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Literature Review on Justice Inequality Due to Race

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Law
Wordcount: 2430 words Published: 28th Jul 2021

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“I don’t want any apologies. I don’t want any condolences. I heard that five years ago. I want justice. We’ve been quiet for too long,” Emerald said in a statement.

“I want to spread the word as much as possible that I will not stand for injustice, and that I will do everything I can to get justice for my father, and justice for all of my family members who have fought for five years to hold the officer who killed my father accountable.” 

The awareness increased in July of 2014 with the murder of Eric Garner in Staten Island, New York caused by law enforcement.  The murder of Sandra Bland that happened in 2015 in the state of Texas and the July 2016 murder of  Louisiana’s Alton Sterling are just two of many recent cases where the verdict of the defendant was not clearly justified. 

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There were numerous questions that arose when this matter was brought to my attention.  Does taking someone’s life become acceptable because one is an officer?  What is the punishment for an officer that takes an individual’s life?  Is the outcome of the officer’s ruling based on the extent of the incident?  Does the race of the victim have anything to do with the decision of what consequences, if any are given to the officer? Would the verdict be different if the racial roles were switched? 

These cases, as well as plenty more, have become a huge topic in the United States.  It is actually the origination concepts to the BLM (Black Lives Matter) movement.  I chose to research this specific topic because my overall goal is to gain and provide an understanding of the justice system and the decisions that are made when the victim of the matter is an African American citizen.

The overall population of study will be the officers that have committed the murders of the African American race as well as the Caucasian race. I will analyze several different incidents to gather statistics on the different punishments that are issued to both black officers and white officers. I will produce research from the articles stated in this paper as well as the media to obtain a full insight from all different aspects to have a broad understanding as to why justice is provided differently to a police officer.  This subject really motivates me to find a way to assist with making a change to where justice is provided fairly amongst everyone regardless of their race or background.

Literature Review

As I research how the world has changed from the days of slavery, to discrimination, to unequal rights, to segregation, to what they now call a united country “Land of the Free”, I see a repeat of history all over again. The days of slavery ranged from 1619 to 1865, over 1.373 years. We must keep in mind that the only slaves that ever lived were African American citizens. Even after slavery days there was a great division between whites and blacks where whites still believed that African Americans were beneath them. Therefore, African Americans were not allowed to live in certain areas, to eat in certain places, or receive the same education as whites. When the United States finally decided that African Americans were as equally human as whites, in my opinion, it was too late. African Americans had become targets; they were profiled as criminals because of the color of their skin rather than the actions that they committed. The 2000’s has now become a repeat of history on a smaller scale. 

This notion is similar to the events that have taken place in the twenty-first century that we are currently experiencing.  Per the Washington Post, the fatal shootings by police had risen by 26 shootings in the first six months of 2016 (Sullivan, 2019).  Majority of the fatal shootings that have taken place have targeted unarmed African American males that were not committing crimes.

There are cases, like the Eric Garner case and the Alton Sterling case, that were committed by police officers.  These too were involving African American men who were not committing any type of crimes.  However, they were still targets to the police.  In the year of  2014, Eric was selling loose and untaxed cigarettes in Staten Island when Officer Pantaleo and other officers approached him (Benner, 2016).  He verbally stated to the authorities that he would not condone harassment by the police, and consequently Pantaleo put him in a chokehold.  Garner can be heard gasping, “I can’t breathe” 11 times in a video that was captured by a bystander.  The medical examiner ruled Garner’s death a homicide caused by an asthma attack resulting from the chokehold (Benner, 2016).  Alton Sterling was gunned down at the corner store for selling CD’s.  The officer that killed Sterling had no explanation for his actions.  According to the text, there is a law that gives an officer the right to defend themselves with use of force if the officer feels threatened for their own life.  Does this law make it okay for an officer to take the live of a human being due to their personal emotions? 

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“The Determinants of Deadly Force: A Structural Analysis of Police Violence” , written by David Jacobs, speaks on the level of interpersonal violence the police encounter and how other problems in departmental environments should account for these killing rates. Per this article, 170 cities show that racial inequality explains police killings (Jacobs, 1998).  Separate examinations of police killings of Blacks show that cities with more blacks and recent growth in the black population have higher police killing rates of blacks, but the presence of a black mayor reduces these killings, surprisingly. Sociologists who stress coercive explanations for order often see the control agencies of the state as principally serving the interests of the privileged.  The hypothesis of this notion is that police violence is a reaction to the violence the police encounter, so killings by police officers are a necessary response to the brutality they must control.  Jacobs sees if the police use of lethal force can be explained by political arrangements or by social divisions that are likely to have political consequences because race is such an important consideration in a study of police violence and because our initial results suggest that the determinants of police killings of blacks deserve (Jacobs, 1998).

The next article that will be discussed is “The New Concepts in the UNESCO Declaration on Race and Racial Prejudice” by Nathan Lerner.  Lerner discusses the declaration on race and race prejudice adopted by the general conference of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) (Lerner, 1981).  As stated by the UNESCO Director-General, it is not equivalent to a convention or recommendation in the normative sense, but the Declaration can become a keystone in the struggle against racialism and racial prejudice, if member states “are politically desirous of giving it the most far-reaching support and applying its provisions.  Regardless of whether help will be provided or not is something which the future will tell. The primary commitment of the Declaration at this stage is by all accounts the consideration in it of a few new ideas and the accentuation which it joins to certain parts of racial segregation and bias: basically the need to ensure the personality and the full advancement of the gatherings included.   Lerner believes that the certification of the privilege to appear as something else and the privilege to social character, the safeguard against constrained osmosis, the announcement of the privilege to full improvement, the worrying of the requirement for governmental policy regarding minorities in society, especially for hindered gatherings, for example, transient laborers: every one of these arrangements comprise a positive advancement qualified to be under lined (Lerner, 1981). Another significant improvement concerning execution is the acknowledgment of a job for nongovernmental associations and person. This article will give the outline of how the composed announcement contains bigotry itself.

