Academic journal article The Western Journal of Black Studies

The Legal Murder of Trayvon Martin and New York City Stop-and-Frisk Law: America's War against Black Males Rages On

Academic journal article The Western Journal of Black Studies

The Legal Murder of Trayvon Martin and New York City Stop-and-Frisk Law: America's War against Black Males Rages On

Article excerpt

Introduction

The historiography of black people in the Atlantic World, in general, and the United States, in particular, is fraught with many instances where equality and justice have consistently proven themselves elusive (Magdoff, 1978; Wallerstein, 1984; West, 1993; Wallerstein, 2003). That is, when blacks are subjected to violence by whites, the latter are rarely punished to the full extent of the law. This singular fact has been an enduring feature of the African American experiences in the United States and largely explains this group's suspicion and dislike of the law enforcement community. Conversely, the law enforcement community has justified its contemporary anticrime policies in minority neighborhoods by producing statistical evidence supporting the notion that black males, in particular, are inherently violent and dangerous (Gans, 1995; Steinberg, 1999; Alexander, 2012; Pettit, 2012).

The practice of demonizing African Americans dates back to the period of the slave trade and has endured despite the reelection of America's first African American president. The demonizing of blacks, in general, and black males, in particular, is a dominant feature of the Geoculture of historical capital, as a social system. As such, since the late 1970s, blacks' involvements with the criminal justice system have increased precipitously (Langan, 1991; Donzinger, 1996; Guerino, Harrison, and Sabol, 2011). The reasons offered for blacks' disproportionate involvements on the negative side of the criminal justice system, according to criminologists and social pundits, differ based on their respective ideological allegiances. Notwithstanding this fact, over the past 30 years, the Right's political perspective on crime has dominated public policy and criminal justice practices that are still having pernicious impacts on the black community. Thus, it was not surprising to hear a politically conservative commentator such as Fox News Bill O'Reilly, when addressing President Obama's speech regarding the not guilty verdict in the George Zimmerman case, remarked:

... It was wrong for Zimmerman to confront Martin based on his appearance. But, the culture that we have in this nation does lead to criminal profiling, because young black men are so involved in crime. The statistics are overwhelming. But here is the headline; young black men commit homicides at a rate 10 times greater than whites and Hispanics combined. When presented with damning evidence like that, the civil rights industry looks the other way or makes excuses. They blame the barbarity on guns or poor education or lack of jobs. Rarely do they define the problem accurately. The reason there is so much violence and chaos in the black precincts is the disintegration of African American family (O'Reilly, 2013, para. 9).

O'Reilly's comments capture the dominant narrative linking race and crime in contemporary America. Moreover, O'Reilly's narrative effectively perpetuates the view that African American males are responsible for the vast majority of crimes. As such, this article provides a cursory critique of O'Reilly's comments by first providing a summary of two examples that demonstrate that far too many whites' perceptions/assumptions about race and crime have effectively criminalized blacks, in general, and black males, in particular. These two examples are the George Zimmerman's verdict and New York City Stop-and-Frisk anticrime program. Consequentially, despite the growing influence of scholars who advocate the view that America has entered a post racial period in its development, my principal argument is that it is still difficult for blacks to received justice, particularly when they are criminally violated by whites. Second, my analysis provides an exposition of the dominant ideological perspective that has influenced most Americans' attitudes about race and crime; and third and final, my analysis concludes by challenging the dominant assumptions linking race and crime by demonstrating that inequity in the applications of the law based on race has been a dominant element of the African American experiences. …

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