In this week’s chapter Alexander gives us the accounts of two individuals who were victims of our flawed judicial system (97-98). After reading the accounts of both Emma Faye Stewart and also Clifford Runoalds my heart was not only broken for these people but I was also enraged about these circumstances (97-98). A single mother of two loses the things that bring her the most joy, her children (97-98). Also, a father who is mourning the tragic death of his eighteen-month-old daughter has to testify to a crime and is unable to see attend the funeral of his precious child (97-98). These are only the accounts of two I can’t begin to imagine how many similar stories are out there. The sad thing is, until engaging in texts like Alexander’s I was completely uninformed of the prison industrial complex.
The media does a great job of brainwashing us as Americans into thinking that blacks and minorities are the ones committing the crimes in America. The sad thing is the media is correct, blacks and minorities are convicted of more crimes than their white counterparts but it is not because they are worse people it is simply because that is the way the system works. One study by the National Institute on Drug Abuse reported that white students use cocaine at seven times the rate of black students, use crack cocaine at eight times the rate of black students, and use heroin at seven times the rate of black students (99). If the system were colorblind the lock up discrepancies would be tailored differently. Growing up I had a vast majority of friends that crossed numerous racial boundaries and from what I can recall these statistics seem to line up. The rich white kids at my school were the ones who were doing a majority of the hard drugs. I have actually never had a black friend who has done cocaine or crack cocaine. So from a personal stand point this part of the chapter was like shining a light on a issue that has always been there I have just been unaware of it.
We can see why whites want to oppress minorities (to keep the system of power in tact) but how do we do get away with it (103). First, we grant law enforcement officials extraordinary discretion on whom to stop (103). Also we close the courthouse doors to all claims of defendants and private litigants that the criminal justice system operates in racially discriminatory fashion (103). At this point in the chapter my heart is begging this not to be true, I want to believe that we have kind hearted people in America but I am really beginning to question the people in positions of authority.
The next intriguing part of the chapter had to do with the jury selection in trials. As I have heard growing up majority of people who have jury duty are white. Potential jurors are typically called for service based on the list of registered voters or Department of Motor Vehicles list (121). This list contains disproportionately fewer people of color, because people of color are significantly less likely to own cars or register to vote. My optimism for good-hearted white Americans continues to dwindle at this point. In order to make sure that you receive a “fair” trial you are supposed to have a trial by jury, but what if the whole jury believes you are guilty until proven innocent then what? You are exactly that guilty until proven innocent because if you don’t have an amazing lawyer your odds of getting off seem slim to none.
To conclude I want to offer a possible solution. As we have learned this system depends primarily on the prison label, not prison time (139). Once you are out of prison you are labeled as a felon. When you are labeled as a felon you lose a good majority of your constitutional rights. You lose the right to vote, the right to live in public housing, and you also lose the right to land a decent paying job. We first as a society need to work on these issues. I don’t know exactly what this would look like but giving people grace when they leave prison could be the very thing they need to turn their life around instead of putting them back into a society that promotes a track right back into prison. I believe people can change we just need to give them more of an opportunity once they get out. If we wont to be fair we also need to search everyone the same but this is a war that may never end, the war on racism in a “colorblind” society.