Racial Bias in the American Criminal Justice System: Controversy or U.S. History?

Image Source: Huffington Post

There has long been an issue of racial bias in the American criminal justice system. This is nothing new. When you think back to the time of slavery in America, it is no secret that African Americans have been treated differently on American soil from the very beginning. From slavery, to post slavery, the civil rights movement, the war on drugs, and to present day profiling issues, African Americans have always been deemed of lesser value in the eyes of the American government. Yet, many still argue that slavery ended a long time ago and that African Americans have the same rights as everyone else. I have also heard that the reasoning for the argument of racial bias is because African Americans actually commit more crime than any other race and that this is the reason for their part in mass incarceration. This article will discuss the background of African Americans treatment in the United States and the many ways this has effected the justice system, then and now, and how it is used to profile, sentence, and incarcerate African Americans at much higher rates than any other race.

It has been fifty years since the Civil Rights movement, yet we have made very little progress for civil rights since then, if any at all. Having camera phones and social media at our literal fingertip has caused more and more people to become informed about a controversy that African Americans have been well-aware of for centuries. In recent years, it has not been uncommon to wake up and peruse your newsfeed only to see an article reporting an African-American person slain at the hands of a police officer. At the rate that it has been happening lately, you would think this was some new phenomenon, but African-Americans have had targets on their backs by the United States of America from the very beginning.

In January of 1865, the Thirteenth Amendment passed a bill in the U.S. Senate formally abolishing slavery in the United States, but the loophole in this amendment has legally kept slavery alive. Since then, African Americans have been treated differently in the American Criminal Justice System. There is a significant racial bias in law enforcement, sentencing, and the “justice” system.

The Effects of the 13th Amendment’s Loophole

Racial Driven Misconduct in the Whitehouse

In 1981 while working in the White House under the Ronald Reagan presidency, Lee Atwater, in a now infamous interview, describes the “Southern Strategy”: “You start out in 1954 by saying,“N*****, n*****, n*****.” By 1968 you can’t say, “n*****” — that hurts you, backfires. So, you say stuff like, uh, forced busing, states’ rights, and all that stuff, and you’re getting so abstract. Now, you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is: blacks get hurt worse than whites.… “we want to cut this” is much more abstract than even the busing thing, uh, and a hell of a lot more abstract than “N*****, n*****.” I think that last quote is self-explanatory in the terms of dehumanizing African Americans (Perlstein, 2015).

For those who always claim African Americans are using the “race card,” I ask, after reading so far, do you think the racial bias claims are starting to make sense? If you are still on the fence or in disbelief, hang tight, there is more.

Law Enforcement and Abuse of Power

Racial Disparities in the Prison Systems

Concluding Overview

With Donald Trump as our new president and with the changes that he and his team are making, like bringing back the war on drugs, there is no easy solution to this issue. I think that it must begin from the very beginning with children. We must not teach our children racism and that while we all come from different backgrounds, we are first human and should be treated as equals. These children will grow up to be law enforcement, judges, and future lawmakers who have the ability to make the right changes against racial profiling. We must also, when we can, educate those who are unaware of these disparities to change the current state of racism in general.

While racial bias in the American Criminal Justice System is ethically and morally wrong, it does exist; and after looking at the results and the studies research shows, it’s practically undeniable at this point. And to think; this very country was built by the same African Americans that are racially profiled and criminalized.



I am me — incomparable.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store