Defining Racism And The Difficulties Of Proving Discrimination

759 words - 3 pages

Defining Racism and the Difficulties of Proving DiscriminationOur group is taking the position that the perception of the criminal justice system as being racist is a myth. Since this assertion can be interpreted in many ways, it is necessary to specify what it means and does not mean.First, we are going to explain that there is racial prejudice and discrimination within the criminal justice system, in that there are individuals, both white and minorities, who make decisions, at least in part, on the basis of race. We do not believe that the system is characterized by prejudice and discrimination against minorities 'systematic.' Individual cases appear to reflect racial prejudice and discrimination by the offender, the victim, the police, the prosecutor, the judge, or prison and parole officials. But conceding individual cases of bias is far different from conceding pervasive racial discrimination.There are studies that argue that the evidence at most decision points fail to show any overall racial effect, in that the percentage outcomes for minorities and whites are not very different. There is evidence, however, that some individual decision makers (for example, police officers, judges) are more likely to give 'breaks' to whites than to minorities. it appears, however, that there is an equal tendency for other individual decision makers to favor minorities over whites. This 'canceling out effect' results in studies that find no overall racial effect. It is important to note that though racial discrimination has occurred numerous individual cases against minorities and whites, there is no systematic bias against minorities.Second, if one defines racism as a conscious attitude or conscious behavior by no evidence that most individuals in the system make decisions on the basis of race. In short, the definition of racism often predetermines the answer to the question 'is the criminal justice system racist?'Furthermore, to argue that there is no systematic bias against minorities in formal decisions does not speak to the issue of whether the police are more likely to 'talk down' to minorities or to show them less respect. The fact that a police officer may call a 40-year-old minority man a 'boy' does not necessarily mean that the officer will be more likely to arrest that man (or, if he does, that his decision is based primarily on the racist stereotype)....

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