Opinion: The criminal Justice system has failed Black Americans


Flickr/Tim Dennell

A Black Lives Matter protest in Sheffield, England during the summer of 2020.

Kamryn Drake, Staff Writer

Even now in 2021, there are still many flaws in the criminal justice system. You don’t have to be a law student to see how there is discrimination against Black Americans.
Recently, many people have become more aware about how unequal the criminal justice system is due to the publicity surrounding George Floyd’s death.
George Floyd isn’t the first individual who has been killed without reasoning though. In 1955, a 14 year old boy, Emmett Till, was murdered for allegedly flirting with a white woman. Two men brutally beat him and his body wasn’t found until it washed up by the Tallahatchie River a few days later.
J.W. Milam and Roy Bryant, the men who killed Till, were never convicted and Till’s mother never got justice for her son’s death. The woman who Till allegedly flirted with, Carolyn Bryant, came out and said after the trial that Till had never done anything to her. In a 2017 book by Timothy Tyson, “The Blood of Emmett Till,” Bryan admits that Till never said or made any physical advances towards her.
Because of the color of Till’s skin, Till’s family never received the justice they deserved, likely because the jury was more concerned with protecting the white defendants than seeking justice for a black child who was brutally murdered.
Unequal treatment of Black Americans in the court system has continued past the 1950s as well. On January 4, 1982, a young Black man named Archie Williams was arrested for the murder of a white woman who was raped and killed in her own home. Williams’ fingerprints were proven not to be the same as the ones at the scene, yet he was still convicted. He spent 37 years in Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola, known to be one of the toughest and bloodiest prisons in the country, for a crime he didn’t even commit. On March 21, 2019, a judge reviewed the fingerprints at the scene and after 37 years he was finally freed.
Even after the evidence showed there was no way he could have killed this woman, Williams was still convicted because he was black and because he didn’t have enough money to fight the state.
Williams’s situation isn’t an isolated exception to the rule, but rather a common occurrence. As of October 2016, there were 1,900 exonerations of wrongly accused individuals. Of those, 47% were Black Americans.
A study at Harvard had shown that Black young adults have a significantly higher rate of being pulled over by police officers than white young adults. Other smaller studies showed the same result. While those numbers seem to even out after dark, this could be because the officer’s can’t tell the color of the individual’s skin at night.
Black Americans still have to worry about their safety when around police because even if they aren’t doing anything wrong they could still die because an officer saw their skin tone and assumed they were doing something wrong.
Over 78% of African Americans have said they have seen deaths of other Black Americans in person during encounters with police, while 79% of white Americans are not at all worried about being a victim of police using deadly force. Police are supposed to protect and serve.
Police have shown that they will use lethal force even when it is not necessary. Black Americans are statistically proven to be pulled over more often than other individuals. You don’t have to look much further into cases like these to see how broken the justice system is.
Luckily, there are many programs working to exonerate individuals who are wrongfully convicted. Hopefully those individuals get the justice they deserve. The only way to fix this issue is through reforming the criminal justice system to provide more equal treatment of individuals, regardless of race.