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Racial Inequality in the Judicial System


When institutions provide equal chances to persons of all races, this is referred to as racial equality. This means that institutions must provide individuals with legal, moral, as well as economic equality irrespective of such characteristics as skin color. Furthermore, racial fairness is the existence of ideas and structures that assure truth and justice, as well as the absence of prejudice. As a result, this should be a process of eradicating racial inequities and enhancing results for everyone. There should be adequate and clear methods for altering regulations, strategies, structures, and frameworks, with quantifiable improvement in the lives of people from all walks of life prioritized. Thus, this essay will expound while offering some critics and counter-arguments on why the justice offered by the justice system highly depends on the race of the convict.

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Racial Inequality Versus Equality in the Judicial System

The inequality in the judicial system originated in the era of slavery, whereby black people were considered to be second-class citizens. Even after the abolition of slavery, black people continue to be stereotyped and are greatly biased in the American judicial system. There is enough evidence to illustrate that black people continue to be biased in the justice institutions. There exists some progress since the civil rights movement of 1960, which brought racial segregation into the limelight (Fredrickson and Camarillo 97). It is, however, evident that people’s behavior has experienced change while their attitudes remain unchanged. Black Americans go through unfair treatment in every stage of the justice system, from policing, legislation, and sentencing. This evidence is yet to change the unfair justice system.

Racial Inequality and Equality

Racial inequality is an unfair difference between groups of people in society. In this case, people of Caucasian origin have more wealth and opportunities than their black counterparts in the same country. Racial equality is the provision of equal opportunities to all individuals of all races despite their physical traits, such as their skin color (Mills, 44). This allows all individuals to have equal access to resources and services. Racial inequality is the opposite of racial equality, whereby they explain the fair access of resources by people of different races. People of color have experienced unfair trials for crimes committed compared to their white counterparts for the longest time. The justice system should accord every suspect a fair trial regardless of their race. However, this is not followed, and black people get harsh treatment during the trial compared to their white counterparts who have committed the same crime.

Arguments that Support the Presence of Inequality in The Judicial System

Black people have always been treated as not equal to their white counterparts. This has led to discrimination where they cannot access opportunities and services in society. These prospects include jobs, education, and other government services such as justice. Access to these chances is filled with many hurdles set by the existing system, which is focused on eliminating them. This, however, does not apply to white people as they get access to all opportunities without hurdles. This discrimination is transferred to the justice system, where white persons are treated differently during trial and judgment. The justice system tends to favor white people compared to black individuals who receive unfair treatment. This has been witnessed in various cases in the US where different sentences and trials are given for similar crimes depending on the racial background of the convicts. Several reasons lead to unequal access to justice for convicted black people.

Law enforcement agencies such as the police have developed stereotypes that treat black people with the utmost violence and white people with great care. The arrest of black crime suspects sometimes leads to the suspect’s death, whereby police officers use extreme force during the arrest (Hetey and Eberhardt 186). Law enforcement officers use excessive force to neutralize their targets who are not armed and blame the suspect for resisting arrest. However, excessive force is not applied to white individuals who are suspects of crime. The police officer executes their arrest using minimal force, as is stated in their code of conduct. The white suspects are accorded the utmost respect to book in the police cell during their arrest. This illustrates the level of inequality that black suspects go through in the justice system, which has an influence on the outcome of the process.

The police force is conditioned to use force in the black neighborhoods when doing searches and patrols. They present themselves as enemies of black people as they do not show concern over their lives. This is the opposite in white neighborhoods, whereby they undertake their inspections with utmost care while being friendly to the people (Kim and Kiesel 425). In the case of George Floyd (2020), the arresting officer Derek Chauvin killed Floyd by kneeling on his neck in Minneapolis (Rahman). The scene occurred in broad daylight, and Derek used force despite Floyd being unarmed and surrendering. This expressed the racial profiling of black people by law enforcement agencies in America who are conditioned to use brutal force when making arrests.

Communication barriers are one of the reasons for the different treatment of convicts in the justice system. People of color have their native language, which is different from the English language used in courts. The language used in the court is different from the common English used outside in day-to-day conversations. Thus, this makes it more complex and difficult for convicted individuals to understand. The convict can also not express themselves to the jury as their language comprehension is poor. The jury cannot understand their pleas, making it hard to deliver justice. The court jargon confuses the convicts into giving wrong information and affects their confidence in giving in to the prosecution’s demands. This is, however, different for people of Caucasian origin as a majority have English as their first language. Having English as their mother tongue makes it easier for them to comprehend the court conversations and express themselves. They can express themselves excellently to the jury and precisely answer their questions.

