Is Lady Justice the Arbiter of the New Jim Crow?

Is Lady Justice the Arbiter of the New Jim Crow?


What ever happened to the blind eye of the law?  As Lady Justice peeks out from under her stone-clad blind fold to see who currently seeks justice, she all too often leans to one side in order to show her preference time and time again.  Though her judgment is supposed to be without favor, her bias slip shows when African Americans are targeted for prosecution at rates much higher than whites.

Compare these brief facts.  In a 2009 testimony to Congress, Marc Maur, Executive Director of the Sentencing Project, stated that African Americans are 13% of the US population and 14% of monthly drug users nationwide, but make up 37% of drug arrests.  Another fact:   the Department of Justice indicates that Black males are 6 times more likely to be incarcerated than their White male counterparts.  According to the US Census in 2008, Whites made up 66% of the US population and 44% of the jailed population; while Blacks made up 13% of the US population and 40% of the jailed population.   There is data at every step of the criminal justice system proving that Lady Justice overly targets, arrests, prosecutes, jails and disenfranchises African Americans.

Lady Justice’s eyes are never blind, and whether conscious or unconscious, her tilted scales of justice leave a large portion of African Americans on the wrong side of the criminal justice system.

After the arrests, prosecution and criminalization of African Americans, what may seem to be the essential norms of life – basic entitlements for people living in American society – become hard to obtain.

Work.  Job applicants are quite often required to check ‘that box’ and explain their criminal history.  Some are upfront about their record, but their past is always subject to discriminatory judgment.  Many felons simply try to “pass” by not disclosing their criminal histories, only to be later penalized when their past comes back to haunt them.

Housing.  How can one afford rent or a mortgage when they are not allowed work?  The ex-offender is prohibited from living with a relative who may be on some sort of housing assistance.  Further, the same individual, as a general rule,  is not allowed to secure federally subsidized rental housing.

Food.  How can one eat?  Thanks to, President Bill Clinton, in his attempt to pander to the middle right, anyone branded with a felony drug offense will not receive food stamps.

Voting.   With felony offenses comes disenfranchisement. Reported :

Virginia, for instance, is one of two states (Kentucky being the other) that does not allow ex-felons to vote under any circumstances. Currently, there are 340,522 people living in Virginia communities and paying taxes, who cannot vote, according to The Sentencing Project.

As Michelle Alexander noted in The New Jim Crow, “[t]oday it is perfectly legal to discriminate against criminals in nearly all the ways it was once legal to discriminate against African Americans. Once you’re labeled a felon, the old forms of discrimination — employment discrimination, housing discrimination, denial of the right to vote, and exclusion from jury service — are suddenly legal.  As a criminal, you have scarcely more rights, and arguably less respect, than a black man living in Alabama at the height of Jim Crow.”

In order to balance the scales of justice, America must reexamine its legal, cultural and economic systems to eradicate systemic bias based upon race and national origin.  The atrocities this country committed upon African Americans during slavery, the post slavery Jim Crow era, and during segregation have been recycled and are now being played out in the ways that justice is administered.  American must make “justice for all”  its ultimate goal.