North America is believed to be a progressive, safe, and solely a first world continent. However, the harsh reality is that we live in a flawed society that promotes cruel and unjust treatment called oppression and inequality. Justice is defined as being “just behaviour and treatment” (Root Autlette and Winttner, 70). As a society it is important to whether our system of justice follows that definition. It is evident through the many cases of violence against incarcerated people of colour, police brutality, and unjust convictions that the judicial system is being used as a tool to drive racial injustice. With all of the evidence and examples of this injustice, it is clear that North America’s judicial system is not following the true definition of justice. There have been some cases where legal institutions being used to legitimize racism and allow race-based judicial injustices to occur. Martese Johnson was no exception to this injustice, state officials used excessive force and brutalized him when he attempted to get into a bar with a fake ID. Alcoholic Beverage Control agents describe Johnson as aggressive and belligerent, however, an eyewitness explained that Johnson was not being aggressive and that the agents were using unnecessary force. Why is it that Johnson was considered to be aggressive and belligerent? Would the agents regard Johnson the same way if he were white or of a different race? There are societal restrictions placed on certain words that make it no longer socially acceptable to openly and blatantly discriminate individuals based on their race however, this does not mean racism does not exist or occur through actions. When an individual commits a crime automatically people will make assumptions and stereotype an individual, this person will face intense discrimination in social situations. Due to the overrepresentation of people of colour in jail there is a perpetuating prejudice that individuals of colour are more likely to be criminals, violent, and aggressive. This case can be related to how people of colour are perceived and the respectability politics they must conform to. Respectability politics is when marginalized groups attempt to police their own members to conform to mainstream values rather than challenge mainstream groups to accept their differences (Root Autlette and Winttner, 86). In order for people of colour to not be seen through a violent lens, an assumption created by dominant groups, they must conform to white supremacy and white culture (Root Autlette and Winttner, 85). White supremacy is the belief that white people are superior to other races. By making the decision to not conform to the guidelines that respectability politics set up, people of colour have a higher chance of receiving injustice.
The justice system failing to promote equality and police abusing their power is a serious issue that has been addressed yet has not been eliminated or resolved. Five times as many white individuals are using drugs as black individuals, yet black individuals are sent to prison for drug offenses at ten times the rate of white individuals (NAACP). This further proves that anti-blackness, the resistance of valuing black individuals is perpetuated through the judicial system through the high rates of incarnation and police attention. Within the past year alone there have been cases of police brutality that were popular in the media such as the Michael Brown, Eric Garner, and of course Martese Johnson. All of which I will provide links for articles below. All of these cases mentioned involved mistreatment of power towards people of colour that ended in death or hospitalization. The crimes committed by the officers were wrongfully dealt with by our justice system, as they didn’t face punishment. It is both shocking and disappointing that in this day and age we are have to fight for equal treatment and justice. What if the roles were reverse and the brutality was towards a white individual and a police officer of colour, would the judicial results be the same?
When analyzing intersecting features of injustice it is clear that there are connections between both race and gender. Statistics show that men of colour are far more likely to be arrested than women. Of the 2.3 million inmates in custody in the United States, 208,300 were women and 2.1 million were men. Black males and Hispanic represented 58% as of 2008, which is the largest percentage of inmates (NAACP). These numbers represent a disappointing flaw within our society. It is important to learn these statistics and question why there is such a significant difference between each race and gender and what we can do to change that. There must exist also a community-wide aspiration to understand and own the values of justice, inclusion, and equity, and how it is that our mutuality calls us to help forge new thinking. Creating an accepting society and eradicating all acts of intersectionality the connectedness of social categorizations of race and gender, white supremacy, oppression, and the many other problematic notions will achieve a safe inclusive place for everyone.
We are all playing key roles in leading our society to change. It is not about agreeing on everything, sharing the same views, or having the same background, it is about sharing acknowledgement, appreciation, and respect for each other. It is important to fight for each other’s equality and to end injustice for all races. Getting involved within your community and unifying for change will create a difference and help make safer and happier lives for everyone. It is time that discrimination within homes, institutions, the justice system, and governance is put to an end. By doing so, we can prevent any more individuals from suffering as Martese Johnson had.
Aulette, Judy R., and Judith Wittner. Gendered Worlds. Third ed. New York: Oxford Universty Press, 2015. Print
Criminal Justice Fact Sheet.” National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People. Web. Accessed 28 Mar. 2015. (http://www.naacp.org/pages/criminal-justice-fact-sheet)