Racial Discrimination in America Essay Essay

Flashcard maker : Lily Taylor

Black-ish is a sitcom comedy that centers on Andre Johnson, a black guy who works as an advertising executive and has a working class background. Although Andre or Dre as he is commonly referred has risen into the upper-class; which is a predominantly white neighborhood, he is still worried about his children who he thinks have lost touch with the African-American identity. The title drew sharp criticism from both the whites and blacks alike, and they even launched a petition claiming that the show should change its name because it was offensive and socially damaging for the black people. This, however, was not the case as the show plays out two generations where Dre at some point worries about his son blending with white kids but with time learns to embrace the changes that have taken place over time. To him, the idea of being ‘black’ as he grew up had totally changed, and his children were out of touch with their roots and therefore black-ish. This paper analyzes season 2 episode 16 of the show that mainly focuses on racial profiling that has come about as a result of police brutality against the people from the black community.

The episode took place in Johnson’s living room where the entire family sat around the television as they awaited the news on whether or not the grand jury in a fictional but all familiar case would indict the cops who had used tasers thirty-seven times on an unarmed black teenager who was selling DVDs. The verdict immediately sparks anger and people pour onto streets to demonstrate. These unfolding are quite confusing to Jack, one of the twins who asks his parents the reason as to why people were mad. Hs question sparks an impassioned dialogue between his parents; Dre and Rainbow as they give other examples of black people who had died in police custody. Though Rainbow is hopeful of the future, Dre sounds pessimistic as he explains to his children how they should behave around the policemen. There is a lot of hate and negativity towards the white policemen by the black community who accuse them of discrimination and racial prejudice so that instead of being arrested and prosecuted in a court of law, they are being hunted down by the same people whom they look up to for protection. This paper will look at the bigger picture of racial discrimination in America and how it reveals itself in our everyday lives.
Racial stereotyping in the recent years has become an enduring and unfortunate feature that has characterized the American culture. Welch notes that the stereotyping of blacks as criminals has penetrated through the society so that the term ‘criminal predator’ has slowly gained popularity as it is used to refer to a young African-American male (276). There is a common representation in the American society of crime being committed overwhelmingly by young black men. This, in turn, creates the notion among the American public that this group of people are street thugs and that they are also violent. It has even come to a point where the racial identity of criminals has become so deeply engrained in public consciousness so that the terms race and crime are almost inseparable. The impression that crime is an issue that is attributable to the ‘people of color’ because, throughout the nation’s history, the white people have often viewed criminal behavior as an inherent characteristic of the African-Americans. One of the major contributors of the public association of the blacks and criminality can be drawn from the high number of African-Americans represented in crime statistics as well as the criminal justice system. It is no secret that drug arrest rates are greater in the minority neighborhood and are also more targeted compared to the white areas despite the existence of comparingly similar rates of drug use among both the white and black population. Statistics have also shown that despite there being a smaller population of about 14% of drug users among the black community, this population still accounts for 35% of the of drug arrests in a 55% drug conviction. From these numbers, it is clear that racial profiling is rampant even among police forces. It is no wonder that Rubi fears for her grandchildren and even goes ahead to explain to them how they should act when approached by police officers. This is a society where they have been born into and have to find somewhat ways on how to exist, and that is always ensuring that they stay away from trouble. One of the quotes that the author uses is ‘’driving while black’’. It refers to situations where the African-American drivers are pulled over by police without probable cause. In fact, most of the people are stopped for being black and male and are always under constant suspicion of either being criminals or carrying something that is illegal.

Cases of systemic racism in the US criminal justice system have been on the rise in the past decade. The biggest crimes in the American criminal justice system according to Rosich is that it is becoming a race-based institution so that the Black people are directly targeted and punished in a more aggressive manner than their White counterparts (20). In her article titled ‘Race, Ethnicity, and the Criminal Justice System,’ Rosich notes that the issues of crime and punishment have provided some of the most powerful symbols of the racial divide in the United States. In the early 19th century, the sentencing laws were discriminatory to a point where the blacks who were found to have victimized white people were handed the harshest sanctions. Police were also guilty of instigating racial violence as they failed to restrain the mobs. Although overt discrimination has declined significantly in the criminal justice system over the decades, the past two years has seen an increase in the perceptions as well as the reality of unfairness in our justice system. The minorities which include the African-Americans are overly represented in victimization, delinquency and all the other stages of criminal justice processes. A 2009report by the Human Rights Watch revealed that in New York city where the population of black people and Latinos is considerably high, NYPD stops and frisks 80% of this population compared to only 8% of whites who have to undergo a similar process. Black people are also more likely to spend more time in prison after arrest as they await trial as compared to the white people. From the episode, we get the frustration from Dre as he disagrees with his mother who had suggested to the kids that they should be respectful to the police and just oblige to what to what was demanded of them. Dre’s father agrees with him giving the example of Freddie Gray and Sandra Bland; all of who died while in police custody. The jury’s decision further infuriated Dre who remarks that the system is rigged against the blacks since people were being murdered while no one was getting prosecuted. At this point, it is easy to feel the despair in his voice.

