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Institutional Racism In American Law

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INTRODUCTION “How could they do it, how could they?” “I don 't know, but they did it. They 've done it before and they did it tonight and they 'll do it again, and when they do it - seems that only children weep.” HARPER LEE, To Kill A Mockingbird. On August 9th, 2014, 18-year old African-American Michael Brown was fatally shot by a white policeman in Ferguson, Missouri. Brown, unarmed, was shot 12 times, until he succumbed to his injuries. The day after Brown’s shooting saw national outrage and protests in and outside of Ferguson, giving new life to a movement conceived in the wake of the 2013 acquittal of George Zimmerman, a Neighbourhood Watch volunteer accused of fatally and unjustifiably shooting African-American teen Travyon…show more content…
The permeation of racial biases into the law enforcement machinery of the United States of America has had adverse effects on the interactions between the police and racial minorities, leading to the unfair – and often, unconstitutional – treatment of African-Americans by policemen. The need to examine the institutional racism in American law enforcement has become particularly pronounced since the Travyon Martin shooting, which brought to attention the fact that systemic racial prejudices sometimes result in the loss of innocent African-American…show more content…
A 2007 study tried to examine the degree to which ingrained biases affect how readily police officers shoot targets. Subjects were shown simulations of armed and unarmed black and white males, and were asked to ‘shoot’ all the armed persons. The study showed that policemen were quicker to shoot black armed males than white armed males, and further, were more likely to shoot black unarmed males than white unarmed males. That this subconscious association of African-American individuals with criminal tendencies is a factor in a policeman’s decision to shoot or not to shoot is extremely disturbing. It is made even more disturbing upon recognizing that these biases are not, as is often believed, seen only in consciously racist individuals, but even in people who believe themselves to be neutral and objective. It would be simplistic to pin police brutality and racial violence on racist actors - that would imply that institutional racism could be remedied by removing such officials from the system. However, acknowledging these ingrained biases and understanding their impact is crucial to recognizing that the system is itself inherently biased, and that a neutral and objective institution of law enforcement can only be created when the emphasis is placed not on racists, but on the construct of racism itself. Ingrained racial biases clearly impede rational decision-making
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