2-Part Series: African Americans are the underdog targets of selective justice in the United States. Some Hip Hop artists work hard to advocate for change.
Blacks in America are generally at a disadvantage and expected to lose. They are the targets of selective justice. So, it’s not surprising that People of Color dominate the jails and prisons in the US.
Hip Hop Takes on Issues of Selective Justice at the Mic
For decades, Hip Hop rappers have been fighting for prison reform and bringing public attention to the hapless plight of Black and Latino Americans when it comes to the criminal justice system.
Hip Hop artists use no other weapons than the lyrics of their music to fight for incarceration injustices. So, they employ the lyrics of their songs to engage the government and the people on the pervading rates of incarceration among the Black community.
Many of these rappers have been to prison multiple times, with risks of returning again and again (recidivism). So criminal injustices largely make up the themes of their songs. Law enforcement and court judges have not only targeted adults within minority groups, they have also largely targeted Black men, women, students and children.
Georgetown professor Paul Butler had this to say in the Standford Law Review:
“At the same time that an art form created by African American and Latino men dominates popular culture, African American and Latino men dominate American prisons.
Unsurprisingly then, justice—especially criminal justice—has been a preoccupation of the Hip Hop nation.”
Criminal justice statistics and the results of numerous studies prove Professor Butler to be right.
Selective Justice Severely Affects the Lives of Black & Brown People in America
Being a black or brown Person of Color seems to be an offense in itself in the United States. Statistical rates of incarceration for Blacks and other people of color reveal this to be very correct.
The Bureau of Justice Statistics makes the following startling revelations based on several studies, which all speak to the issues of selective justice:
- 1 out of every 3 Black men in America goes to prison at some point in life
- Black women in the US are 3 times more likely to go to jail than white women
- Law enforcement arrests Black American students more than their white classmates, fueling the school-to-prison pipeline
- Black teens are often sentenced as harshly as adults in the US
- Black offenders are slammed with longer and harsher sentences than whites in America for the same offenses
- Blacks are more likely to be incarcerated for drug and gun possessions than whites in the US
- Blacks are suspected more of crimes – for being black – than their white American counterparts
- America’s Black communities have higher recidivism rates than any other groups in the country
- African Americans risk being incarcerated for parole and probation violations at much higher rates than their white counterparts, fueling recidivism even more
As a Black American, you stand the risk of being arrested for any number of “petty” crimes. This is selective justice at its finest…
- Walking too fast after spotting a law enforcement officer
- Running upon spotting an officer
- Having an altercation with another individual
- Walking or loitering in the “wrong” neighborhood
- Gazing for too long on a law enforcement officer
- Any suspicious activity
It’s simple-minded thinking like this that keeps the American prison system overflowing.
What are rappers doing to bring awareness to the school-to-prison pipeline, recidivism, mass incarceration and selective justice in the US?
Read part 2 to find out.