Treatment of Blacks by Law Enforcement

Introduction

Blacks have for long been victims of various forms of discrimination in many aspects of their lives. They have been denied access to vital areas of life and been treated as sub-human species for many years. The mood has changed to a great extent from the days of legal slavery and the racial segregation of the early to mid 20th century.

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One of the areas in which blacks have suffered most harm at the hands of bigotry is in the areas of law enforcement. Blacks have for long been seen as potential criminals informed by a total lack of knowledge on the part of the bigots as well as the unequal treatment of blacks before the law in contrast to especially white people.

This essay will seek to show ways in which such discrimination against blacks has come to the fore. It will also explore the likely consequences of the same and probable causes for the discrimination which has been curbed to a large extent with time and change in attitudes but which still exists especially in law enforcement.

The biggest problem that advocates for human rights have to grapple with in their fight against racial discrimination is the continued Racial Profiling that is rampant in the field of law enforcement. It is a phenomenon that is largely founded on historical stereotypes that were coined and spread by bigots.

Racial Profiling

Racial profiling refers to the phenomenon of the use of a person’s racial or ethnic characteristics to make a judgment about them in the course of evaluating their likeliness as suspects of crime or for other reasons. It is based solely on a racial bias or an acquired attitude that leads one to believe that persons from certain races are more likely to do certain things or to act a certain way.

There are many who have viewed this as the reason for the inequalities in percentages of people from the different races in prison, which are filled with black people, despite their being an ethnic minority.

Some have argued that in the process of the maintenance of law and order in society, the police and other law enforcement agencies are permitted to use any characteristic they can to identify and stop criminal suspects and potential criminals. They argue that failure to use race as a characteristic would be, simply put, not sensible.

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Race relations in the country have by no means been easy or smooth. There have been numerous occasions where the races have traded accusations over the alleged discrimination by other races. None however have been as loud and as frequent as those of black people, and rightly so.

Black people, or African Americans as they are referred to in this politically correct, have been at the ends of many forms of discrimination and mistreatment dating back to the days of slavery all through the middle ages to the present time. They have suffered at the hands of other races in many ways.

One of the main elements of society in which discrimination and mistreatment of blacks has been evident is in the field of law enforcement. Blacks have unfairly been targeted by its agencies and been the subject of suspicion perpetrated by racist agents who have spread the hate and suspicion to the general public. The manner in which blacks have been treated by law enforcement will be the subject of this essay. (Smith et al)

Racial profiling is one type of the trends that are generally referred to as Racially Biased Policing. It involves other practices like the discriminatory treatment of racial and ethnic minorities that is not just based on race and differential and biased police practices in neighborhoods occupied mainly by minorities in contrast to those inhabited by whites (Weitzer and Tuch 2006)

It would appear that this bigotry towards blacks started with the advent of slavery. It was at this time that the various races really interacted with a large degree of closeness. The slaves, a majority of who were black, were treated and seen as subhuman persons. They were mistreated for centuries in the name of labor and industry.

The intolerance was spread through the social structures by such means as through the membership of Racial Supremacist and Extremist movements such as the infamous KKK and The Aryan Nation and inevitably reached and permeated into law enforcement agencies with some of the law enforcers being having been members of such groups or having similar racial bias.

One area in which law enforcement’s obvious bias against blacks is evident is in Drug Enforcement. It is this field that strives to rd the streets of narcotics and other drugs which have been routinely abused in the country for decades. This arm of law enforcement has been overly discriminatory on blacks.

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The so called War on Drugs has been for years waged primarily against blacks. This has led to the large numbers of blacks in prison over drug related issues. This is despite the fact that most drug users in the country are white and also that those blacks arrested and convicted have rarely been above middle level in the drug hierarchy (Targeting Blacks).

The response to questions on the policy of targeting predominantly black neighborhoods have been answered with statements to the effect that the drug war is aimed at ridding poor neighborhoods of addiction as well as other ills such as violence associated with drug dealing (Targeting Blacks).

There has also been racial discrimination on the good side of the law. This is most evident in the courts system during jury selection whereby blacks and members of minority races are more likely to be struck off jury duty than whites. This is due to the widespread belief that they are not as committed to the legal system due t years of mistreatment by the same or that they are more likely to be sympathetic to members of their races accused of certain crimes (Weitzer and Tuch, 2006).

The decision in the case of Batson vs. Kentucky 476 U.S. 79 (1986) that challenged the peremptory challenge of jurors on basis of race was a big step in the right direction. In the case, it was also held that where a person is tried and members of their race are struck off the list by peremptory challenge, they are not likely to get a fair trial.

Conclusion

Blacks have also been subjected to motor vehicle searches on a far more frequent scale than whites for example. This is due to the view held by law enforcement that blacks carry and conceal weapons as well as drugs in their cars. This is in clear of The Fourth Amendment to The Constitution that protects persons from the unreasonable search and seizure without probable cause for doing so. (Smith et al)

It is about time that the law enforcement agencies changed their attitude towards blacks and ended the back and forth between the two groups. It would appear that the continued targeting of blacks has caused a vicious cycle of violence and revenge with blacks reacting in anger to the mistreatment of their people by the police.

References

  1. ‘President Clinton’s race panel cites disparity in treatment of Blacks and Whites by Nation’s law enforcement system. (Law & Justice)’
  2. Ronald Weitzer & Steven Tuch. 2006. Race and Policing in America: Conflict and Reform
  3. Smith et al.; Equity and Discretionary Justice; The Influence of Race on Police Arrest Decisions.
  4. Targeting Blacks; Drug Law Enforcement and Race.
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