Racial discrimination has been a complicated issue throughout history. It has been hard to provide evidence of its existence, which is necessary in order to inform people on how they can prevent it. Through a lot of research, investigation and survey results, racial discrimination has been proven to influence many aspects of our society. These aspects include the justice system, the job market, housing and mass media.
The U.S. Sentencing Commission has stated that race has no affect on the sentence of a crime, but when examining facts, one would think otherwise. Minorities are arrested at a much greater rate for drug-related cases than non-minorities, who actually make up a larger percentage of drug-users. Throughout recent years, about 75 percent of all illicit drug users have been white and only about 15 percent black. African Americans make up for about 35 percent of all drug arrests and 75 percent of all sentences for drug offenses. In 1991, white and black youths were involved in roughly the same amount of drug-related cases but the black youth were detained for drug violations at almost twice the rate as whites. Four times as many black juvenile drug cases were transferred to criminal courts for adult prosecution as white cases.
Specific drug sentences also reveal that racial discrimination is still present. Before the 1960s, most marijuana offenders were minorities who could face up to 5 years in prison for possession. The white majority didn’t care when people in the ghetto got locked up. The sentencing for marijuana use has significantly decreased ever since its use spread to the middle and upper white classes. The police began to leave casual users alone and focused on targeting the dealers. The sentencing for cocaine and crack cocaine differ greatly. Someone selling 5 grams of crack receives the same prison sentence of someone selling 500 grams of powdered cocaine. The only difference is that the powdered cocaine is cooked with baking soda to make crack. The manufacturers of cocaine deal with powder and the small-time resellers deal in crack. You would think that the manufacturers or a dealer who is higher up on the ladder would receive the longer sentence, but it’s the exact opposite. About 90% of crack cocaine defendants are black and a study found that in seventeen states, not one white person had been prosecuted on federal crack cocaine charges. Whites only make up 4-5 percent of all crack users. If it’s essentially the same drug, why are mainly African Americans being sentenced so harshly? These questions have come up in the courts, but they see no reason for modifying the laws.
The poor are more likely to go to prison than the wealthy, even though it’s white-collar crime that is more costly and widespread than street crime. Crimes such as embezzlement, fraud, forgery and bribery are more easily available for the upper class to commit. Street crimes are usually committed by the lower class, consisting of many minorities. Even though these white-collar crimes cost people over a thousand times more than street crimes, they are often suspended and dealt with lightly. The fact that the lower class can’t afford proper defense has been an issue, but evidence from GAO testing concludes that the race of a victim influences all stages of the criminal justice system.
Minorities still face discrimination when applying for jobs and housing. MIT economist Marianne Bertrand answered more than 1,300 help wanted ads in Boston and Chicago. She created resumes with equal qualifications, with white sounding names and black sounding names. The white applicants were called back 50 percent more than the black applicants. From experience, I know that many realtors in South Philadelphia will wait in their cars until a potential renter comes to tour the apartment. If the potential renter is African American or Hispanic, the realtor will drive off and wait to show the apartment to a white renter. This way, the realtors and landlords can’t be charged with discrimination.
Racial discrimination is also present on the news. In the Dixon & Linz study, it was shown that whites are overrepresented as homicide victims compared to actual statistics. Blacks and Latinos are then underrepresented as victims. In many areas, the majority of coverage on African Americans and Hispanics is negative. In the event the numbers are correct, many news stations fail to broadcast details or the context in which the crimes were committed, which can lead to wrongful assumptions. Since most people believe the news is a very accurate representation of the real world, it is possible that these broadcasts have created negative feelings towards minority groups who are continually misrepresented.
As we can see, racial discrimination is still present in many aspects of our society. Minorities are given harsher and longer sentences for the same crimes committed by whites. More minorities are found guilty of drug possession even when the numbers say that whites account for the majority of drug use. Minorities are also less likely to get jobs even though they have the same skills as white people. Some people also believe that there is still racial discrimination in the education system but true evidence is hard to provide. In this day and age, and especially in this country, discrimination should not be tolerated. Since it does exist, we must acknowledge it and begin to eliminate it.