Years after the United States civil rights movement, the removal of formal segregation laws, and implementation of anti-racist policies, the American criminal justice system still fails to display the same reform. As one of the largest superpowers and industrialized nations in the world, the United States has not attained a “post-racial status,” defined as being a society in which race, although it remains a concept, does not influence individuals. The failure of the United States to attain “post-racial status” is exemplified in the criminal justice system by overwhelming evidence of disproportionate levels of crime, arrests, and incarceration that primarily affect minority populations. Past and present patterns of American society dealing with crime and the people involved committing crime show extreme racial disparity in terms of individuals’ predisposed environments that increase ones likelihood of being involved in the criminal justice system, the system itself that processes individuals, the encouragement of mass incarceration by mainstream society, and the effects these processes have on society.
Revisiting the issues brought up by Harper Lee in To Kill a Mockingbird, it seems clear that majority of Americans do not live in a racist society as the one portrayed in Maycomb. After centuries of facing prolonged struggles of activism and change, open hatred and prejudice against Blacks has become unacceptable and often taboo in today’s society. Even though there may still be underlying tendencies of prejudice that could affect jurors decisions in present-day trials, the heavy cascade of anti-Black sentiment and overtly racial norms that had previously prevailed in America has greatly diminished. Black defendants by far have an improved opportunity of receiving a more fair and impartial verdict in the modern legal system than they did in the 1930’s.
You might find yourself reading the topic of this paper and automatically shaking your head in disagreement. After all, this is the 20th century and the Jim Crow Laws are a thing of the past. These laws are something that we read about in our History books. Racial segregation and discrimination is all but a thing of the past. Right?.....................Wrong! The facts and statistics (which I will document below) are overwhelming and the crux of the matter is that racial disparities and bias are indeed found within our criminal justice system today even in the year 2014. The truth is that our U.S. criminal justice system is a very racist system.
In the early twentieth century, the United States was undergoing a dramatic social change. Slavery had been abolished decades before, but the southern states were still attempting to restrict social interaction among people of different races. In particular, blacks were subject to special Jim Crow laws which restricted their rights and attempted to keep the race inferior to whites. Even beyond these laws, however, blacks were feeling the pressure of prejudice. In the legal system, blacks were not judged by a group of their peers; rather, they were judged by a group of twelve white men. In serious court cases involving capital offenses, the outcome always proved to be a guilty verdict. In Harper Lee’s novel, To Kill a Mockingbird, the plot revolves around a Depression-era court case of a black man accused of raping a white woman. The defendant Tom Robinson is presumed guilty because of one thing alone: the color of his skin.
The book To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, which is one of the best books, is filled with incredible connections and fantastic foreshadowing. Once you pick up this book, you will need the key of being able to dissect the book in order to unlock its full potential. Through the three-and-a-half year-long journey that is To Kill a Mockingbird Harper Lee takes Jeremy Atticus Finch and Jean Louise Finch through a never-ending pile of events. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee is about Jem and Scout Finch and their childhood in Maycomb, Alabama. Their lives consist of a never-ending-chain-of-events, many interesting and unique people, and life’s lessons that give Jem, Scout, and Atticus a fresh view of the world. Not many people have actually seen and experienced Tom Robinson and Arthur “Boo” Radley, and this leads to incorrect thoughts about each character. Tom and Boo have a lot of good in them. They are both like Mockingbirds because they are both innocent humans harmed by the evil of mankind. In Harper Lee’s novel, both Boo Radley and Tom Robinson are innocent characters, but Boo’s kindness is hidden by rumors and Tom’s generosity is hidden by stereotypes.
Weich, R., & Angulo, C. (2002). Racial disparities in the American criminal justice system. Rights at risk: Equality in an age of terrorism, 185-218.
Harper Lee grew up in Alabama in a time when racism was rampant and the people were merely sustaining an adequate life due to the Great Depression. The story is set in the rural town of Maycomb, which is a place where, “there was no hurry, for there was no place to go, nothing to buy and no money to buy it with...” Maycomb is a slow paced, hot, poverty-stricken Alabaman town with outdated infrastructures where people had old-fashioned values and traditional views. These factors then spread an outbreak of fear, which dramatically steers the course of the novel.
