American Criminal Justice System is a Civil Rights Crisis

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The last few months have issued several potent reminders that racism still pervades our criminal justice system, as even some prominent and powerful American black leaders publicly professed that they had to warn their young sons about police profiling.

There is still a sizable group of Americans that say that there is no more racism. They point to our Black president (who is actually half-Black), and note that Blacks aren’t being hanged anymore. But as Blacks and other minority groups know first-hand, there is indeed still racism.

In some cases, it has simply taken a disguised form. For instance, if you are a minority student, it is likely that your teacher assumes your grades won’t be as high as your white counterparts. He or she won’t say it to your face- that kind of blatant racism in no longer as acceptable as it once was. That it is not acceptable to say, however, doesn’t mean it is not thought. And if it’s thought, it’s likely to have an influence on how that teacher grades minority students.

There are some cases in which blatant racism is still allowed, but hushed up in public. Though this racism is more visible, the taboo of verbalizing it allows some White people to escape knowledge of it’s presence. It also allows those who are the perpetrators of it to deny its presence.

The unfortunate result of all this is people not realizing how bad racism still is, especially in the criminal justice system.

The article cited above offers hard data on what goes on in our justice system, hopefully educating and prompting all of society to have more dialogue about racism and its present-day impacts.


The United States imprisons a larger percentage of its black population than South Africa did at the height of apartheid.

Black men born in the United States in 2001 have a one in three chance of being incarcerated at some point in their lifetime, according to Department of Justice statistics.

The New York Police Department city made more stops of young black men in 2011 than there are young black men in the city!

Blacks are four times as likely to be arrested for marijuana than whites, even though they use the drug at similar rates, according to an analysis of federal data by the American Civil Liberties Union published earlier this year.

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15 thoughts on “American Criminal Justice System is a Civil Rights Crisis

    • I used the term “half-Black” only to demonstrate my point that while we did elect a non-White president, he might not have been voted for if both his parents had been Black. So, even his election brings up the uncomfortable possibility that racism isn’t “done” just because he was elected, though his election obviously represents tremendous progress.

      But thank you for pointing out your concern with the term. Being half-Black doesn’t necessarily translate into a completely different experience than what other Black people go through.

  1. Barak Obama is very literally an African-American. Further, were he to put on jeans, a hoodie, or jacket and maybe a baseball cap, and sneakers, and take a wrong turn down the wrong street at the wrong time, he could get shot by cops as easily as any other Black man in America.
    Also, the entire subject of mixed-blood African Americans is a very sensitive one, and must be handled as such: it brings up the issue of why most African-Americans are, in fact, of mixed heritage. Wide-spread rape of Black women by white men during slavery and long after, and the subsequent very sensitive issue of light skin, “good” hair, etc, that continue to haunt the African-American community are subjects best left to thoughtful commentaries – not sort of tossed out into articles on other, tangentally-related topics.
    I’m not meaning to be disrespectful, but am speaking from my heart about what I know.
    Claire M. O’B.

    • I’m not claiming to be an expert on the issue of mixed background in the Black community. I am Black, so I am looking at this from my experience of being Black and observing how White society views what they consider “mixed race.”

      I think there are important differences between how White/European American society views people of mixed race and how Black people feel about the issue. Even within the Black community, there are differences in attitudes on this issue. I was just trying to tease out those differences, not disrespect anyone. It is a very complex issue that, as you said, has a deep historical context.

      I hope I didn’t disrespect you. If I did, I’m sorry.

  2. Oh, no! You didn’t disrespect me. Although I have Black family members, I am white. I think it’s best for me, as a white person, to bow out of an issue that, as you correctly point out, is complex within the African-American community. My views are much more appropriately directed to other whites; I shouldn’t presume to burden a Black person with something about which they know far more than myself.
    I’m sure you are going to be a great journalist – and believe me, journalism needs you!
    Big Mouth O’Brien

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