Racial Injustice

A research paper from English 10B

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Interstate Studios

English 10B student Anna Eliassen

by Anna Eliassen

Student Work Disclaimer: The opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by the author of this essay do not necessarily reflect the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints of the Journalism class nor those of Caledonia High School and Caledonia Community Schools and their official policies. This essay is student work that expresses an individual student’s beliefs. The author of this essay owns their own words.

Justice is “the establishment of determination of rights according to the rules of law or equity” (“justice”). Throughout American history, Black people have been denied their rights because of the color of their skin and the stereotypes that surround them. They have faced segregation, and hardship, but their fight is not in the past. According to The Bureau Of Justice Statistics in 2014, “…35% of state prisoners are white, 38% are black, and 21% are Hispanic….” Although a 3% margin between white and Black incarcerations may seem small, the racism that Black people face when going through the criminal justice system contributes to this number. The fact that there is still prejudice within the law is unacceptable. The United States criminal justice system must be reformed without favoritism toward one race, and eliminate bias in the courtrooms.

Unquestionably, the unfairness Black people face within courtrooms based on race influence the cases unfairly. Breonna Taylor, an unarmed Black woman, was shot and killed in her home by police who were acting under a no-knock search warrant. When her case was taken to court, however, none of the officers were charged concerning her death, “The grand jury did not announce charges against Jonathan Mattingly and Myles Cosgrove, the other two officers involved. None of the three faces state charges directly over Taylor’s death” (“Kentucky Grand Jury”). This ruling made by the Kentucky Attorney General was a biased decision. There was clear favoritism to the white officers and no justice was served for the defenseless Black woman. In addition to the ruling, research conducted by the National Association of Advancement for Colored Peoples (NAACP) found that crucial evidence was left out when the Attorney General reviewed the case, “his bias was evidenced by the prosecution’s decision to omit homicide charges based on an erroneous interpretation of Kentucky state law, the selective presentation of evidence that benefited the officers, and the failure to respond adequately to grand juror inquiries that could have led to unfavorable facts about the officers” (Justice Denied”). This failure to respond appropriately and charge the officers stems from racist views concerning the rights of Black citizens when compared with white citizens. In addition, the NAACP’s review of the facts presented to the attorney general shows that he did not explain the reasoning behind the so-called “self-defense” the officers used to defend themselves concerning the death of Ms.Taylor, “Our review reveals that the Kentucky Attorney General’s Office presented a biased view of the case that favored law enforcement. Contrary to AG Cameron’s statements during the September 23, 2020, press conference, he did not present charges of homicide or explain the justification of self-defense” (“Justice Denied”). To recapitulate, the purposeful exclusion of facts that could have been presented during the case shows that Black people in this country face racial prejudices when going through the legal system.

Not only do Black people face partiality within courtrooms, but also before they are even sentenced to a hearing in court. According to a study conducted by Emily Owens Ph.D., Erin M. Kerrison Ph.D., and Bernardo Silveria Ph.D., “Racial disparities in police-civilian contact may arise because police officers may make different decisions in what are perceived to be “high crime” neighborhoods than in neighborhoods perceived to be ‘low crime’” (“Examining Racial Disparities”). This exemplifies that decisions made by officers on duty are influenced by their perception of Black neighborhoods as high crime areas. Furthermore, these predetermined notions of high crime areas lead to more arrests of Black citizens, “According to a recent Public Policy Institute of California report, there are approximately 4,400 Black men in California prisons per 100,000 people, which amounts to five times the incarceration rate of Latino man, almost ten times the incarceration rate of White men…” (“Examining Racial Disparities”). The frequent visitation by officers to these Black neighborhoods mean more arrests of Black people when compared to white neighborhoods. In addition to being arrested more frequently than white people, the biases that they face when being arrested follow them even after the outcome of their case has been determined, “Our results suggest that, in large part, the criminal justice outcomes for poor Black defendants are predetermined. Decisions made by the booking officer, and prior contact with the criminal justice system, create substantial racial disparities in how serious their case becomes after booking, as well as how little of these serious charges are reduced over the course of their case” (“Examining Racial Disparities”). Altogether, the arrests made in areas perceived to be high crime because they are predominantly inhabited by Black people lead to higher arrests, and discrimination during and after court cases.

