This week’s reading elucidated how both structural and individual prejudices play a role in creating and perpetuating racial discrimination in the penal system. Our legal policies and the media structurally produce the discrimination. Law enforcement personal and we as recipients of the media, then internalize structurally created discrimination and project individual prejudice. These practices maintain our caste system in the United States with the privileged whites safely at the top. Regan’s war on drugs helped to make this kind of discrimination possible and his campaign made people firstly think the war existed, and produced an image of blacks being those responsible for the problem. For more than just crimes involving drugs, the media ensures that many view blacks as usual suspects who commit crimes with no excuse other than being thugs and evil. Brown calls the Western press the “Fourth Estate, the fourth arm of the ruling class…the last branch of the ruling power structure” (Brown, 37). I thought this was a good explanation for how the media works. We must examine who is in charge of running our news stations, papers, and websites, and more often than not, it is the “ruling class” of privileged whites. The media has been successful in presenting the crimes committed by white people as unfortunate circumstances in which psychological and social misfortunes caused a person to behave in an irrational way. On top of the media manipulating national sentiment towards crimes committed by people of color, the prosecution process is also biased towards a black defendant. Juries often end up being composed of all-white jurors, which by no means is a jury of one’s own peers. However, it is easy to make up reasons other than race as a to why a black person is not qualified to be on a jury. Furthermore, jury lists are often based off DMV lists, so that people of color who are less likely to have cars or register to vote, are excluded.
With all the adversity blacks must face after being accused of a crime, the practices that allow for the actual charges are just as racially discriminatory. Once again, we see colorblind policies at work that legally make discrimination easier. The Supreme Court argues that pulling people over for traffic violations means anyone can be searched for drugs, so it is not prejudiced. However, police can racially profile on an individual level. It is up to their own discretion and blacks are often unreasonably pulled over and searched simply because of their race. Police also engage in discriminatory practices in their choices of where to search for drugs. They often pick the “hood” and argue it is due to the high frequency of drug trafficking. However, frat houses and other white neighborhoods are just, if not more likely to have drugs. This has always amazed me, how it is so obvious that certain people have drugs, but probably because they are white and have connections to some type of political power, police act oblivious. In the “hood” drug deals are more public because there is less space to conduct deal behind closed doors. This argument makes drug raids in ghettos seem race neutral but Alexander argues that ghettos were created to “contain and control groups of people defined by race” (Alexander, 132).
What was even more disturbing to me than what I have already mentioned, is how hopeless it seems for people of color to file law suits against discriminatory practices by law enforcement. There are so many hurdles to jump over; it is totally understandable why one may give up on the whole process. Furthermore, there is a risk that the law enforcement one is trying to sue could turn the tables and get the person of color into more trouble. Finally, some lawsuits simply cannot happen because neither the state or police can be sued for damages and city departments are often off limits as well. This leaves me to wonder, if our legal system cannot be used to combat this prejudice, what can other than a revolution of some sort?