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Paper on Institutional Racism and Discrimination on Blacks and Latinos
Racism and discrimination are societal problems that have existed for centuries. Over time, society strived to address these issues and achieve equality among races, ethnicities, and groups. While minorities, such as Blacks and Latinos, have integrated into society and many see them as equals, the problem of institutional racism and discrimination creates an unsafe environment. Institutional racism and discrimination lead to unnecessary detention of Black and Latino youth which places them in a disadvantageous position in an already challenging environment for minorities.
Institutional Racism and Discrimination Definition
Institutional racism and discrimination are forms of racism and discrimination where the act of segregation and inequality are made legitimate under the law. Through this form, Whites gain advantages over other races while minorities suffer from inequality and inequity (Lawrence & Keleher, 2004, cited in López & Poppe, 2021). Institutional racism and discrimination often lead to racial profiling, unwarranted arrests, poor court experiences, and a large disparity in incarceration rates between races. It is a societal issue that can be difficult to address since it takes the form of legitimate power and normalized dynamics, making it almost invisible in the public eye.
Since institutional racism and discrimination often conceal discriminative acts and the disadvantages of minorities, it can be difficult to notice and address. It showcases that racism and discrimination can be unconscious, implicit, and unintentional since the legal system can legitimize and normalize oppression (Institutional Racism, 2022). This legitimization and normalization can make a particular action seem normal or legal, however, a close inspection can reveal that it is a form of discrimination. For instance, one case of law enforcement officers killing a resisting Black suspect may seem reasonable. However, examining statistical evidence would show many cases of police brutality against Blacks. These instances also apply to other racial groups, further contributing to the institutionalization of racism and discrimination.
Institutional Racism and the Juvenile Justice System
The victims of institutional racism and discrimination include both adult and juvenile minorities. Both age groups suffer from racial disadvantages and the biased legal approach of certain individuals and laws. However, this paper will focus on the experiences of juveniles since institutional racism and discrimination has a significant impact on their life as developing individuals with future prospects. Unnecessary incarcerations, lasting criminal records, and other results of institutional racism and discrimination create long-term problems for juveniles which limits opportunities, making them more prone to institutional racism and discrimination as adults.
Blacks are the most prominent victims of racism and discrimination in the U.S. Racism-related discussions often result in a dialogue regarding society’s unequal treatment of Black people. While some may argue that this association is due to the outspoken supporters of the minorities, various statistical evidence support the racism and discrimination of Black people, especially Black youth. According to the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (2022), Black youth are more likely to face prison time than their white counterparts. In 2015, the difference was that Black youth were five times more likely to go to prison but this number has decreased to four times by 2019 (Race and Juvenile Justice, 2022; Rovner, 2021a). It is important to note that juvenile placements have significantly decreased by more than 50%. However, White youth placements decreased faster, leading to a wide disparity. These statistics show that the juvenile justice system often leads Black youth to experience prison life, as well as the effects of the experience, more than Whites.
While there may be other factors contributing to the disparity, such as individual-specific temperament and regional differences, examining the juvenile justice system’s approach towards Black girls can further insinuate the poor experiences of Black youth. According to the Center on Poverty and Inequity at Georgetown Law (2017), the court often places more severe punishments on Black girls than on their White counterparts. According to the report, Black girls are three times more likely to experience state custody and 2.7 times more likely to face juvenile justice than White girls. This disparity is due to the adultification of Black girls since courts, prosecutors, and judges treat them as adults rather than juveniles (cited in Race and Juvenile Justice, 2022). Adultification often leads the law to perceive Black girls as guilty or more likely to commit a crime since they have adult-like characteristics. One can consider adultification as another form of racism and discrimination as it leads individuals to treat children as adults because of their race or ethnicity.
This form of institutional racism and discrimination often leads Black youth to be involved in the criminal legal system, increasing the risk of committing other crimes. According to Farkas (2021), juveniles lose future opportunities, such as employment, when they go to detention centers or have a criminal record. This can force them to associate themselves with dubious individuals and commit a crime to survive. For Black youth, the lost opportunities multiply since institutional racism and discrimination are already affecting their development. According to the Children’s Rights Organization (n.d.), 23% of foster care children are Black despite the demographic accounting for only 14% of the juvenile population. This means that Black children have limited access to education and normal family life, significantly affecting their growth. There is also the problem of increased risks of trauma and abuse in group homes and other juvenile detention facilities.
Similar to Black youth, statistical evidence shows that Latino youth experiences institutional racism and discrimination. According to Rovner (2021b), Latin youth had an incarceration rate that was 80% higher than White youth in 2011. This number has decreased since 2011 and around 2019, Latino youth had a placement rate of 114 per 100,000 which is close to the White youth placement rate of 72 per 100,000. However, the disparities vary depending on state with some states recording 10% more disparities while others have 10% fewer disparities (Rovner, 2021b). These suggest that Latino youth are experiencing varying treatment depending on the state they live in. The lower rates may be from states that have a high Latino or Hispanic influence, leading to a more equal juvenile justice system. Alternatively, states with higher disparities may be White-dominated which can often lead to the application of institutional racism.
Adultification is also a problem that Latino youth experience under the juvenile justice system and institutional racism. Similar to Black youth, Latino youth have a higher chance of going to adult court and adult prisons, staying in foster care, and receiving suspension (Latino Youth, 2021). While the rates are lower than Black youth’s, they are still higher than White youth’s, despite Whites being the dominant population. This, of course, is due to institutional racism and discrimination which places the minorities at a disadvantage against Whites. Furthermore, it is important to note that discrimination against Latinos is more subtle and less exposed. Despite being part of the minority, they receive less media attention than Blacks. This allows institutional racism and discrimination against Latinos to persist with less resistance.
