Top officials of the Trump administration, including U.S. Attorney General William Barr, claim there is no “systemic racism” in law enforcement in this country. Yet the conservative Republican group, the Lincoln Project, recently called Trump the “second president” of the Confederacy for his continued support for the slave-holding values of leaders of the Confederacy. The fact that systemic racism has never been eliminated from America or the American criminal justice system is not a matter of serious intellectual debate.
President uses Bully Pulpit to Incite Racism
That Trump has sown racism throughout his personal and professional life and has repeatedly promoted racial division during his tenure as president. President Trump is a dangerous racist. Trump, the 45th president of the United States, personifies the racism that is so endemic in the Republican Party, particularly the Republicans in the nation’s criminal justice system.
Most of the nation’s police departments, through their unions, support “tough on crime” Republicans. Police unions and the Republican Party have shared a “love story” over the past decades. University of California political science professor Sam Popkin explains:
“The police are the domestic version of national defense. The reason that Republicans love them so much is that Republicans identify very strongly in a time of change and turbulence with the troops that provide order. The police are very popular with Republicans and with the middle class in general.”
Trump Supporter, Police Union President, has Checkered Past
That is precisely why Derek Chauvin kept his knee on George Floyd’s neck for eight minutes and forty-six seconds: he knew his Union’s president, Lt. Bob Kroll, would support his actions. Lt. Kroll, after all, has appeared at President Trump rallies and hailed Trump as a “wonderful president.” He has a history of police misconduct and has faced accusations of wearing a “white power” patch, making racist remarks, and using excessive force.
The Minneapolis police union under Kroll’s leadership reflects the divisive and racist attitude police forces have toward African American communities and other communities of color. According to the New York Times, black suspects in Minneapolis are more often subjected to verbal and physical abuse by white police officers and seven times more likely to be victims of police violence. The very purpose of the New York City Police Department’s “stop and frisk” program was to target young African American men based on the racist assumption they were more likely to be engaged in criminal conduct.
Police, Prosecutors, Judges Perpetuate Racism
These same racist principles apply to prosecutors: African American defendants are more likely to be overcharged by federal prosecutors; forced to accept higher plea deals than white defendants; given more lengthy prison sentences if they exercise their right to a jury trial; victimized by prosecutorial misconduct such as suppression of mitigating evidence, manufactured evidence to convict the innocent, use of perjured testimony (especially through jailhouse snitches); and targeted with deliberate racism in the jury selection process.
Republican judges do not fare much better under racism scrutiny. These judges routinely give African American defendants harsher prison sentences than white defendants, according to a 2018 study by Harvard University. This study, Judicial Politics and Sentencing Decisions, included an analysis of sentencing decisions by federal judges over a 15-year period involving more than 500,000 defendants.
Racial Disparities In the Criminal Justice System
Systemic racism infects every facet of the nation’s criminal justice system. For example:
- African Americans and other marginalized people are the criminal defendants who suffer the most by a corrupt money-bail system.
- The National Registry of Exonerations reports that African Americans convicted of murder are 50 times more likely to be innocent than other racial groups convicted of murder;
- The Registry also reports that exonerations in murder cases involving African Americans were 22 percent more likely to involve police misconduct than in white exoneration cases.
- The Registry found that black murder exonerees, on average, spent three years longer in prison than white exonerees.
- The Registry noted that roughly half of all murder exonerees are African Americans.
- The Registry also found that African Americans convicted in sex offense cases are three and one-half times more likely to be innocent than white sex offenders.
- Although African Americans account for just 13 percent of the nation’s population, the ACLU reports that 43 percent of the executions in this country since 1976 were African American and 55 percent of those currently awaiting execution.
The overwhelming majority of these disturbing racial disparities involved white police, white prosecutors, and white judges. That is systemic racism by any rational definition.
Partisan Divide Demonstrates Perspective
Democrats in Congress have uniformly endorsed the George Floyd peaceful protests, while most Republican lawmakers have been either silent or critical of the protests. Attorney General Barr has gone so far as to call the protesters “domestic terrorists.” He was directly responsible for the military-style assault on the peaceful protesters in Lafayette Square on June 1, 2020, order so the president could conduct a partisan political photo-op.
This nation will continue to be infected with systemic racism until its criminal justice system is reformed through radical measures addressing policing, pretrial release, fair trial procedures, sentencing, incarceration, and release. This will never be accomplished as long as Donald J. Trump continues to serve this nation as the second president of the Confederacy rather than the 45th president of these United States.