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Having English as a common language also enables one to understand court conversations better and not be intimidated by complex words and phrases. This inequality in language affects the delivery of justice by allowing the convicts to express themselves in a language they lack enough understanding (Mills 44). They, therefore, receive unfair trials, which eventually lead to more severe sentences that could be avoided. Law enforcement agencies do not recognize that their suspects may not have a proper understanding of English and thus end up resulting in violence. Provision of education to people of color is necessary to enable them to express themselves in the courts during the trial and for them to fully understand the court conversations.

There are disparities in accessing the necessary aids for proper participation in the justice system. The constitution states that every person must have legal personnel representing them in the courts for a fair trial. Although the government provides the representatives, they are always occupied with many cases. These public defenders have many cases to attend to, making them ineffective as they take less time investigating and making presentations to the court for a fair trial (Rahman). Due to few public defenders, people of color have difficulties finding well-qualified lawyers to represent them during their trials and are therefore forced to attend the court sessions by themselves. Lack of advisors causes improper conduct in the court, which causes unfair trials. The majority of available public defenders are mainly of Caucasian origin, which influences the cases to pick and represent.

The public defenders represent fellow white people, leaving the people of color convicts unattended. Lack of equal representation in the courts causes imbalance whereby the prosecution side can overpower the defendant (Rahman). The defendant is forced to give in to the pressure exerted on them by the prosecution. Lack of presentation leads to the defendant getting mistreated during the trial and eventually receiving a harsher judgment than their white counterpart. A lack of finances further influences this to acquire private representation. Lack of opportunities for people of color hinders the accumulation of wealth, which can get private representation in the courts. Private Representatives require a huge amount of money before working on a case that the convicts cannot raise. This is contrary to people of Caucasian origin whose ancestors owned all the resources in the society; thus, they have access to resources to afford the best lawyers in the country who will ensure they get the best judgment out of the trial.

People of color are not well represented in the judicial system. The majority of the jury members consist of people of Caucasian descent. The lack of enough people in the judicial system affects how people of color experience the judicial system (Alapo and Rockefeller). They cannot access fair trials as the decisions are made without representation from people of their race. The judgment may be flawed as the jury members will be leaning on one side. This is not the case for white persons as they are well represented in the judicial system. A majority of the jury members are of Caucasian descent and will be lean while judging their fellow man. Their experience through the justice system is smoother compared to their black counterparts. This clearly illustrates the inequality that is found in the judicial system. Yusef et al. found that the black population in the US prisons is approximating to about five times compared to their white counterparts (35). This indicates how far racial inequality has affected the black community.

This imprisonment has had major effects on the black community, leading to increased poverty as convicted people have no access to available job opportunities and housing after their release. Imprisonment affects an individual’s lifetime earnings whereby they spend their prime years in prison, which reduces their total income. The children of the incarcerated persons lead difficult lives as they lack support from both parents, and they may end up on the wrong side of the law and go to prison. Imprisonment of black people leads to increased poverty in society, increasing crime levels. An increase in crime due to incarceration causes a repeat cycle that leads to the black community’s deterioration.

Counter-Arguments from the Critics

From the above arguments, it is clear that inequality in the justice system exists and mainly affects people of color. The inequality is widely spread across all states in the United States. However, critics may have a different argument concerning inequality in this sector. The critics may argue that racial inequality does not exist in society. Black people are naturally bound to commit crimes and thus end up going through the justice system. They argue that black people are violent and can attack law enforcement officers. This was in the case of George Floyd, whereby some people agreed with Chauvin’s actions as of handling him violently. Critics find his actions justified as Floyd looked like he could attack him, as in the case of other situations where suspects attack the officers. The critics see this as a situation where Chauvin was on his duty to protect society from crimes, and Floyd was a criminal disrupting society’s peace. Therefore, he deserved to be eliminated before things could worsen.

The critics could also argue that black people have been playing the victim card for the longest time, whereas they are the ones who put themselves in these situations that lead them to jail. They argue that black people have continued to portray themselves as an inferior race that deserves bad treatment. The black race should be controlling their situations to avoid getting into the bad side of the law. They should follow the law and keep their societies’ drug and crime-free, which will reduce police altercations and reduce the number of people in prisons. Critics argue that black people should create law-abiding societies just like the white people whose societies are peaceful and have no crimes. Playing the victim card hinders equality as black people are racist to their white counterparts. They argue that equality will be achieved when black people stop playing the victim card and strive to better their societies.

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The third argument presented is that black people are ignorant of how the justice system works. They argue that black people do not take their time to learn their rights and freedoms during trials. Lack of knowledge leads to unfair arrests, trials, and eventually unfair judgments. Most black people do not follow up on how the system works and do not know who to consult when in those situations. They argue that the information is readily available, but black people choose to ignore it, and that causes them to have bad experiences. This ignorance also causes them to commit avoidable crimes that lead to imprisonment, adversely affecting society (Krohn and Fox 762). This can be witnessed in cases where black people commit minor traffic offenses, which lead to incarceration and loss of livelihood. In contrast, they were taught about it during their driving lessons. Ignorance could be blamed for many crimes that have landed people in jails.

