By: Christine Davis
More African-American men are entangled in the criminal-justice system today than were enslaved in 1850. In a recent article for Gallup Politics, Frank Newport reports that while 68% of Blacks say the American justice system is biased against Blacks, and 25% of Whites agree. Blacks’ attitudes about the justice system have remained virtually constant over the past 20 years, but Whites have become less likely to perceive bias.
Additionally, Newport sites new results are based on interviews with 2,541 Americans, including 1,841 non-Hispanic Whites and 230 non-Hispanic Blacks, conducted as part of Gallup Daily tracking, after the verdict in the George Zimmerman trial was handed down. Zimmerman was found not guilty of second-degree murder and manslaughter charges in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin. The Gallup data reveal a continuing divide by race in views of the fairness of the American justice system. Although the percentage of White Americans who say the justice system is biased has dropped by eight percentage points over that time, while the percentage of Blacks has stayed constant. Naturally, it depends on who you ask. If you ask White people, of course they will say that Blacks are not being treated unfairly. President Barack Obama even weighed in on the situation, recalling times when he himself as a young Black man felt discriminated against because of his race.
Just like the non-sentencing of Zimmerman in Martin’s death makes no sense, it make no sense that 22-year old Oscar Grant, III was executed while he lay face down on the ground and was fully cooperating, in Oakland. One officer kneeled on his neck while the other officer pulled out a gun and shot him point blank in the back. The bullet went through his back, hit the ground, bounced back and pierced his lung, killing him. The White officer, Johannes Mehserle only received an involuntary manslaughter charge and a two-year sentence. Criminal for us, and Justice for them.
It’s senseless that 92-year-old Kathryn Johnston had to lose her life in the same manner of Oscar Grant III. Police officers claimed an informant stated that they’d find a large stash of cocaine in Johnston’s home. When officers forced their way into Johnston’s home, she met them holding a rusty old revolver, fearing she was about to be robbed. The police opened fire, and killed her. The police invented an informant for the search warrant, and lied about overseeing a drug buy from Johnston’s home. Ms. Johnston didn’t actually wound any of the officers. They were wounded by fragments of the ricochet from their own storm of bullets. And there was no marijuana. Once they realized their mistake, the officers handcuffed Ms. Johnston and left her to bleed and die on the floor of her own home while they planted marijuana in her basement. The officers involved were sentenced between 5 and 10 years for her death. Ms. Johnston lived 92 years on this Earth just to be killed by some crooked officers. Criminal for Us, Justice for Them.
It’s bad enough that our African-American girls and young women have become the fastest-growing population of incarcerated young people in the country. More than 2 million African-Americans are currently either in prison, in jail, on probation or on parole. Another case that clearly shows racism is alive and well in our Criminal Justice System is the case of Marissa Alexander was convicted of 20 years in prison after she fired a warning shot into the wall to scare off her abusive husband. She had already filed a restraining order against him and was just trying to protect herself. Many are scratching their head and asking how could a woman in a relationship with a man who had a history of domestic violence, and whose actions did not result in any physical injury, be sentenced to two decades in prison while George Zimmerman be found was found not guilty with second-degree murder?
Michelle Alexander, author of The New Jim Crow, points out that “Being labeled a felon effectively strips away crucial rights from an individual, locking him or her into second-class status indefinitely, unable to vote, secure a good job or find safe and affordable housing. The current system provides for little or no reintegration; it functions as a revolving door, through which those who have served time in jail or prison all too often quickly find themselves back in, unable to overcome the many obstacles they face when attempting to re-enter their communities.”
Once one goes to jail, the right to vote is stripped away. How can we be apart of a system that will not allow us to vote in elected officials that will help build a better Criminal Justice System?
Then again, perhaps Whites are in fear because Blacks outnumber them. Minorities make up a majority in the United States, part of a sweeping race change and a growing age divide between mostly White, older Americans and predominantly minority youths that could reshape government policies.