Who’s Free in America?
In America, there is a vast amount of unjust laws specifically created to unjustly send people to jail. More specifically, the Three-Strike Law, War on Drugs Act and the Stop-and-Frisk law, were designed to send people to jail, mostly whom are people of color. America don’t see anything wrong with these laws because people of color has been stereotyped as criminals. If it was possible to brainwash most people to place a negative stereotype on the minority, mistreatment of the minority will be justified. This has given the government and law enforcement the green light to harass, imprison, and abuse people of color with little to no consequence.
There was a law passed in New York called Stop and Frisk that goes against our 4th Amendment right. Stop-and-frisk made it legal for police officers to stop, search, and question any individual they thought had drugs, weapons, or other illegal contraband on their person. It is nearly impossible to see anything someone has on their person if it’s hidden by their clothing. To conclude that someone is possessing something illegal just by looking at them is a form of stereotyping. This law is a legal way to racially profile an individual. It is not a coincidence that, African-American and Latino communities located where Stop-and-Frisk is active are overwhelmingly targeted. Someone can be walking home innocently, and be stopped by police just because the police officer felt like it or stereotyped them as being a criminal. In the article “Stop-and-Frisk Campaign” on the “nyclu.org” they stated that “innocent New Yorker’s have been subject to police stops and street interrogations more than 4 million times since 2002.” This is a big problem that needs to be solved. This is a clear violation of rights, but America has let this law be active. Most Americans are not affected by stop and frisk so it is regularly ignored. On the behalf of the people living in the inner city, we feel like our rights are violated and we are discriminated against because of Stop and Frisk. In the Constitution, the 4th Amendment states that, “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warren’s shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath of affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.” Being a person of color isn’t illegal, nor is it probable cause for the police to stop and frisk someone.
Stop-and-Frisk was designed to arrest people, mostly whom are people of color, who were deemed suspicious of being involved in illegal activity. Because of negative stereotypes on people of color, these police officers have preconceived notions that people of color are criminals. Acting on suspicions with preconceived notions that people of color are criminals, will prevent law enforcement from doing their job correctly. Some people who are on the outside of the Black community will say the police are doing their job correctly but they aren’t. For example, when talking about Stop-and-Frisk Donald Trump said, in the “Presidential Debate,” that “it worked very well in New York, it brought the crime rate way down but you take the gun away from criminals that shouldn’t be having it.” Donald Trump has been known to openly stereotype people and this shows that people who stereotype, don’t see that it is unconstitutional. People like Donald Trump will never know what it’s like living in America and getting discriminated against just for being Black and simply walking down the street. To target a group of Americans, and strip them of any rights stated in the constitution is clearly unconstitutional. It is the government’s responsibility to ensure Americans that their constitutional rights are protected. To allow stop and frisk, the government is not upholding the constitution. Even if it worked as a deterrent, there is very little way to tell if someone is involved in illegal activity, when relying on suspicion. Suspicions are opinionated and is not something that should be a basis for a law. Laws affect our country in its entirety and they must be based upon facts not opinions.
Furthermore, laws before this were designed with prejudices and were deemed reasonable. The war on drugs act was created by President Richard Nixon in 1971. In the article “The United States War on Drugs” it’s written that “He proclaimed, America’s public enemy number one in the United States is drug abuse.” In all actuality, he knew he had two groups of people who could hurt his presidency. On one hand he wanted to get rid of the Hippies, who were against the war, and on the other hand he wanted to get rid of the Black Panthers, who were protecting the Black communities against discrimination and police brutality at all costs. To extinguish the two groups, Nixon associated the Hippies with marijuana and Black Panthers with heroin. This enabled law enforcement to eradicate both movements. As the age of the Hippies went away, so did the need to eradicate them. After the Hippies were extinguished, Latino’s took their place as the second target group. As for the Black Panthers, the Black communities never could recover from the connection with heroin. Even after the Black Panthers were eradicated, the Black communities were still subject to mass incarcerations due to drugs. They had no one to protect them against the very government that is supposed to protect them. This way of being tough on crime extended too many presidencies after Nixon.
Bill Clinton signed a crime bill in 1994, which enacted the three-strike law. The three-strike law was implemented to ensure that repeat offenders are kept in prison to serve 25 years to life sentences after committing a third offence. This meant that fewer people were being released from prison in turn increasing the prison population. Clinton wanted to show he was tough on crime during his campaign so he acted. Clinton followed past presidents who wanted to show they were tough on crime so he passed laws which created a spike of mass incarceration. Coinciding with the war on drugs act, the three strikes law filled prisons with a population of majority Blacks and Hispanics. It can be said that Bill Clinton took a page from Nixon’s book when he signed the crime bill in 1994. In the leading state of California, the prison population reached unthinkable numbers following this bill. By 2011, the prison population rose to almost double the prisons’ designed capacity. This overpopulation is the primary cause for the unconstitutional conditions found existing in the California prisons because it goes against health and safety regulations. Matthew Cate said, on “CNN.com” that “the governor and I strongly disagree with this ruling.” In that same article in 2006, “CNN” stated that “implementing the court’s ruling would result in up to 58,000 prisoners being released.” These prisons are populated by mostly Black’s and it can be speculated that the reason this problem is being over looked is because the population is mostly Black.
America is supposed to be a free country, but these shocking truths are showing that freedom in America depends on politic views and ethnicity. It might be criticized as being un-American when Black’s and Latino’s say they don’t feel free but experiencing life from their perspective’s might show why they question freedom in America.
New York Civil Liberties Union. http://www.nyclu.org/issues/racial-justice/stop-and-frisk-practices. NYCLU n.d. Web. Accessed 31, Oct, 2016.
CNN. “California May Have to Cut Prison Population by 40 Percent.” CNN. Cable News Network, 10 Feb. 2009. Web. 21 Nov. 2016.