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The 14th Amendment to the US Constitution and Racial Discrimination

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As citizens of the United States, we have the right to be given “fair procedures” without discrimination under the protection of the 14th amendment. Due process insures every citizen’s right to a fair trial, hearing, and any other procedure needed when convicted of a crime. However, for as long as the 14th amendment has been in existence, there have been countless deaths and cases of racial injustice that have not ensured due process. Today, too many Americans, especially minorities seem to constantly be the victim of brutality and losing their life over altercation’s that could’ve been prevented. It is seen within society that they view the perspectives of Crime Control and Due Process differently. The 14th amendment which had been ratified on July 9th, 1868 had included former slaves who were recently freed and ensured citizenship rights and equal protection of the laws. Due process plays a role in the 14th amendment because without it, states are forbidden from denying any person life, liberty, or property. Although due process is supposed to protect the peoples right to be treated fairly by the federal government, there are still numerous amount of cases proving the inconsistency of mostly minorities receiving fair due process as they should. In contrast to due process, the perspective of crime control believes that such things as racial profiling is legitimate and that racial injustice doesn’t exist. Unlike due process, crime control is more set on the belief of protecting society than the protection of individuals. When it comes to the topic of racial injustice and understanding how due process and crime control is incorporated, it’s seen that discrimination is still a factor and a barrier for minorities even in today’s society.

The history of racial injustice and discrimination goes as far back to the existence of slavery. It was in 1850’s of March when the decision of Dred Scott v. Sandford was issued to the public and a decision was made. According to (Oyez), this case had been brought to the attention of the Supreme Court by Dred Scott himself, who at the time was a slave living with his master in a free state prior to moving to Missouri where slavery was allowed. Scott was fighting for his entitlement to emancipation, but the court disagreed and said that African American’s were not able to claim U.S. citizenship and still considered slaves. Aside from slavery, the Dred Scott v. Sandford case was one of the leading factors that caused the Civil War to happen and resulted in giving African American slaves their freedom back. Well known abolitionist Fredrick Douglas along with others, pushed hard to help put an end to slavery once and for all. Fredrick Douglas who was also held as a slave at one point in time, felt as though it was his duty to get involved and help his people be free. Although the ratification of the 14th amendment had been implemented after the Civil War, equality and due process wasn’t accessible to African Americans. Even though slaves were freed, new laws such as ‘the Jim Crow Laws’ and ’the Separate but Equal' were instituted to hinder minorities from adapting to the lives that white people normally lived. Lawmakers did everything in their power to make African Americans and Whites not be equal in any way that they can. Whether it was schools, jobs, or public shops, Black people were not allowed or harassed until they’d leave the premises. The initial proposal of due process, was made in the favor of white people against the higher courts, not all people against the higher courts.

Years later after the Civil War, came the Great Depression which had occurred in the early 1930’s. During this time, African - Americans were still experiencing racism and having a hard time seeking employment, just as well as the White Americans. Besides all that was going on with the economy crisis, tension was at it’s highest between the two races. Built up frustration and tension led to the most significant and well known case in history known as The Scottsboro Trials. The Scottsboro Trials was a racial injustice case that seemed to have some similar aspects of convicted minorities today. According to (Boyes – Watson, 2013), it all began when a Southern railroad train heading to Memphis, Tennessee had a group of young passengers consisting of both African - American boys and a band of white boys who later got into altercation started by racial slurs. It was communicated by the sheriff department that every male who was in possession of a gun to capture all of the blacks coming off the incoming train. Without a doubt, the group of black boys were immediately arrested and charged with assault and attempted murder. As if those charges weren’t enough, the boys were later charged with an even more severe charge consisting of rape. Two white women who were also passengers on the train feared that their prostitution would be discovered and claimed that they had been raped by the boys as a cover up. A black man living in the South during the 1930’s and being accused of raping a white woman, was close to an automatic death sentence. All nine of the black boys ranging from ages thirteen and nineteen were falsely accused of raping the two white women and were sentenced to death by an all white jury. The verdict had caused protests, riots, and commotions everywhere and led to some reconvictions and appeals. Even though the case had been overturned, it didn’t take away from the years that the boys had already served in prison for a crime they were never consciously guilty of. However, if it hadn’t been for the news coverage exposing every move of the case, proving to society that due process wasn’t given to the boys, they probably would’ve never been able to go free years later. The Scottsboro Case happening years ago doesn’t change the fact that today’s society still faces racial injustice within arrests, citizen reports, and stereotypes.

Taken the fact that racial profiling violates the constitution that everyone should be considered as equal, statistics easily confirm that Black people are either underrepresented in criminal justice positions of power or receive longer sentences. According to the (Criminal Justice Fact Sheet), “African - Americans now constitute nearly one million of the total 2.3 million incarcerated populations” (pg. 1). Imagine the many other races that are incarcerated that split up into different race categorizations. Most of the people who get arrested are black, for reasons like not knowing our rights, suspicion, and simply because of our skin color. Most white people don’t realize or understand given statistical information like this because they have yet to understand what it is like to be a person of color. The Criminal Justice Fact Sheet is proof that Black people are perceived as more dangerous and are convicted at much higher rates than white people because of racial profiling. In 2012 NYPD, the Criminal Justice Fact Sheet, had reported that 96% of shooters were Black or Hispanic to rationalize a reason as to why they should top and frisk more minorities. Unnecessary convictions harms society because it hinders people from finding jobs, terminates their right to vote, and benefit which becomes an ongoing cycle. The same people who expect people to get involved within communities, are the same ones convicting and prohibiting people from becoming an upstanding citizen some day. It is seen in an article written by Sophia Kerby, called (The Top 10 Most Startling Facts About People of Color and Criminal Justice in the United States), that “people of color make up about 30% of the United States’ population, they account for 60 percent of those imprisoned”. With this information, it should tell society that there is something wrong with the Crime & Justice System and something needs to be done. Not only does discriminated convictions degrade the black community and causes poverty, but it causes social disorder within society. If the criminal justice system itself lacks diversity of employment, then the same is expected when justice isn’t given for Blacks. Yet still, nothing is being done to prevent these numbers from doubling any other races convicted of a crime. Being aware of your rights and having sufficient amount of funds for a lawyer sometimes means nothing for someone of color and it’s about time that it comes to an end.