Christopher Lyons’ “Defending Turf: Racial Demographics and Hate Crime against Blacks and Whites” article mainly focuses on hate crimes based on racial demographics. This study examines how racial composition, in-migration and community identity influence the distribution of anti-black and anti-white hate crimes (Lyons, 2008).  The data used in the article is derived from six years of Chicago Police Department reports, two decades of census data and community survey data from the Project on Human Development in Chicago Neighborhoods, the paper evaluates hypotheses derived from racial threat, macrostructural opportunity and defended community perspectives (Lyons, 2008).  Negative binomial models controlling for spatial reliance uncover various examples for against dark and hostile to white despise wrongdoings crosswise over Chicago people group. The examination likewise inspected the connection between criminal articulations of interracial clash and network racial and ethnic socioeconomics. The outcomes demonstrate fairly various examples for hostile to dark and against white detest wrongdoings. Moreover, monetary conditions don’t condition the impact of developing dark extents in customarily white networks.

“Black Offenders, Criminal Courts, and the Philadelphia Society in the Late Eighteenth Century” is another journal article discussed in this paper.  Written by G.S. Rowe, it elaborates on the history of unfair treatment that African Americans have received for years.  Rowe concluded that  legal history has not made contributions with its potential for clarifying the relationship between Black and white Americans, or for shedding light on social tensions associated with that relationship (Rowe, 1989). Treatments of crime and its judicial resolution are particularly well suited to illuminate a society’s distribution of power, and changes occurring in its values, assumptions, and priorities over time.  Rowe uses an examination of crimes allegedly caused by Blacks, and their outcomes in early Philadelphia, serves as a case in point. This article shows the nature of personal relations among blacks, and, on different levels of society, between blacks and whites. It also casts light on opportunities and  lack of opportunities available to Philadelphia’s black population. 

In his article, “Programming Errors: Understanding the Constitutionality of Stop-and-Frisk as a Program, Not an Incident”,  Meares elaborate on the relevance of law enforcement effectiveness and the role of empiricism in understanding the constitutionality of the police practices at issues in the Floyd case and urban police practices more generally; it brings insight on the way African Americans are handled when pulled over by the police. This topic was even was brought up in recent Presidential Debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.  Trump stated that in order to decrease the number of killings committed by the police, we should bring back “Stop-and-Frisk” that was originated in New York with efforts to reduce the crime level. However, it was a target for people of color, African Americans in particular. Consequently, the stop-and-frisk issue was eventually ruled as unconstitutional. A critical but obscured issue is the mismatch between the level of analysis at which the Supreme Court articulated the relevant test for constitutional justification of a stop-and-frisk in Terry v. Ohio and the scale at which today’s police engage in stop-and-frisk as a practice.  The author believes that today’s police are unaware of the constitution and the laws, and unfortunately, the ignorance causes a high crime rate amongst African Americans (Meares, 2015). This article measures the amount of times African Americans were pulled over or detained because of the stop-and-frisk rule as an independent variable having an effect on the crime rates, the dependent variable, of African Americans and other people of color. Nominal and interval data was presented as well.


  • Benner, K., & Rashbaum, W. K. (2019, July 16). Eric Garner’s Death Will Not Lead to Federal Charges for N.Y.P.D. Officer. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2019/07/16/nyregion/eric-garner-case-death-daniel-pantaleo.html
  • Jacobs, D. (1998). The determinants of deadly force: A structural analysis of police violence. American journal of sociology, 837-862. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1086/231291
  • Lerner, N. (1981). New Concepts in the UNESCO Declaration on Race and Racial Prejudice. Human Rights Quarterly , Vol. 3, No. 1, 48-61. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/762066
  • Lyons, C. J. (2008). Defending Turf: Racial Demographics and Hate Crime against Blacks and Whites. Social Forces , Vol. 87, No. 1, 357-385. Retrieved 07 20, 2019, from http://www.jstor.org/stable/20430860
  • Meares, T. L. (2015). Programming errors: Understanding the constitutionality of stop-and-frisk as a program, not an incident. U. Chi. L. Rev., 82, 159.
  • Paternoster, R. (1983). Race of victim and location of crime: The decision to seek the death penalty in South Carolina. The Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology (1973- ), 74(3), 754-785. Doi: 1. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org.grambling.idm.oclc.org/stable/1143134 Doi: 1
  • Rowe, G. S. (1989). Black Offenders, Criminal Courts, and Philadelphia Society in the Late EighteenthCentury. Journal of Social History , Vol. 22, No. 4, 685-712. Retrieved 07 12, 2019, from http://www.jstor.org/stable/3787544.
  • Sullivan, J., Weber, L., Tate, J., & Jenkins, J. (2019, February 12). Four years in a row, police nationwide fatally shoot nearly 1,000 people. Retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com/investigations/four-years-in-a-row-police-nationwide-fatally-shoot-nearly-1000-people/2019/02/07/0cb3b098-020f-11e9-9122-82e98f91ee6f_story.html?utm_term=.c9a31c7e970e


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