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Disproportional Representations of Minorities in the Criminal Justice System

BBC News’ story, “Virginia governor calls for inquiry into student arrest” covers the story about a violent arrest of a black US student, Martese Johnson. What was meant to be a fun night out turned into a mother’s worst nightmare. With the intent of having a good night on the town, Mr. Johnson got wrapped up with the partying environment and in turn, became too drunk. This alerted the Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) agents, and as they stated, “uniformed ABC Agents observed and approached an unidentified individual after he was refused entry into a licensed establishment” (BBC News, 2015). A result of Mr. Johnson’s behavior, the ABC Agents charged Mr. Johnson with obstruction of justice without force, and public swearing or intoxication. It is not to say that the ABC agents did not have the right to investigate Mr. Johnson’s state as they reported Mr. Johnson “was very agitated and belligerent” (BBC News, 2015). As the law states, public intoxication charges can be given to a person who is visibly drunk or under the influence of drugs in public (FindLaw, 2015). The ABC agents did not leave Mr. Johnson with just these allegations, but they also felt the need to aggressively attack Mr. Johnson’s face, leaving him covered in blood. Bryan Beaubran, another University of Virginia (UVA) student who photographed the arrest stated that, “Police acted with unnecessary force,” and that, “[Martese] didn’t need to be tackled. He wasn’t being aggressive at all.” The ABC did have the right to arrest Mr. Johnson if they felt that he was publicly intoxicated but by unnecessarily attacking him for no reason, they abused their authority. This reoccurring theme of police officers, or people with authority taking advantage of their power can be seen throughout our society. They use their power to oppress and discriminate against minorities. This reoccurring theme can be stopped in our society if we acknowledge and bring to the forefront these injustices.

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The debate on race and crime in the United states have been a controversial subject and has hotly been focusing on the disproportional representations of minorities in the criminal justice system (Rehavi and Starr, 201). In fact, federal prosecutors are twice as likely to push for mandatory minimum sentences of black and Hispanic defendants. This leads to longer sentences for the defendants and inequalities in imprisonment rates for federal offenses (ibid). Furthermore, in 2008, the offending rate for blacks was seven times higher than for whites and the victimization rate was six times higher (Worall, 2014). In 2013, the FBI has black criminals carrying out 38 percent of murders, compared to 31.1 percent for whites, the offender’s race was “unknown” in 29.1 percent of cases (ibid). Additionally, over the last three years of data (211-2013), 38.5 percent of people arrested for murder, manslaughter, rape, robbery, and aggravated assault were black (ibid). All of these statistics raises the question of why black people are over represented in America’s crime statistic? The answer of high black arrest rates could possibly be that there is an element of racism in the police force.

On a wider spectrum, it can be blamed on historic white racism, or colonialism. As learned in tutorial, in Canada’s history when Europeans came to Canada and ruled over large Indigenous populations the idea of the “white heterosexual males” was seen to be the highest of power or in other words their society overruled by white supremacy (Matani, Week 20, 2015). This idea of a “perfect man” has lingered in our society today and has become a social construct. In turn, this can explain the stigma around how our patriarchal society believes other races are seen to have less power than those in authority (white males). This leads to discrimination and oppression of races other than white. With high amounts of oppression instilled into a minority group it may be hard for that particular group to thrive in society. Some criminologists believe people confuse race with poverty or inequality as black people tend to offend more because they are more disadvantaged, living in poorer urban areas, with less access to public services and so on (Worrall, 2014).

Furthermore, in our era of colorblindness, it is no longer socially permissible to use race, explicitly, as a justification for discrimination, exclusion, and social contempt (Alexander, 2010). However, society has found a way to discriminate against these minorities in a legal way. Today it is perfectly legal to discriminate against criminals in nearly all ways that it was once legal to discriminate against African Americans e.g. slavery (ibid). Once you are labeled a felon, the old forms of discrimination- employment, housing discrimination, denial of the right to vote, denial of educational opportunity, denial of food stamps and other public benefits, and exclusion from jury service are suddenly legal (ibid). Therefore it is not legal to discriminate against black people in general, but once they are deemed a criminal, society has the right to discriminate against them, and in turn white people remain in power and receive white privilege.

In social media and all over the world there are many current events of how white male authorities used discrimination against black people to remain in authority and hold power over them. One story that was analyzed on the Moodle of GNDS-125 course was the death of Michael Brown. He was an unarmed 18-year-old black male who was killed by a white police officer named Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Missouri (Jones, 2014). Another story analyzed in lecture GNDS- 125 was the story of a homeless man who was killed by US police during an altercation in central Los Angeles (Tolmie, March 2, 2015). There is a video that shows a violent struggle between a black man and several officers in the city’s Skid Row area. The struggle ultimately left the black homeless man dead (BBC News, 2015). There has been much controversy around these cases and has resulted in various protests with vigorous debates about the law enforcement’s relationships with minorities. These stories bring to mind the ongoing discrimination and stereotyping people have against minorities. For example a police officer would more likely monitor a black person walking along the street than a white person. This is just one story of how white privileged males are using their power to take advantage and discriminate against black males.