After years of new laws and slight improvements within social order, the “war on crime” still exists today. It seems as though the Criminal Justice System is stripping people of their rights, rather than protecting them. Black young men specifically, are the ones who are being targeted and statically known to be harshly imprisoned for something that a white person would typically get away with. Often, statistics show which group or race is mostly made up of the Criminal Justice System and it’s given that based off who is constantly targeted that Crime Control is heavily involved. It’s seen in the Mass Incarceration that African American males “incarceration rates are disproportionately impact men of color” (pg.1). Regardless of how many young black men are arrested and taken into custody, doesn’t change the fact that crime still and will exist for as long humans do. Unfortunately, crime is a part of society and not every crime is committed by a minority. Aside from incarceration, most people have a bad habit of labeling others as dangerous or guilty by the way someone appeared or dressed which isn’t fair. Reducing crimes that occur in society will never be successful if only one group of people are constantly being targeted.

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When it comes to the 14th amendment and fairness, due process is more in favor in helping and supporting what the people need and want. The belief that racism still exists today is considered to be the liberal/due process side, and the belief that it doesn’t exist is conservative/crime control side. In the topic of racial profiling, due process isn’t given if law enforcements believe that racial profiling is impactful. By law, racial profiling is a violation of equal protection, and for some law enforcers, who are contradicting the law because they use the same tactic that violated the law to prove that someone commuted a crime. For someone who believed that everyone should be treated fair, would know that such things like racial profiling is not accepted as a liberal. In an article called, ‘Due Process’, written by Peter Strauss explained how Due Process is often taken out of context by the very people who created it. Even in the Scottsboro Trials, a liberal would have been completely against the death penalty and would’ve fought for equality against discrimination of the black boys on the train. Liberals fight for their rights not only as citizens but as human beings of all races.

Due process itself is a confusing concept to understand, but lately it’s seen within most African American community that due process is completely forgotten. For as long as we could remember, Blacks were never portrayed as regular people, instead they’re either referred to or looked at as animals. Even today, many people act as if Blacks aren’t entitled to fair procedures or take advantage of them not being educated enough on their rights. Briefly, (Cornell University Law School) mentioned the Brown V. Board case and how it related back to due process. The Brown V. Board case was about the issue of segregation in public schools, after slavery and the civil had ended. As if African Americans weren’t going through enough trauma, things were just as bad as when slavery was allowed. Although the law had specifically said that due process meant fair procedures, stopping Blacks from going to a Public school should have never been allowed. Fortunately, the court was finally able to come to an unanimous decision that declared segregation within public schools unconstitutional.

As opposed to liberals, conservatives/crime control believe heavily in such things as the death penalty and expansion in police powers. In today’s society, police officers seem to be the center of attention all over the media. Rather than confining in them when in trouble, people are running away from cops because they fear they might be another victim to police brutality. Within the last couple of months, there has been countless numbers of cases that involved police officers v. the people. There’s also been a number of countless deaths in the hands of cops with unclear information as to why a life had to be taken away. Information was gathered for a project called the Guardian, that stated how many people were killed by police in a year and so far the number is 965 people. What’s even more interesting is that out of all these people, Blacks were killed the most and the numbers keep rising. With information like this proving and showing the corruption within some police departments, what is the expansion of cops going to do for society?

Another issue related to the views as a conservative/crime control is the belief that people should be able to defend themselves with guns. When it comes down to protecting those that you love and yourself, most people would agree with the right to bear arms as protection. What most people don’t understand that bearing a gun within a family household has more cons than pros. Whether it’s intentional or not, (Smart Gun Laws) say that “guns took the lives of 31, 076 people” (pg.1). Imagine out of 31, 076 of those people, how many of those people consisted of innocent kids who happened to be playing around with a gun because they had seen someone else with one. Although most people want to own a gun for self-defense purposes, almost no one ever thinks of how long the process is in comparison to how long it already is, once that gun is fired and used on someone else. Say that it was legal for every citizen to own a gun to fire only during self-defense purposes, imagine how many deaths there would be everyday. Prison and jail cells would be over capacity with a majority of Blacks and that’s when history would start to repeat itself.

It’s hard being born into a world knowing people might not like you because of your skin color and that there’s a possibility you will be judged for the rest of your life because of it. Society needs to recognize that discrimination and racial injustice against blacks still exists today. It is pivotal that the Fourteenth Amendment be reinforced in all cases, regardless of race, ethnicity or socio – economic status. In addition, after being incarcerated there should be a system in place that ensures all rehabilitated individuals their natural rights such as voting and allow them absolute access to government aid and benefits. These changes will ultimately protect every individual citizen against the American justice system that has the potential to be corrup.

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The 14th Amendment to the US Constitution and Racial Discrimination. (2022, September 01). Edubirdie. Retrieved February 26, 2024, from
“The 14th Amendment to the US Constitution and Racial Discrimination.” Edubirdie, 01 Sept. 2022,
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