Racism in the Legal System Essay

Does our legal system have racist tendencies? In a perfect world, people would be punished for the crimes of which they are guilty, and all punishments would be fair. Unfortunately, we do not live in a perfect world. Racism is still at large. On January 12, 2010, Jordan Miles, an 18 year old African American honors student from Pittsburgh PA, was walking home at night when he was approached by three undercover police officers. The officers asked him, “Where’s your gun, money and drugs? Miles assumed the men were trying to mug him, so he ran. The officers allegedly caught him and beat him. Miles had not been doing anything illegal when first approached by the police. He had not been doing drugs or fighting. He was merely walking home. The officers’ only reason for stopping him was the color of his skin. They were dressed in everyday attire. Miles was not running from the law, he was running for his safety. Unfortunately, this was enough to get a hard beating from the law enforcement of Pittsburgh.

For Jordan Miles, the actions of the police were completely unjustified. It is easy to see the bigotry that caused this event. In other cases, it is not the question of whether or not a crime was committed, but rather how should the criminal be punished. Tamara Graham and William Thornton were in two completely separate car accidents. In both accidents, two people were killed. Neither of the drivers were at all impaired by drugs or alcohol, however Thornton did not have a driver’s license.

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Graham, a well-off Caucasian 42-year-old woman, received a sentence of probation and community service. Thornton, an 17-year old African American boy, received 30 years in prison. Where their crimes so different? Of course, Thornton deserves to be punished for driving without a license along with two charges of vehicular homicide, while Graham was only guilty of double vehicular homicide. But is driving without a license really worth a 30 year difference in punishment?

Another example of prejudice in the American justice system could be capital punishment; does racism prompt executions? When trying to discover individual factors that are recognized as relevant when a jury is sentencing, researchers found that the victim’s race is as important a factor as many others. Statistics from the NAACP shows that the risk of execution is six times greater if the victim is white. Murder is a terrible crime, regardless of the race of the victim, so why does our judicial system value the lives of whites over those of blacks?

Murder is murder, isn’t it? If a one man kills a white man and another kills a black man, shouldn’t they receive the same punishment? Apparently our justice system doesn’t think so. It is now 2010. Its been about 50 years since the civil rights movement, and still our legal system has racist tendencies. We need to set aside our outer differences and focus on the task at hand, because it is ridiculous for the color of one’s skin to determine whether or not he will die, or serve 30 years in jail, or get chased and beaten for no reason.


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