We can conclude with her analyses that the criminal justice in America is biased an even though I don’t agree with the suggestion Alexander has heard from other people that mass incarceration is a “conspiracy to put blacks back in their place” (p.5). It is clear that the justice system in the US is not completely fair, and that collective action must arise to struggle it.
“The New Jim Crow” is an article by Michelle Alexander, published by the Ohio State Journal of Criminal Law. Michelle is a professor at the Ohio State Moritz college of criminal law as well as a civil rights advocate. Ohio State University’s Moritz College of Law is part of the world’s top education system, is accredited by the American Bar Association, and is a long-time member of the American Law association. The goal of “The New Jim Crow” is to inform the public about the issues of race in our country, especially our legal system. The article is written in plain English, so the common person can fully understand it, but it also remains very professional. Throughout the article, Alexander provides factual information about racial issues in our country. She relates them back to the Jim Crow era and explains how the large social problem affects individual lives of people of color all over the country. By doing this, Alexander appeals to the reader’s ethos, logos, and pathos, forming a persuasive essay that shifts the understanding and opinions of all readers.
To look closely at many of the mechanisms in American society is to observe the contradiction between constitutional equality and equality in practice. Several of these contradictions exist in the realm of racial equality. For example, Black s often get dealt an unfair hand in the criminal justice system. In The Real War on Crime, Steven Donziger explains,
These authors’ arguments are both well-articulated and comprehensive, addressing virtually every pertinent concept in the issue of explaining racially disparate arrest rates. In The Myth of a Racist Criminal Justice System, Wilbanks insists that racial discrimination in the criminal justice system is a fabrication, explaining the over-representation of African Americans in arrest numbers simply through higher incidence of crime. Walker, Spohn and DeLone’s The Color of Justice dissents that not only are African Americans not anywhere near the disproportionate level of crime that police statistics would indicate, they are also arrested more because they are policed discriminately. Walker, Spohn and DeLone addi...
Throughout time society has been tested many a time. The tests of society are those which show the development of a society’s culture, morals and value system. The recent events of Maycomb have shown it has not developed or flourished but that with the death of my dear husband, Tom, it has failed miserably. Justice, although bittersweet, is the pie that society has been given the duty to serve. The once-solid pillars of fairness and humanity upon which our society was built are crumbling. The trials and tribulations of Tom Robinson have not only led me to lose faith in justice, fairness and humanity but removed my veil of ignorance and shown me the ignorant “whites” have the power to kill even the sweetest of mockingbirds.
The first “mockingbird” that is featured in the novel is a man named Atticus Finch. Not only is Atticus Finch the sole representative of Maycomb in the legislature, but also he is a brilliant lawyer. In addition, he has a good reputation in both Maycomb’s black and white communities because of his exceptional character. However, his reputation is soon shattered when he is faced with a case in court that affects him personally: he must defend an African American man in court in Maycomb’s segregated society. If Atticus chooses to try defending the man, he will lose his good status in town, since his racist American neighbors will soon disrespect him for treating the African Americans as equal to the Americans, which is highly unacceptable in the United States during the 1930s. However, Atticus still accepted the case believing that if he does not, he w...
Racial prejudice is widespread in the county of Maycomb, and a prime example is the Tom Robinson case. Tom, a black man, was accused of raping Mayella, a white woman. Atticus puts forward all evidence from his witnesses that clearly proves Tom was innocent, Jem even says, ?and we?re gonna win Scout. I don?t see how we can?t? (pg 206), but Tom still received a ?Guilty? verdict. Atticus tried removing the prejudiced thoughts of the jurors by saying, ??the assumption - the evil assumption - that all Negroes lie, that all Negroes are basically immoral beings??. (pg 208). Atticus? saying insinuated the point that all of God?s children were created equal. To the jury, the only important thing was that Tom was black and the accuser was white, he never stood a chance under those conditions. These racial tensions between blacks and whites had made their way into the courtroom, a place where everyone should receive a fair trial no matter what race or colour, but an unjust verdict was reached. The prejudice that was felt towards Tom made him lose all hope of freedom, and as a result, he died upon an escape attempt. Tom was victim of racial prejudice and loss of hope.