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Black Men Vs. the Criminal Justice System

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Black Men vs. The Criminal Justice System

The criminal justice system is a disease; once you get affected by it, there’s no going back. Despite this disease, the U.S criminal justice system is often seen as the best criminal justice system in the world. A system that gives accusers a chance to defend themselves, a chance to be a part of society again; however, that chance to defend themselves more often applies to whites rather than blacks. For years the criminal justice system has been criminalizing young black men, causing them to fail at trying to be a citizen of the country. All this is due to these assumptions that black men are criminals, dangerous to society, and that they deserved to be locked up and dehumanized. The system is a disease because once you enter it, all your rights as a citizen of the country have been revoked. Both Harper Lee, the author To a Kill Mockingbird, and Ava DuVernay, the director of 13th, argue how prejudice in the criminal justice system is towards African-American/Blacks. Harper Lee uses Atticus’s closing statement as a way to criticize the criminal justice system for their wrongdoing to African-Americans; on the other hand, Ava DuVernay talks and shows the injustice criminal justice system through her documentary. Throughout history, the criminal justice system that is supposed to bring justice to the victims of any type of crime has destroyed many innocent lives, especially black lives. Both To Kill Mockingbird and 13th illustrate that the criminal justice system in the U.S is broken due to society's assumption that black people are dangerous, and this assumption affects the treatment of African American/blacks, and the way criminal justice system view them.

Harper Lee, the author of To Kill Mockingbird, also sees the criminal justice as a disease. Harper Lee demonstrates this idea through the character of Tom Robinson. Tom Robinson is a black man who was accused of sexually assaulting a white woman. Atticus, the lawyer for Tom, knew what Tom was against an all-white racist jury. A jury who had brainwashed by all the biases against African-American. In Atticus's closing statement he said: “The evil assumption that all Negroes lie, that all Negroes are basically immoral beings, that all negroes men are not be trusted.” (Lee, 1960, p. 273). These words are Atticus’s words from To a Kill Mockingbird, calling out all-white jury of their racism and their biases against black men including Tom Robinson, due to his skin color. Tom Robinson was assumed guilty by his appearance before the trial even started. The fact the evidence against Tom Robinson was not credible but it did not stop the jury from seeing him as criminal like the system had already set him up to be.These are words that entrap African American men including Tom’s character to the criminal justice system. Atticus keep repeating the phrase “All Negroes” to shows the jury how they have blind by society assumptions and their own prejudice of black men. The result of these assumptions through history has made black men present in the criminal justice system consistent, meaning that they come in contact with the criminal justice system more often than any other groups.

Ava DuVernay, the director of 13th stated: “Black people, Black men, in general, are over-represented in news as criminals. When I say over-represented, that means that they are shown as criminals more time than is accurate, that they are actually criminals, based on the FBI statistics.” (DeVernay, 2016). This demonstrates the cycle of these stereotypes against black men. They are portrayed as vicious animals even if their encounter with the criminal justice system was a mistake. African-American/blacks have always been affiliate negative, always the majority of unemployed, poor, and in the criminal justice. African-American/blacks have never truly given a chance to defend themselves and even when they did have a change, people often do not want to hear them. For example, even when Tom appears in person for the first time at the trial, everyone else gets to give their version of what happened before he has a chance to speak. At the trial, there were get two versions of the relationship between him and Mayella, and they offer two very different stories: Mayella and her father tell the story that everyone expects to hear, about the Tom that is the town's nightmare, a criminal. Tom tells the story that no one wants to hear, about the Tom that is himself. Black men have been infected by this vicious disease that allows the criminal justice system to cage them. They are stripped of their basic and civil human rights such as; the right to vote, the right to serve on juries public and private housing. These are felon disenfranchisement law, meaning felon can be legally discriminated against with; due to them have to answer or check “Yes” of the question have you ever been convicted of a crime?

Both Harper Lee and Ava DuVernay makes it clear that criminal justice system is not that perfect at it seems. People who worked in the system also knows is not as great as it seems, this including Atticus from To a Kill Mockingbird when he said “I’m no idealist to believe firmly in the integrity of our courts and in the jury system- that is no ideal to me, it is a living, working reality.” (Lee, 1960, p. 274) The idea of the court is a good system and it is supposed to serve justice; however, if the people (jury) who serve on the system already made up their mind about the accused, how can the accused get a fair trial while these biases against them. Which breaks down the whole idea the justice system was made for, “To be fair”. Atticus is pointing out the facts how unfair Tom Robinson’s trial is when the men taking part of the jury does not stand for justice for a black man. As the jury’s finding demonstrates, even if all men are created equal they are not necessarily tried equally. To Kill a Mockingbird might be fiction, however, the results of the system are a reality for many people of color. DuVernay the director of 13th stated, “White men 1 in 17 is likely to be in prison in their lifetime, Black men 1 in 3.” (DuVernay, 2016). Here, Ava DuVernay is saying since the criminal justice system is discriminating against people of color. The criminal system justice just brand black lives with no remorse, it does not matter if they guilty or not guilty of a crime, however, they are already guilty of being black. Tom Robinson was already a negro in a town that did not want people like, black people.

The criminal justice system is supposed to deliver justice for all, and everyone is to be “Equal” in the eyes of the law. “All Men are Created Equal” it is something



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