Everybody knows that the US criminal justice system is racist. But people don’t know just how racist. Today we are kicking off three weeks of videos on this topic. Please do check them out.
The US criminal justice system is fundamentally racist. The majority of Americans never have to interact with it. It can be easy to imagine that the system’s targets are criminals who get what they deserve. These well-meaning Americans have no idea how easy it is to interact with the police as a white person. Luckily I used to get arrested a lot, and can tell the story. If I were a black guy I would be in jail or worse. But I’m not. I’m a white guy, so I was allowed to make mistakes. I get to be free. I get to be an attorney and I get to make embarrassing YouTube videos.
We as Americans like to tell ourselves that we are living in a post-racial society. We acknowledge our great founding crime of Slavery, and the injustice of the Jim Crow Segregation laws. We revere the heroic figures of the Abolition and the Civil Rights eras. But we are told in our schools, and our media, that these heros made it all better.
This is Bullshit.
We are in fact living under a system that is just as racist as Slavery and Jim Crow. We deliver great wealth and power to those who survive the Hunger Games of growing up Black in America. This does not mean that the system is not racist. Black people are no longer owned or legally prohibited from participation in our society. This does not mean that our system is just.
You may have heard of Ferguson or police brutality more generally. You may have heard about differing sentences for different kinds of drugs. Things like this are important, but they are just symptoms and they are relatively easy to correct. To truly change, we have to ask the fundamental questions about the system we live under.
1. Who goes to trial? The jury system remains an excellent tool for defending the rights of the accused, and making sure that real criminals are punished. The problem is that very few people go to trial anymore. 95% of criminal convictions are attained through a deeply unjust plea bargaining process. The central institution of our criminal justice system only works for you if you have the money to pay for it.
2. Who gets arrested? Who has to deal with the trial process in the first place? The vast majority of people stopped by US police are people of color. What’s more, A police officer in the inner city is doing a very different job from a police officer in an affluent suburban town. Their money comes from different places, and their bosses expect them to do very different things.
Over the next few weeks we will look at these questions in more depth. We will show how our country’s thousands of separate police departments and courts work to perpetuate a system of racial oppression.
So please tune in. Thanks for watching, please subscribe.
If you’re looking for a brief overview of these issues, and want to support this work, you could do worse than Your War on Drugs, an essay I produced for the Amazon Kindle.
You can find more videos like this at our youtube channel.