Racism in the Criminal Justice

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Slavery has ended in America but racism in society has persisted, especially in the justice system. Despite all the progress made in America over the years, black people are still facing discrimination and injustice in 2018. None of the efforts made have been enough to end racism. The problem is that if we compare racism in the past with racism today, we can see many similarities in terms of how blacks in America are being treated. Almost every day we see black people not only facing discrimination but fighting for their rights just as back then. Along with fighting, they are scared and traumatized because many blacks are dying with no justice after. Police brutality has also dangerously increased over the years. The justice system has made progress over the years but when it comes to blacks in America, it seems we have not made much progress or at least the right progress.

The lack of progress is evident through the book Sing Unburied Sing by Jesmyn Ward. Ward’s novel primarily focuses on racism and imprisonment and finding ways to survive from the injustice. In the novel, one of the main characters, Richie, a ghost, witnesses a tragic repeat of history when his friend JoJo, who is alive and can see Richie, is pulled over by the police. JoJo is simply in the car to pick someone up and doesn’t see the risk in just driving the car. However, Richie had warned him that “they going to chain you”. When the officer did ask JoJo to get out of the car, Richie continued, “I told you” (107). Richie’s warning is important because of his own experience of systemic racism when he was alive which caused his death. Moreover, his use of the word “chain” in reference to prison draws a direct correlation between prison and slavery.

In fact, many argue that prison is merely an institutionalized form of slavery today. The slavery-like nature of prison can be seen through Parchman Prison. Parchman shows the discrimination that prisoners face, specifically black prisoners. Often black people are imprisoned for no legitimate reason just like they were enslaved for no legitimate reason. In Sing Unburied Sing, the main character, Pop, was arrested because his brother, Stag got in trouble for defending himself against some white folks, and when Stag arrived home Pop happened to be there. “Stag got convicted for assault, I got convicted of harboring a fugitive” (19). In addition to entering prison In Parchman they made them worked in large fields, picking cottons from morning until night just like slaves. It’s as if they went back to the slavery time period, black people working long hours in heat and in horrible conditions. Just as back in the days, after slavery was said to be abolished in 1865, the black codes were created to enslaved blacks again. They passed other laws to keep blacks in prison and working. In a way it’s like they used the criminal Justice as a way to control blacks in America.

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