While modern Latino youth’s experience of institutional racism and discrimination is inferior to Black youth’s, historical evidence indicates that the Latino community has been a subject of institutional racism and discrimination for decades. A good example of this is the Porvenir Massacre of 1918 where Texas Rangers and the U.S. Army killed 15 Mexican men and boys and burned the town of Porvenir (López & Poppe, 2021). The Rangers and Army claimed that the residents of the village were thieves and that their actions were legal and legitimate. There were also other similar events where law enforcement and civilian vigilantes killed Hispanic individuals due to their racial association with Hispanic criminals, indicating a misguided system that prosecuted individuals by their race.
A Case of Guilt by Association
As mentioned earlier, institutional racism and discrimination often lead to wrongful and unnecessary arrests of Black and Latino youth. A timely example of this is the case of multiple Black teenagers in Manchester which the court sentenced to prison for conspiracy (Pidd, 2022a). This case showcases how institutional racism and discrimination can prosecute minorities by their racial associations. The case involved multiple Black teenagers who sent messages indicating plans to commit harmful acts against their friend’s killer. The messages were between a group of friends and indicated violent intent. However, the teenagers never enacted their plans nor harmed any of their targets. Still, the court found the teenagers guilty of conspiracy and sentenced them to prison time, with some receiving 20-year sentences.
The problem with this case is that the Black teenagers never harmed their targets. According to racial justice supporters, such as Kids of Colour, the teenagers were in a place of guilt and the messages they sent were expressions of those emotions (cited in Pidd, 2022b). Supporters argue that the teenagers were children and that those messages were immature expressions of their grief. There is also the fact that the messages were referencing a drill rap lyric, further indicating that the messages are not actual plans but emotional expressions (Guilt by Association, 2022). However, the prosecutor insisted that the teenagers were part of a gang and that the murder of the teenagers’ friend was gang-related. Even the judge, Justice Goose, stated that the case involved the M40 and RTD gang. The defendant argued that M40 was not a gang but a drill music collective. Still, the jury found the teenagers guilty of conspiracy, resulting in their sentences.
The case illustrates institutional racism and discrimination since the court tried the teenagers as adults and assumed that they were part of a gang. As mentioned earlier, adultification is a significant factor in institutional racism. The sentencing of teenagers to 20 years in prison for conspiracy, even though they never harmed their targets, illustrates the unfair treatment of juvenile minorities. Furthermore, there is also the court’s claim that the M40 group was a gang. The defendant provided evidence that the M40 group was a drill music collective and even had videos on Youtube. This assumption showcases the significant effect of institutional racism as the court found the teenagers guilty because of their racial association (Pidd, 2022b). The court claimed that they were part of a gang because they were Black and had a friend who had an association with a gang.
Institutional racism and discrimination against Blacks and Latinos detrimentally affect the experiences of Black and Latino youth under the juvenile justice system. These juvenile minorities experience inequality and inequity regarding various aspects of the system, including incarceration rates, the intensity of punishment, and adultification. Institutional racism and discrimination lead to wide placement disparities between minorities and their White counterparts. This puts minorities in a position where they are more prone to lose opportunities, experience abuse, and commit future crimes. Addressing institutional racism and discrimination is an almost impossible task, however, it is a necessary endeavor to ensure an equal society that provides opportunities to all citizens.
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Farkas, A. (2021). The Myth of Rehabilitation: How to Address Juvenile Justice System’s Contributions to Recidivism. Seton Hall University. Available at https://scholarship.shu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=2182&context=student_scholarship. Accessed: October 3, 2022.
Guilt by Association: Race, Culture, and Criminalization. (2022). The University of Manchester. Available at https://events.manchester.ac.uk/event/event:q3j-l78x376r-bzq76r/guilt-by-association-race-culture-and-criminalization. Accessed: October 2, 2022.
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Latino Youth in the Juvenile Justice System. (2021). National Council of La Raza. Available at https://www.unidosus.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/07/Latino_Youth_in_the_Juvenile_Justice_System.pdf. Accessed: October 2, 2022.
López, V. & Poppe, S. (2021). Toward a More Perfect Union: Understanding Systemic Racism and Resulting Inequity in Latino Communities. UNIDOS US. Available at https://www.unidosus.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/08/unidosus_systemicracismpaper.pdf . Accessed: October 2, 2022.
Pidd, H. (2022a). Four Black Teenagers from Manchester Jailed Over Text Messages Plan to Appeal. The Guardian. Available at https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2022/jul/08/four-black-teenagers-manchester-jailed-text-messages-plan-appeal. Accessed: October 2, 2022.
Pidd, H. (2022b). Fury in Manchester as Black Teenagers Jailed as Result of Telegram Chat. The Guardian. Available at https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2022/jul/01/fury-in-manchester-as-black-teenagers-jailed-as-result-of-telegram-chat. Accessed: October 2, 2022.
Race and Juvenile Justice. (2022). National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. Available at https://www.nacdl.org/Content/Race-and-Juvenile-Justice. Accessed: October 2, 2022.
Racism in Child Welfare and Juvenile Justice System. (n.d.). Children’s Rights. Available at https://www.childrensrights.org/racism-in-child-welfare-and-juvenile-justice-systems/ . Accessed: October 2, 2022.
Rovner, J. (2021a). Black Disparities in Youth Incarceration. The Sentencing Project. Available at https://www.sentencingproject.org/publications/black-disparities-youth-incarceration/?eType=EmailBlastContent&eId=74aae5d8-0db8-4adc-80a0-eb5a838cac63. Accessed: September 29, 2022.
Rovner, J. (2021b). Latinx Disparities in Youth Incarceration. The Sentencing Project. Available at https://www.sentencingproject.org/publications/latino-disparities-youth-incarceration/ . Accessed: October 2, 2022.
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