Response to Critic’s Counter-Arguments

These critical arguments of inequality not existing in the judicial system are flawed. All races are bound to commit a crime in their lifetime. However, black people are bound to commit more crimes due to unavailable opportunities that would enable them to live decent crime-free lives. This leads them to participate in illegal activities to support themselves. Black people are not violent, as depicted in every arrest video shown in the media. Although some suspects may resist arrest and try to attack the law enforcement officers, it does not happen every day, and a majority are arrested calmly. Law enforcement agencies have continued to instill fear in the black members of society by being violent every time there is an interaction. This makes the law enforcement agencies be treated as enemies of black people who are always trying to end their lives. The notion of black people being more violent than white people should be diverted to the lack of equality in providing opportunities for both races, whereby white people have vast opportunities at their disposal while black counterparts have few opportunities.

Black people are not playing the victim card as portrayed by the critics. The white man should be blamed for treating them as second-class citizens during slavery. Black people do not have access to the justice system and their white counterparts. They are treated differently in every stage of the judicial process, from arrest, trial, and prison. White convicts receive more presidential pardons as compared to their black counterparts. Black people are not playing the victim; they are the victims of the system designed to make their lives difficult in society. Although there are some altercations in black neighborhoods, black societies are generally peaceful and coexist. The violence is caused by high poverty rates among the communities, which can be avoided by providing more opportunities. The creation of opportunities can be achieved by white people who own the majority of the large businesses, not black people who mainly run small businesses.

Ignorance among the black people on how the justice system works should not be blamed. The state should be blamed for not providing the necessary resources for civic education to the black communities. They are ready to learn how to navigate through the rigorous process of the American justice system. The available information is not accessible to all people in society. It is available to people who have access to the internet and have gone through school to understand the information easily. This is not the case with black people who do not have access to education due to lack of facilities and poverty. Access to information is a right of every citizen, and the government should provide all its citizens with all information on how their systems operate. Seeking information may be hard for black people as they are mistreated in government offices. Inequality is also witnessed in sharing information, whereby the medium used only favors white people. The justice department should invest more in spreading information on how the system works. This will be important in reducing misinformation on the justice system.


In conclusion, the justice system is not fair to people of color. Black individuals are treated like second-class residents during their trials, whereby racial bias in the process leads to harsh sentences. Lack of representation in the departments makes it harder for black people to navigate the system due to a lack of information and advice. The public defender department is understaffed, which reduces access to a proper representation in the courts of law. Black people are not well represented in the offices such as the jury, making it hard for them to receive fair trials. Critic’s argument of the inexistence of inequality is flawed as it is evident in the justice system’s inability to provide equal treatment when dispensing justice. Black people are not playing the victim card; their issues have never been addressed to date. Lack of information among people of color is not due to ignorance. The available information is not accessible to all people.

Works Cited

Alapo, Remi, and David Rockefeller. “Racial Disparities in The United States Criminal Justice System: “With Liberty and Justice for All?””. Philosophy Study, vol. 9, no. 7, 2019. David Publishing Company.

Fredrickson, George M, and Albert Camarillo. Racism. Princeton University Press, 2015. vol. 10. pp. 97- 139

Hetey, Rebecca, and Jennifer Eberhardt. The Numbers Don’t Speak for Themselves: Racial Disparities and the Persistence of Inequality in the Criminal Justice System. Current Directions in Psychological Science, vol. 27, no. 3, 2018, pp.183-187

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Kim, Jaeok, and André Kiesel. “The Long Shadow of Police Racial Treatment: Racial Disparity in Criminal Justice Processing”. Public Administration Review, vol. 78, no. 3, 2017, pp. 422-431. Wiley.

Krohn, Marv, and Bryanna Fox. “Causes and Effects of Racial Disparity in The Criminal Justice System”. Justice Quarterly, vol. 37, no. 5, 2020, pp. 761-762. Informa UK Limited.

Mills, Charles W. The Racial Contract. Cornell University Press, 1977 vol 1 pp 41- 65

Rahman, Mohammad Habibur. “Racial Disparity and The Criminal Justice System”. SSRN Electronic Journal, 2021. Elsevier BV.

Yusef, Kideste et al. “Florida’S Historically Black Colleges and Universities Address Racial Disparities Within the Criminal Justice System Using Results-Based Accountability”. Race and Justice, vol. 9, no. 1, 2018, pp. 22-45. SAGE Publications.

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