My friend Radley Balko’s work on our criminal (in)justice system is absolutely invaluable. I consider him to be an indispensable journalist on the topic. In his column at the Washington Post, he puts up a very long and detailed post that links to dozens of studies that prove beyond all reasonable doubt that there is systemic racism at every level of law enforcement and the courts. And he describes what this means:
Of particular concern to some on the right is the term “systemic racism,” often wrongly interpreted as an accusation that everyone in the system is racist. In fact, systemic racism means almost the opposite. It means that we have systems and institutions that produce racially disparate outcomes, regardless of the intentions of the people who work within them. When you consider that much of the criminal-justice system was built, honed and firmly established during the Jim Crow era — an era almost everyone, conservatives concluded, will concede rife with racism — this is pretty intuitive. The modern criminal-justice system helped preserve racial order — it kept black people in their place. For much of the early 20th century, in some parts of the country, that was its primary function. That it might retain some of those proclivities today shouldn’t be all that surprising.
In any case, after more than a decade covering these issues, it’s pretty clear to me that the evidence of racial bias in our criminal-justice system isn’t just convincing — it’s overwhelming. But because there still seems to be some skepticism, I’ve attempted below to catalog the evidence. The list below isn’t remotely comprehensive. And if you know of other studies, please send them to me. I would like to make this post a repository for this issue.
I would challenge anyone to dispute this overwhelming evidence. It shows pervasive racial bias from police officers, prosecutors and judges at every level. There simply is no more rational dispute over this, only ignorant denial by those who prefer to stick their heads in the sand and pretend that America is perfect. This is why Colin Kaepernick and other athletes protest. This is why Black Lives Matter exists and is important. This is why all of us have to do what we can to fix it, particularly those of us who have greater political power as a result of our privilege.