The serious cases of abuse of police authority and violence against the civilian population have stimulated an intense debate. Some countries such as the Bahamas have issued travel advisories to their citizens warning them of the injustices being committed in a country that was once the envy of many nations across the globe. The belief in the justice system is almost a thing of the past for the minority communities, whose mistrust has arisen from the existent history of the differential treatment they get from the justice system; which also trickles down to the issues stemming from police conduct. According to Riksheim and Chermak, when the police reactions to the minorities are scrutinized, one is likely to find lots of evidence of minority disadvantages at the hands of police (360). Such conclusions bring into sharp focus the strategies used by police which include a coercive control which also amounts to police brutality. The first highly publicized case of police brutality that almost tore America between racial lines was a 1991 clip that showed a Los Angeles police beating up a black male, Rodney King. Weitzer and Hughes note that although the graphic images were shocking, there was still a resounding difference in opinion that separated the Blacks from the Whites (736). The African-Americans, for example, saw a helpless citizen lying on the ground whereas a larger portion of the white population believed that police acted appropriately by subduing a potentially-dangerous black man. Such incidences are being replayed nearly two and decades later where police have killed many black people including Michael Brown, Kajieme Powell, Rekai Boyd, and Eric Garner; just to name but a few. What is characteristic of these people is the fact that they were going about their daily lives when bullets fired by law enforcement officers cut short their lives; with the end story being that they posed a danger to them. All these cases also received massive media coverage, but there still exists a larger number of men and women though the information concerning their deaths is very limited. Junior feels moved by the whole protest, and as he plans to leave, Zoey holds him back because she fears for his life. Junior makes a sensible argument after her mother somehow ‘justified police killings of armed people, something that he differs and says that It is the job of the police to protect such people and not kill them.

Despite all the racial prejudice that the black people receive, there is still a glimmer of hope that people will learn to embrace diversity and treat each other equally. Izadi observes that the black population began protesting after Freddie Gray’s death while in custody. This was later followed by the decentralization of the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement after another high-profile death of Michael Brown occurred as a result of police brutality. This movement advocates for equality as it fights against discrimination and police brutality against the Black people. The African-American have had a history of using protests to demand change and also have their voices heard. The country had come so far so that being thrown back into the dark days when racial discrimination was a norm is a form of injustice for people who fought for equality. These fears are reenacted in the episode by Dre when he talks about the glimmer of hope that the Black community had after Obama was elected as the first Black president. He also captures the moment when he feared that this particular person would be taken away as he walked past the limousine waving to the crowds in a post-racial America where the white people hated them- black people. It is for that reason that they needed the conversation with their kids just to show them the world that they live in.

Works Cited

  1. Izadi, Elahe. “Black Lives Matter AndAmerica’S Long History Of Resisting Civil Rights Protesters”. The Washington Post 2016: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2016/04/19/black-lives-matters-and-americas-long-history-of-resisting-civil-rights-protesters/. Print.
  2. Riksheim, Eric C., and Steven M. Chermak. “Causes of police behavior revisited.” Journal of criminal justice 21.4 (1993): 353-382.
    Rosich, Katherine J. Race, ethnicity, and the criminal justice system. ASA, 2007.
  3. Rudovsky, David. “LAW ENFORCEMENT BY STEREOTYPES AND SERENDIPITY: RACIAL PROFILING AND STOPS AND SEARCHES February, 2001 (Approx. 80 pages).” University of Pennsylvania Journal of Constitutional Law (2001).
  4. Tuch, Steven A., and Michael Hughes. “Whites’ racial policy attitudes.” Social Science Quarterly (1996): 723-745.
  5. Welch, K. (2007). Black criminal stereotypes and racial profiling. Journal of Contemporary Criminal Justice, 23(3), 276-288.

Get instant access to
all materials

Become a Member