Reflecting on the Johnson article, it is seen that a reader can examine the voices of everyone accept the victim, Mr. Johnson. ABC agents voiced their opinion on the situation saying, “Mr. Johnson was very agitated and belligerent” giving them a right to arrest him and attack him violently (BBC News, 2015). The article also states, “ABCS agents focus on alcohol-related violations but are considered state-wide police officers with authority to arrest” (ibid). From this statement, it can be seen that the author is backing up the actions of the ABC agents, saying that they had a right to arrest Mr. Johnson, as it was they’re duty. Bryan Beaubrun a bystander, got his say in this article stating, “[Mr. Johnson} didn’t need to be tackled. He wasn’t being aggressive at all”(ibid). Furthermore even the Democratic governor’s office had a published opinion on this case stating, “Governor McAuliffe is concerned by the reports of this incident and has asked the secretary of public safety to initiate an independent Virginia State Police Investigation into the use of force” (ibid). One statement that the article shows Mr. Johnson saying is from a protest on the UVA campus to demand justice for him. He states, “I beg for you guys to please respect everyone here, we really are a community” (ibid). This statement is hours after the incident and has nothing to do with the incident itself. The reporter is trying to tell the story from different perspectives but we seem to hear more on the side of the white male ABC agents, not from Mr. Johnson himself, or what Mr. Johnson thought of the incident. Without the voice of Mr. Johnson the article seems to focus more on the justified actions of the white ABC officers, which again discriminates against this particular minority.

The government and society seem to be aware of how some white male officers abuse their power and authority in order to discriminate against other minorities. But it is time to fully acknowledged this injustice and take action. Our society should not be continuing to have debates about race and color of skin. We are all equal. There are laws where it is illegal to discriminate against minorities, but now is the time to disallow all citizens to discriminate. No more loopholes, no more injustices against minorities.

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Works cited

Worrall, Patrick. “FactCheck: Do Black Americans Commit More Crime?” The FactCheck Blog FactCheck Do Black Americans Commit More Crime Comments. 4 News, 27 Nov. 2014. Web. 03 Apr. 2015. http://blogs.channel4.com/factcheck/factcheck-black-americans-commit-crime/19439

Alexander, Michelle. “.” The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness. New York City: New, 2010. 2. Print.

Introduction 

Jones, Denisha. “Badass Teachers Association.” : The Death of Michael Brown, Teachers, and Racism: 10 Things Every Badass Teacher Needs To Understand. BTA Blog, 18 Aug. 2014. Web. 07 Apr. 2015. <http://badassteachers.blogspot.ca/2014/08/the-death-of-michael-brown-teachers-and.html?spref=fb>.

Matani, Maria-Teresa. “Colinialism” Week 20, GNDS 125 Lecture. March 2 2015

Rehavi, Marit M., and Sonja B. Starr. “Racial Disparity in Federal Criminal Charging and Its Sentencing Consequences.” Social Science Research Network. Social Science Electronic Publishing, 2 June 2012. Web. 07 Apr. 2015. <http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1985377>.

Tolmie, Jamie. “BlackLivesMatter.” GNDS 125 Lecture. March 2 2015

“US Police Shoot Homeless Man Dead in Los Angeles.” BBC News. BBC News, 2 Mar. 2015. Web. 07 Apr. 2015. <http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-31688942>.

“Virginia Governor Calls for Inquiry into Student Arrest.” BBC News. BBC News, 19 Mar. 2015. Web. 03 Apr. 2015. <http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-31965856&gt;.

 

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The Discrimination and Inequalities placed on Same Sex Couples In United States

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Through a couple’s unbelievable story, one can evaluate the disrespect and hardship that same-sex couples experience on a day-to-day basis. Krista and Jami Contreras tells the story of how in October 2014 they took their six day old baby Bay to its first wellness appointment with Dr. Vesna Roi. To their surprise an unfamiliar face, Dr. Karam, welcomed them and informed the couple that she was going to be their new pediatrician. It was further explained that after a long period of reflection and praying, Dr. Roi was unable to care for baby Bay based upon her discomfort on the sexual orientation of the couple. Four months later Dr. Roi wrote a letter the to same-sex couple stating., “I felt that I would not be able to develop the personal patient-doctor relationship that I normally do with my parents” (myFOXDetroit.com Staff, 2015). It was a shock to both Krista and Jami, as their first thought of Dr. Roi was that they were, “really happy with her. [and] the kind of care she offered [they- liked her personality, [and thought] she seemed pretty friendly and straight up with [them].” Fortunately, Krista and Jami were able to find a substitute pediatrician who accepted them for who they were, a same sex couple. With the disgraceful attitude toward their family the Contreras looked into what they can do about this situation. But to their dismay Dr. Roi, by law, has free choice to treat people in this way as Michigan there are no laws that protect lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender families from discrimination. This story illustrates a small fraction of the bigger problem in the United States where U.S law fails to support same sex couples against discrimination and inequality.

