Lucid perspectives on how and why the United States criminal justice system often victimizes black males.
A professor at American University’s Washington College of Law, Davis (Arbitrary Justice: The Power of the American Prosecutor, 2007, etc.) used her platform to pull together this collection of essays from a variety of scholars and writers. Providing useful context, the editor points out that black males have never fared well when confronted by police and prosecutors across the U.S. For a couple of centuries, in fact, black men could rarely convince white authorities of the breadth and depth of the injustices. In recent decades, new technology, including smartphones and body cameras, combined with the sounding board of social media have removed doubt about the credibility of many victims. In the introduction, Davis invokes the names of numerous dead black males, placing special emphasis on the killing of Trayvon Martin five years ago by George Zimmerman. While soliciting the essays, Davis offered an expanded definition of the word “policing,” showing how much of the foundation of policing black males rests on racial profiling by law enforcement. In her powerful essay, law professor Renée McDonald Hutchins explains what the law does and does not say about racial profiling, how police agency policies are drafted in light of the law, and how the on-the-street practices of racial profiling sometimes violate both the letter and spirit of laws and policies. While many of the essays focus on the police, Davis focuses on her specialty, prosecutors, and how their untrammeled authority is a major part of the problems within the criminal justice system. While the essays lean toward narrating the problems rather than proposing comprehensive solutions, the final essay links multigenerational poverty of black males with violence and an absurd level of incarceration. Other contributors include Bryan Stevenson, Sherrilyn Ifill, and Marc Mauer.
An absorbing anthology, scholarly yet approachable.