It should be noted that many of these ideas are rooted in the day to day racism and treatment that Black people face. The difficulty in doing day to day things such as applying for a loan is still based on racism, “African Americans and Latinos were much more likely to be denied conventional mortgage loans than white Americans were, even after controlling for factors like an applicant’s income, the amount of the loan, debt-to-income ratio, type of lender, and even the neighborhood where the property is” (“Why It Cost More”). This demonstrates that things such as applying for loans are stemmed from racist views. Furthermore, Black people face challenges when paying student debt back, The Journal for Sociology of Race and Ethnicity found that “…black students reported 85% more education-related debt than their white peers. It’s another way the lack of wealth can be self-perpetuating — those whose families can’t pay for their schooling are more likely to end up locked in a situation that makes it less likely that they themselves will be able to build wealth” (“Racial Disparities”). This proves that because of difficulty in acquiring financial support due to race, Black people have less money than white people. Moreover, Black people have higher incidences of credit card debt. According to the ProPublica investigation, “ …when African Americans and Latinos default on that credit card debt, they are more likely to be sued for defaulting on payments than white Americans. Which can mean wages are garnished, which can mean less money for mortgages or necessities, and more trouble if an emergency strikes…” (“The Color Of Debt”). This shows that credit card agencies are more likely to seek out ways to target Black people for credit card debt than white people. All of these financial factors stem from a racist system because Black people have less money and are forced to live in low-income areas where they are then more likely to be arrested. The financial gap in wealth leads to higher arrest rates of Black People.

Some believe, however, that the issue of racial injustice is one buried in the past, and does not pose as a problem today. One example of racial injustice in the past is when Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a segregated bus, “Mrs. Parks remained seated, arguing that she was not in a seat reserved for whites. James Blake, the driver, believed he had the discretion to move the line separating black and white passengers. The law was actually somewhat murky on that point…” (“An Act of Courage”). This proves that true racial injustice is far in the past, and the injustice Americans face now is not nearly as bad as it was in the past. In addition, the acts of Martin Luther King Jr. are another event that took place in the past surrounding the issue of racial injustice, “Approximately 40,000 black bus riders—the majority of the city’s bus riders—boycotted the system the next day, December 5. That afternoon, black leaders met to form the Montgomery Improvement Association (MIA). The group elected Martin Luther King, Jr., the 26-year-old-pastor of Montgomery’s Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, as its president, and decided to continue the boycott until the city met its demands” (“Montgomery Bus Boycott”). This shows that the large movements against racial injustice lie within our past, and the majority of the work to improve the American legal system has already been completed. To further illustrate the fact that the issue of racial injustice is in the past, “ Without the assistance from any adults, these students confronted the local school board about the blatant inequality of local schools” (“School Segregation”). Black students fought to have the same privileges that the white children had in their school. Although there were indeed large movements for civil rights, the fight still continues just as vigorously today. In this modern time, there are still many examples of protests and marches for civil rights and equality.

This country is facing a period of growth and a fight for equality. The racism that Black people face every day while just trying to live, makes them more likely to be arrested and tried in a courtroom that does not favor their race. To conclude, this country needs total reform in its criminal justice system. With a more fair system that represents the fight for equality justice will truly be served. Action must be taken for true equality to stand in this country.

Works Cited

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Houle, Jason. Addo Fenaba. “ Racial Disparities in Student Debt and the Reproduction of the Fragile Black Middle Class” American Sociological Association 2018 <http://static1.1.sqspcdn.com/static/f/1212067/27958796/1533219065950/HouleAddo2018.pdf?token=nxzD9BGe8eWnVHjFzpd%2FL8xWldw%3D> .

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Kiel, Paul. Waldman, Annie. “The Color of Debt: How Collection Suits Squeeze Black Neighborhoods” ProPublica 2015 <https://www.propublica.org/article/debt-collection-lawsuits-squeeze-black-neighborhoods> .

Library of Congress. “School Segregation and Integration” Library 2009 <https://www.loc.gov/collections/civil-rights-history-project/articles-and-essays/school-segregation-and-integration/#:~:text=The%20massive%20effort%20to%20desegregate,of%20the%20Civil%20Rights%20Movement.&text=Board%20of%20Education%20Supreme%20Court,integrated%20until%20many%20years%20later.> .

Nellis, Ashley. “ The Color of Justice: Racial and Ethnic Disparity in State Prisons” The Sentencing Project 2016 <https://www.sentencingproject.org/publications/color-of-justice-racial-and-ethnic-disparity-in-state-prisons/>.

Owens, Emily. Kerrison, Erin. Silveira, Bernardo. “Examining Racial Disparities in Criminal Case Outcomes among Indigent Defendants in San Francisco” University of Pennsylvania Law School 2017 <https://www.law.upenn.edu/live/files/6793-examining-racial-disparities-may-2017-full> .

Treisman, Rachel. Booker, Brakkton. Romo, Vanessa. “Kentucky Grand Jury Indicts 1 Of 3 Officers In Breonna Taylor Case” NPR 2020 <https://www.npr.org/sections/live-updates-protests-for-racial-justice/2020/09/23/914250463/breonna-taylor-charging-decision-to-be-announced-this-afternoon-lawyer-says#:~:text=Live%20Sessions-,Breonna%20Taylor%20Decision%3A%20Kentucky%20Grand%20Jury%20Indicts%201%20Of%203,charges%20directly%20over%20Taylor’s%20death> .

WealthSimple. “Why It Costs More to Borrow if You’re Black” Wealthsimple Magazine 2019 <https://www.wealthsimple.com/en-us/magazine/racial-borrowing-gap> .