Education, Our Justice System and Race

I took some time and went through the census data. I wanted to investigate the percentage of Whites, Blacks and Hispanics and their educational status. As we know, educational status correlates to socioeconomic status. The better educated you are, the more opportunities are open for you. Nowhere in our society should we see more equality then in the classroom. For the most part, public schools do not offer individual education. This is education for the masses. Therefore, if Johnny, David, Betty and Susan are all in the same classroom, in theory, they should all be exposed to the same material. They should all have the same opportunity to excel or to fail.

When we look at the data of those who graduated high school since 1940, there’s a clear persistence of Whites graduating at higher rates than Blacks or Hispanics.

The education disparity increases dramatically when we look at the percentage of Americans who graduated college, by race.

Although I did not graph it here, this disparity increases when you look at the percentage of Americans who have obtained a professional degree, by race.

I wanted to take just a second to go back and look at what Professor Bill Quigley has said about race in our criminal justice system. He listed 14 reasons why the criminal justice system has a race bias. I posted seven of his reasons here. Here are the next seven:

Seven. Trials are rare. Only 3 to 5 percent of criminal cases go to trial – the rest are plea bargained. Most African Americans defendants never get a trial. Most plea bargains consist of promise of a longer sentence if a person exercises their constitutional right to trial. As a result, people caught up in the system, as the American Bar Association points out, plead guilty even when innocent. Why? As one young man told me recently, “Who wouldn’t rather do three years for a crime they didn’t commit than risk twenty-five years for a crime they didn’t do?”

Eight. The U.S. Sentencing Commission reported in March 2010 that in the federal system black offenders receive sentences that are 10% longer than white offenders for the same crimes. Marc Mauer of the Sentencing Project reports African Americans are 21% more likely to receive mandatory minimum sentences than white defendants and 20% more like to be sentenced to prison than white drug defendants.

Nine. The longer the sentence, the more likely it is that non-white people will be the ones getting it. A July 2009 report by the Sentencing Project found that two-thirds of the people in the US with life sentences are non-white. In New York, it is 83%.

Ten. As a result, African Americans, who are 13% of the population and 14% of drug users, are not only 37% of the people arrested for drugs but 56% of the people in state prisons for drug offenses. Marc Mauer May 2009 Congressional Testimony for The Sentencing Project.

Eleven. The US Bureau of Justice Statistics concludes that the chance of a black male born in 2001 of going to jail is 32% or 1 in three. Latino males have a 17% chance and white males have a 6% chance. Thus black boys are five times and Latino boys nearly three times as likely as white boys to go to jail.

Twelve. So, while African American juvenile youth is but 16% of the population, they are 28% of juvenile arrests, 37% of the youth in juvenile jails and 58% of the youth sent to adult prisons. 2009 Criminal Justice Primer, The Sentencing Project.

Thirteen. Remember that the US leads the world in putting our own people into jail and prison. The New York Times reported in 2008 that the US has five percent of the world’s population but a quarter of the world’s prisoners, over 2.3 million people behind bars, dwarfing other nations. The US rate of incarceration is five to eight times higher than other highly developed countries and black males are the largest percentage of inmates according to ABC News.

Fourteen. Even when released from prison, race continues to dominate. A study by Professor Devah Pager of the University of Wisconsin found that 17% of white job applicants with criminal records received call backs from employers while only 5% of black job applicants with criminal records received call backs. Race is so prominent in that study that whites with criminal records actually received better treatment than blacks without criminal records!

For those who want more detail, for those who believe the bullet points are somewhat superficial and for anyone who would like more background, here’s a very nice paper on racial disparities in the criminal justice system produced by the Sentencing Project.

So, what can we conclude? Race identification and race bias are a part of our history. It has really shaped America over the last 250 years. The fact that we passed several pieces of legislation in the mid-’60s in order to try to reverse this trend doesn’t act like a magic wand and make all the problems surrounding race go away. Instead, many problems persist. When you look at the inequality in education, our justice system and multiple other aspects of life, you must conclude that race plays a significant role in the ongoing social economic status of Blacks and Hispanics. Now, after a week of discussion and set up, I’m ready to discuss Harvard Professor Derrick Bell and his critical race theory. Are you ready?

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0 Responses

  1. Plus you’re leaving out the programs that expanded the white middle class (GI Bill, VA home loans, loans for farmers), but were   denied to AAs on a discriminatory basis.  (E.g., recent settlement of 1+ billion dollars for black farmers denied Ag loans.)  So the economic multiplier is even greater than you state.  At the same time whites were being given an extra leg up, blacks were being given an extra push down.

  2. College educated parents also tend to encourage their kids to go to college and have the means to equip them.  So the longer before the parents’ generation has college degrees, the longer it takes the kids to get them.

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Errington C. Thompson, MD

Dr. Thompson is a surgeon, scholar, full-time sports fan and part-time political activist. He is active in a number of community projects and initiatives. Through medicine, he strives to improve the physical health of all he treats.

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A Letter to America

The Thirteeneth Juror

Where is The Outrage Topics
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