Blackness is NOT a Weapon
In the words of TV lawyer Annalise Keating, “Racism is built into the DNA of” the United States. This is evident in the country’s history of enslaving Africans, committing genocide against the nation’s Native Americans, and continued injustice towards people of color. Despite social and political progression for minority communities, their mistreatment is still very much present in the U.S. This can be seen in multiple areas of the country, but particularly in the nation’s incarceration rates, as Black people make up the majority of the prison system but are not the majority in the United States’ general population. Marginalized groups have a history of being overrepresented in the prison system. Compared to White men, Black men are 6 times more likely to be arrested and 2.5 times more likely than Hispanic men.
Over the centuries, Blackness has been wrongfully linked to crime and poverty. This ultimately covers up the fact that White Americans commit the most crimes in the U.S., including property, white-collar, and corporate. With this coverage, White criminality is almost “non-existent,” making it seem as though Black people, and other minority groups, are the only ones committing crimes. When looking at illegal drug distribution, Black and White Americans sell narcotics at similar rates; however, Black people are arrested at higher proportions. About 14% of White men can be expected to be arrested, whereas 50% of Black men in the U.S. can expect the same fate. Arguably all of this, or at least a large portion of it, has to do with skin color.
Skin color is a vital factor in how a person is perceived and treated in the criminal legal system. Blackness is seen as a weapon, which results in darker-skinned people being seen as more dangerous and treated more harshly in the legal system when compared to lighter-skinned and White people. Such negative associations around Blackness are perpetuated through media, as harmful stereotypes, such as being ghetto and violent, can be seen across multiple, if not all media platforms. Even if a Black person were to be professionally dressed and well-manicured, if they are visibly Brown, the color of their skin automatically makes them a threat. Also, the shade of brown determines how much of a threat a Black person is perceived as. This racial bias can be both conscious and subconscious within people and can affect their decision-making. Even in situations where a person tries to have a race-neutral mindset, their hidden prejudice affects how they think without them knowing it. As a result of these unconscious biases and their perpetuation through media, racial prejudice can be found in all groups of people. Particularly for those in power, racial prejudice is ultimately used as a tool to control particular groups in society. Blackness and darker skin do not make people criminals or bad people in general. Society needs to decolonize its mind and break out of the belief that Blackness and criminality are the same things. The only thing this belief is doing is continuing false stereotypes and harming groups of innocent people.