convicted under black code laws and then leased to private, white businesses to labor for state profits. This kind of slavery was worse than the original slavery that was abolished. White women and black men were not allowed to interact. Social hierarchy was enforced through the introduction of lynching and oppression. Local governments and federal state allowed this kind of lynching and oppression. Lynching perpetrators acted bravely because as much as it was unlawful, it was allowed by law enforcement officers and elected officials. The brutalized bodies would be left out in the open to traumatize other black people. The perpetrators would pose for photos with the dead, bloodied, and strangled bodies after their heinous acts and document them.
Sexual violence was another way that black men were targeted as a way of terrorizing them. Most documented lynching victims were due to sexual assault and few were accused of murder. African Americans were presumed to be dangerous and always guilty. The accusations that were lodged against them were rarely investigated. For example, a case of Reuben Sims, who was lynched after being suspected of assaulting a white woman in 1904 in Baldwin County, Alabama. The areaSheriff later found out that Reuben was innocent and the perpetrators who lynched him were never arrested.Anti-lynchinglegislation failed several times due to the opposition it received mostly from the elected officials from the South. Very few criminal convictions happened after 1900 against lynchingperpetrators. This was due to the inaction and indifference of officials and locals.Most lynching happened in communities where the blacks were underrepresented in the criminal justice system and overrepresented in jails and prisons and were disproportionately poor.
The black people were presumed to be guilty and dangerous. This has made the African Americans to be victims of the unfair administration as they are wrongly convicted in most cases. The bias against the people of color has made policing difficult. People of color up to today have been victims of frequent police stops and searches which turns to be violent in most cases. This has led to more expulsions, suspensions and school arrests to the black learners. The charging decisions imposed on the black people areharsher even today as plea negotiations are rarely used with the black suspects. The rates of parole revocation and probation, wrongful convictions and unfair sentencing falls on the black population in most cases.
The modern criminal law and the racial terror lynching that existed in the American history intersects in today’s legislation of death penalty. Lynching received international and national condemnation in the 1920s leading to introduction of capital punishment as its replacement. There was no achievement in replacing lynching with capital punishment as many defendants argued because there were still unjust sentences, unreliable convictions and unfair trials of the black suspects.
Most modern death sentences are meted out to black people accused of committing crimes to their white victims. The efforts to end the racial biasness in convictions of death penalties has been thwarted by the federal administrations severally as many officials in the government are custodians of the racial bias witnessed. This modern biasness in convictions brings back the historical racial violence memories to life.
The deaths of black people that go unpunished such as Philando Castile in Minnesota, Freddie Gray in Baltimore, Maryland; Sandra Bland in Texas; Trayvon Martin in Florida; Alton Sterling in Louisiana; Tamir Rice and Samuel DuBose in Ohio demonstrates the fatal racial bias that has ailed American in more than two centuries.Countless black people who were condemned to death unfairly continue to traumatize the blacks. Antony Ray Hilton was one of the several others who were condemned to death but later exonerated after many years. This reveals the unfair judicial system that promotes historical injustice by falling heavily on the black people with unfair judgements.
Today, the fear of black people and labeling them as criminals has led to their dehumanization. This has led to the national acceptance of warehousing millions of people as a prison system. Today’s mass incarceration in American that has historical background on the blacks is now felt by people from all the racial backgrounds. It is only the black people that can trace its origin because they were the historical victims of the mass incarceration.
The Equal Justice Initiative has been advocating on behalf of the incarcerated in the South for more than 30 years now. The Equal Justice Initiative believe that telling the truth on the racial lynching, slave trade, mass incarceration and Jim Crow segregation can free the current generation from the conflict and division that has existed and impacted America in more than two centuries. Putting efforts to address these historical injustices can set America to an honest reflection that will weed out and expose the poisons that people keep in their souls. This kind of efforts can not be left to the courts alone but should happen withing the American communities.There is need for people to go back to the writings of Baldwin and Du Bois. These writers not only give a foundation of understanding the whole issue of racisms with where it started, they also give guidance on what is to be done to end it amicably and gives hope for a better future
It is true as Baldwin puts it that there will be no real political and social structure change in America without the use of far-reaching and radical actions. In this trying time, Americans should take Baldwin and Du Bois writings seriously and act accordingly for a long-lasting change for the better.
Terence Crutcher was shot dead by Tulsa Police officer Betty Shelby on September 16, 2016. The circumstances of the shooting were investigated and later Shelby was acquitted of her charges. This led to a series of protests in the United States captioning “black lives matter.Terence Crutcher incident incited nationwide conversation on racial profiling of the blacks. His death also elicited claims of eroding relationships of different races in Tulsa. Tulsa has a history of racial division dating back to 1921 that claimed the lives of more than 400 black residents. And now the most recent incident of a police officer killing GeorgeFloyd shows that African American woes are not yet over.
In conclusion, the American dream to end racism and racial killings has not been realized yet. It seems that history is repeating itself. Given the political climate in the united states and the demonstrations going on about “black lives matter”, the situations on racism seems to have not changed. Baldwin believed that the race and religion issues can be changed for the better basing on the fact that humans have the capacity to love and change for the better.
Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law. http://www .brennancenter.org/dynamic/subpages/download_file_48382.pdf
Tony, Michael (1995), Malign Neglect—Race, Crime, and Punishment in America, Oxford University Press, New York.
Browning, Sandra Lee, Francis T. Cullen, Liqun Cao, Renee Kopache, and Thomas J. Stevenson.
1994. "Race and Getting Hassled by the Police: A Research Note," Police Studies 17:1-12.
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