It gets talked about a lot these days, how there is a major problem with racial discrimination in the criminal justice system. A very hot button subject that itself is used as an example in even larger civil liberties debates.
Generally, it’s not even a debate whether or not this discrimination exists (or it’s level of severity) within our criminal justice system, it’s simply considered FACT that is proven by the flat statistics. Percentages listed of how many more Black and Latino/Hispanic people are in prison than White people (or get arrested, or remain in prison awaiting trial, or get assigned a public defender for their lawyer, etc., etc.).
I see a lot of MAJOR flaws in this logic. I do not understand how flat statistics could ever possibly be expected to prove MOTIVATION. Why is the conclusion that is jumped to by these statistics that it must be RACIALLY motivated? Why is it not even considered that the reason more Black and Latino/Hispanic people are in prison than White people, is simply because more of them happened to have actually committed crimes? Why is merely ASKING that question considered racist by many people? Why aren’t more people asking those questions?
Honestly though, stop a minute. Put any judgements you rushed to aside for the moment and open your mind. Forget race and consider the fact that the majority of crimes are committed by people from LOW INCOME URBAN COMMUNITIES. And that IS a fact. Why do you suppose that is?
Myself, I suppose that is because people who live in these areas have the cards stacked against them. Because people in these communities have a horrendous public education system leading to low paying jobs and an endless repeat cycle where every generation is worse off than the last. Children in these areas are often raised by parents who have a poor education and low paying jobs (giving the parents little opportunity to help their children do better), are surrounded by crime (making it seem normal, acceptable, and easily attainable), and have very little chance of breaking the pattern because their public education often doesn’t even teach them such basic skills as how to read – let alone prepare them for college or a better adult life and the means to move OUT of that area.
Communities comprised of uneducated people with a low income subsequently tend to have the HIGHEST crime rates. And it just so happens that the people who live in these communities are primarily Black and Latino/Hispanic, with White people as the minority. And it stays that way, because like I said, few people are able to break the cycle and move someplace better.
That’s not racism, that’s geography. If the tables were turned and the people who lived in these areas were mostly White – then more White people would be in prison and all those other things. And I suspect few people would be crying racism if that were the case.
I read quite the interesting article on this subject on Huffington post. The author was adamant that this discrimination against Black people exists and, immediately after listing all the statistics that prove it, said the following:
“Poor whites and people of other ethnicity are also subjected to this system of social control. Because if poor whites or others get out of line, they will be given the worst possible treatment, they will be treated just like poor blacks.” [FULL ARTICLE]
I found this statement priceless. Everything you need to know is right there. Two sentences that discredit the entire article, in the author’s own words, embedded in the center of it. Poor people, no matter what their ethnicity are treated equally to each other by our criminal justice system – bad.
Does that mean that racial discrimination DOESN’T exist in our criminal justice system? Of course not. Myself, I definitely believe that it does – primarily when it comes to who is targeted for committing crimes (e.g. the “stop and frisk”). But I do NOT believe that unfairly targeting a person based on race automatically equates to unfairly convicting a person based on race. There is a lot of ground between those two events. Some of the people unfairly targeted will undoubtedly be unfairly convicted… but how many? No such statistics exist or could exist. And without knowing those numbers, none of the other statistics prove ANYTHING. They are just statistics. And all we’re left with are suspicions that can neither be proved nor disproved.
That doesn’t mean we should stop talking about this subject. I think it’s important for everyone to think about it and ask questions and take actions that could improve our society as a whole. But we won’t be able to take the RIGHT actions if we haven’t correctly identified the problem. And we can’t correctly identify the problem if we just make assumptions and stop asking any more questions.