racism | Definition

Doc's CJ Glossary by Adam J. McKee


Course: Introduction / Policing

Racism is the belief that some races of people are better than other races.

See also racial discrimination

Racism is a complex and multifaceted concept that refers to the belief that some races are inherently superior or inferior to others. The origins of racism can be traced back to early human history, but the modern understanding of racism as a systemic and institutionalized problem has developed over the past few centuries.

In the context of the criminal justice system, racism can manifest itself in a number of ways. One of the most visible forms of racism is racial profiling, which occurs when law enforcement officials target individuals based solely on their race or ethnicity. This practice can lead to the unfair targeting and harassment of innocent people and can result in disproportionate rates of arrest and incarceration for certain racial groups.

Another way that racism can impact the criminal justice system is through the unequal treatment of individuals based on their race. For example, studies have shown that black and Hispanic individuals are more likely to receive harsher sentences than white individuals for the same crime. This is often due to systemic biases and stereotypes that are present in the criminal justice system.

Racism can also have an impact on the way that crimes are investigated and prosecuted. For example, cases involving victims of color may be given less attention or resources than cases involving white victims. Similarly, cases involving defendants of color may be subject to more scrutiny and bias than cases involving white defendants.

In order to address the issue of racism in the criminal justice system, it is important to recognize the ways in which it manifests itself and to develop strategies to counteract it. This can include increased training for law enforcement officials on issues of bias and racial sensitivity, as well as efforts to ensure that the criminal justice system is more representative of the communities it serves.

It is also important to address the underlying social and economic factors that contribute to racial inequality in the criminal justice system. This can include addressing issues such as poverty, lack of access to education and healthcare, and discrimination in housing and employment.

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Last Modified:  04/09/2023


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