Many LGTBQ people experiences bias when receiving healthcare, as they may not be aware of the rules that protect them from discrimination. There are a number of states that have laws that protect LGBTQ patients against differential treatment or refusal of treatment based on sexual orientation and gender identity (Michon, 2015). Twenty-two of the fifty states have laws that prohibit discrimination based on a persons sexual orientation (see table).

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Table 1- Illustration of the states prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation. (Michon, 2015)

The American Medical Association (AMA) has taken a positive attitude on physician treatment of gay, lesbian and transgendered patients. In its ethics opinions, which serve as a model for how all physicians and their employees should practice medicine, the AMA states, “Physicians who offer their services to the public may not decline to accept patients because of race, color religion, national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity or any other basis that would constitute invidious discrimination” (Michon, 2015). The AMA further states “will work to reduce the health disparities suffered because of unequal treatment of minor children and same sex parents in same sex households” (ibid).

Unfortunately, some doctors have found a way to refuse patients of same sex couples without breaking the law. Parallel to the above-mentioned law, the AMA has another law that states doctors can refuse treatment if it is incompatible with their personal, religious or moral belief. This law enables homophobic healthcare providers to discriminate LGTBQ families. Doctors can say they have personal, religious or moral beliefs not to care for a gay patient, but realistically they are refusing to care for a patient based on the patient’s sexual orientation. Similar to the Contreras case, Dr. Roi was allowed to refuse healthcare to baby Bay because of her own personal beliefs. This makes it difficult for LGTBQ families such as the Contreras, to fight against this type of discrimination because the AMA laws protect doctors.

Under the Universal Declaration of Human rights Article 25 (1) it states that everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services (The universal declaration of human rights, 2015). For LGTBQ families who do not have the freedom or ability to find another doctor that will care for them, it may mean that they will not get the proper healthcare they need. It is disgraceful that people can be denied the right to equitable care and have a healthy quality of life, based on their sexual orientation.

Fortunately North America does not implement compulsory heterosexuality. The concept of a heterosexual relationship is decreasingly becoming the social norm, a change in a positive direction. More countries need to embrace this change, and accept those who express themselves in the LGTBQ community without discrimination. There needs to be a new law passed that gives no choice or reasons for doctors to discrimination against same sex couples, and allow everyone the equal and optimal healthcare.

Dana Nessel is one among many who are advocating for equality for everyone. She is one of the attorneys in the Michigan same sex marriage case that is now headed to the United States Supreme Court. Nessel refers to the legislation called the Religious Freedom Restoration Act now in the State Senate, which opponents say would allow people to discriminate based on their moral or religious beliefs. If everyone followed Nessel’s example, LGTB people would feel equal and safe in our world.

In conclusion, this story illustrates how people can find any loophole to legally discriminate against same sex couples. It is sad to think that healthcare providers would refuse treatment to any individual based on their sexual orientation. In this situation, heartbreak goes out to Bay. She is only six days old and has already faced discrimination. It is to hope that when baby Bay grows older, the discrimination towards her and her mothers will dissipate. In that world baby Bay can grow up to be a healthy individual and treated equally, as everyone should be.

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Work Cited

Michon, Kathleen. “Health Care Antidiscrimination Laws Protecting Gays and Lesbians | Nolo.com.” Nolo.com. Nolo Law for All, 2015. Web. 16 Mar. 2015. http://www.un.org/en/documents/udhr/

MyFoxDetroit.comstaff. “Doctor Refuses Treatment of Same-sex Couple’s Baby.” – Fox 2 News Headlines. MyFoxDetroit.com, 18 Feb. 2015. Web. 09 Mar. 2015. http://www.myfoxdetroit.com/story/28142401/doctor-refuses-treatment-of-same-sex-couples-baby

“The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, UDHR, Declaration of Human Rights, Human Rights Declaration, Human Rights Charter, The Un and Human Rights.” UN News Center. UN, n.d. Web. 13 Mar. 2015. http://www.un.org/en/documents/udhr/

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Blog 1: Around the World in Eight Ways: Shorts Program

Around the world in 8 ways is a foreign film consisting of seven short cinemas.

