In creating a system of social and economic marginalisation, African Americans are stigmatised with a new label: deviant. While slavery and legal segregation are no longer formally legalised, a “new Jim Crow” (Alexander; 2012) is rising suing a different name: mass incarceration.
The concept of a ‘racial profile’ is one of great relevance in the way in which criminal justice cases concerning African Americans are handled. The deaths of young unarmed African American men such as Michael Brown and Tamir Rice as well as the use of unnecessary force in the cases of Freddie Gray and Eric Garner have shown how this harmful stereotype poses danger to the African American community. Barlow and Barlow’s study of Baltimore police officers reveals the reality of racial profiling as 1 in 4 African American police officers in the study reported having been racially profiled in the past year (2002). Even more so, Barlow and Barlow also report that nearly 3 out of every 4 of African American male citizens reported they had been subject to racial profiling highlighting the frequency of the practice. Not only has racial profiling created a harmful stereotype for the African American community, but it has also created a new criteria for arrests.
While history and racial oppression through class division has maintained the inequality of African Americans under the law, it is the development of “a new Jim Crow” (Alexander; 2012) that has advanced this disparity to a new field; incarceration. A disproportionate amount of African American men were found incarcerated in state and federal prisons as Walker, Sphon and DeLone have found that the incarceration rate for African American males was 6.7 times the rate of white males in both state and federal prisons in 2009 (2012; 2). Alexander argues that the War on Drugs, is single most important cause of mass incarceration (2012; 57). In 2012 alone, nearly 31 million people were incarcerated through drug charges (2012; 57). The new age of mass incarceration not only as a new form of oppression and inequality in the criminal justice system for African Americans, but as a means to further maintain racial disadvantage (Johnson; 2011; 317). As it is interconnected with other “systems of stratification” (Johnson; 2011; 317) including labour, mass incarceration becomes a contemporary mechanism of racialisation, increasing the disparity of African Americans not only as legal persons, but as citizens.
It is undeniable that the the idea of equality under the law is near unachievable. With an ever-changing society where inequality of all kinds is rife, it is impossible to create a a legal system in which all people can be equal in all sense of the word. The United States of America prides itself in its reputation as a liberal and free country. However, with its history of systematic discrimination and its continuing repression of its own citizens it is hard to imagine why. Today, the war of black and white America continues to rage on. Everyday African Americans are unlawfully arrested and are continually oppressed in the country they call home. Though Barack Obama sits as the USA’s first African American president, it is ignorant to say that racism no longer exists. From slavery, to the Jim Crow south to today, the new Jim Crow. In this era of mass incarceration, unless real change is finally put in place, African Americans have and will continue to be victims to inequality under the law.