Bendik and the Monster

  1. Originated in Norway, Benedik and the Monster is a cartoon about a little boy named Benedik who is pressured to live the “manly” life by his mother’s boyfriend whose bond shows a purely heterosexual In the middle of the movie Benedik meets a monster, which he helps pursue the monsters dream of becoming a singer. In this short film the audience learns to find yourself and to experiment with your identity.

Scaffolding

  1. Scaffolding is about two male nieghbours who capture a relationship and connect over the construction of a their building. In this film the audience gets a grasp of the idea of homosexuality with the reality of two males engaging in a relationship.

Last Farwell

  1. The following film called Last Farewell shows an aging man morning over the loss of his husband, and in the end he finally is able to let go.

Das Phallometer

  1. Das Phallometer that is based on a true story, shows a refugee crossing the border. While being questioned, the refugee admits to being homosexual and is sentenced to a phallometric test.

I love Her

  1. Next to this film a Ukrainian movie, I love her, about a musician who spends her days busking on the street meets a women passing by and together they find love. At the end of the movie it states that the Ukraine is a highly homophobic With a country’s mentality like this, heterosexism is highly affected in the Ukraine, where it is believed that heterosexuality is the normal sexual orientation.

Kuhani

  1. Kuhani, a Uganda based movie orients around a Priest who is prosecuted based on the country’s Anti-Homosexuality Act that has been recently passed. It is shown in this film that citizens of Uganda face compulsory heterosexuality as it is seen to be illegal if one engages in a homosexual relationship.

Butterfly

  1. The last film called Butterfly shows a transgender couple who both have Asperger’s and while admitted into the LGBTQ community they confront their own gender identity.

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Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this movie. It was interesting to see how different parts of the world deal with the idea of LGBTQ community. Some places around the world have acknowledged the fact that heterosexuality is not the norm for everyone, and accept those who do not fit this gender identity. For example in the movie Das Phallometer the refugee is welcomed to Germany because he passed the absurd phallometeric test. While on the other hand, places such as Uganda one might face serious consequences when admitting to be homosexual. This is shown in Kuhani, where Father Musaala is victimized because of the Anti-Homosexuality Law placed in Uganda. Due to the immense difference in the seven cinemas, the audience gets a grasp of a variety of different camera work, lightning, and visual design. In the movie Benedick and the Monster the audience is exposed to special effects and animation, as the movie is purely cartoon based. On the other hand, Kuhani, the camera work looked very shaky and immature almost as if it was a home video and was filmed on a camera phone. The originality for this movie was definitely unique, as I’ve never experienced a movie that expressed the LGBTQ community in different parts of the world. It is hard to compare this type of move to a movie that is similar, although the film industry around the world expressed LGBTQ people in different ways than Western Society. In Western society I feel is more accepting to LGBTQ. For example, there are more transgender people shown in popular TV or Movies such as Orange is the New Black. Western Society also accepts homosexual relationships on the big screen such as in the TV show Glee, or the movie GBF. Overall, the movie was quite enjoyable and I overall had a splendid time at Reelout.

There is one scene that I really enjoyed in the third movie, the Last Farewell. At the beginning of the movie it is seen that the father resents his daughter because she gave consent for a character named Papa to die. The audience does not know who this Papa person is and what his relationship is to the main characters of the movie. When the father imagines Papa in his presence, it is finally realized that that the Father and Papa are engaged in a homosexual relationship, and are in love. The father explains to Papa that he is angry because he feels that he left him. In the end the Father is able to let it go and move on with his life. Finding out the relationships between these two characters was very shocking, as throughout the film I believed that Papa was the Grandpa. By realizing that the characters were in a love relationship it made a great plot twist and made the move more intriguing. Mystery and curiosity were added to the mix when the director made the characters aware of what is happening while the audience is not aware. Through the fathers relationship with Papa one can understand that heterosexuality does not have to be the norm in every family, and homosexual people are able to live “normal” life as well.

My overall personal experience attending the festival was interesting. My first thought pulling up to the screening room was confusing. When you first walk you see a concession stand on the left, my friend and I were confused and thought we had the wrong address. We then proceeded to upstairs towards the theatre. The theatre was old but gave off a homey feel. The workers there were very personable which overall created an unthreatening environment. The theatre seats were pretty empty but consisted mostly of University students, which made me feel confortable because they were on the same boat as me. There were some local people of Kingston who came to voluntarily came to watch, which was interesting because I didn’t realize the Reelout was that big of a festival. I wish an event such as Reelout were held in my home city, Toronto, so I can attend more movies such as this one.