3

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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3

Homophobia Within Western Societies

***Trigger warning! Pictures depicting horrifying homophobic displays***

After watching this video, in which a 6-day-old baby is refused treatment by a doctor because of her same-sex parents, I wish I could say that I was shocked and outraged, that I had never heard of such a thing happening before. Of course I was outraged. I was also disappointed. But unfortunately I was not shocked. The horrible truth is that occurrences like these are commonplace, especially within the United States.

I suppose that that is a result of our colonial roots. When colonizers from Europe took over and invaded our land, the leaders were mostly heterosexual, white male citizens who, in the long run, supressed the natives and attempted to rid them of their cultural heritage (Alfred). These power structures are still in effect, meaning that straight, able-bodied white men are generally viewed as those with the most power (Aulette & Wittner).

The issue here, and in many cases similar to it, is that social constructions have become the norm. Bodies are no longer simply viewed as bodies; instead, they are assigned a gender, an ethnicity, and a sexuality. These assigned aspects are given different merits, each meaning something different and with preferences for each varying based on geographical location (Aulette & Wittner).

In theory, there is no such thing as sexuality. People are simply genderless bodies who are attracted to other genderless bodies. These bodies do not have ethnicities or races – they are simply human bodies. However, as gender, race and ethnicity are created and applied, sexuality then comes into play. In a heteronormative society such as ours, it is simply expected that everyone you meet is heterosexual– that is, only attracted to others of the opposite sex – unless told otherwise. This creates further problems, as any sexuality deviating from the norm is seen as problematic and unnatural.

In fact, the term homosexuality was coined as a way to categorize gay people as mentally unstable (Harek). This then brings us to problems surrounding medicalization.

Assumptions made by the general public are highly contingent on the information provided to them by doctors and other authority figures. Throughout the 20th century, doctors searched for a “cure” for those who identified as homosexual, implying that it is an illness. This was then reflected in the actions and attitudes of everyone else, who often bullied and at times outright rejected those who they perceived as gay (F.,J).

Even today, in a society in which homosexuality is supposedly accepted, teens are bullied for it, adults are mocked and rejected for it, and total harassment ensues. While this may not always be the case, it far too often is.

There are over 80 countries that have laws restricting same-sex relationships, some of which are even punishable by death (Dann, G.). For those of us in Western countries, it is easy look at these other countries and think “Man, that’s horrible. I’m glad that [insert country here] is not like that. I’m so glad we’re such an accepting society with little to no homophobia left”. Perhaps the country we live in does not have anti-gay laws punishable by death. But even Western countries are not completely accepting. Homophobia is still very real and very present. According to a survey taken in multiple European countries, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and the United States, the US was one of three countries with the highest rate of people claiming that gay sex is wrong (Aulette and Wittner).

Harassment based on sexuality within both public and private domains can be very damaging – there are countless reports of kids committing suicide after being bullied by peers because of their sexuality, of kids being beaten by their parents because of the same reason, of people being harassed on the streets, of being beaten by strangers, of horrifying anti-gay protests, and even of people being murdered because of their sexuality. The threat of these occurrences is worse for a person of colour who is gay, or someone of any colour who is transsexual as well as gay.

Homophobia within all domains threatens the mental and physical well-being of all gay people, both in a mental and physical capacity, and threatens to impact their overall quality of life.

Another issue that leaves me enrages is when people act in a homophobic manner and say “It’s not personal, but…” But what? But yes, it absolutely is personal. Those homophobic words and actions have the potential to have a huge impact on the personal life of people all over the country.

Similarly, when people say “I’m not homophobic, but I don’t support equal rights.” Meaning I have absolutely nothing against you, and I don’t think you’re any less of a person than me, but oh wait yes I do. A statement that declares that someone should not be allowed to get married to another person of the same sex, or should not be able to raise kids because they are the same sex as their partner is absolutely homophobic, despite claims otherwise (Duffy, N.).

The following is an excellent video demonstrating how kids of same-sex parents feel about their family. I would like to see someone watch this video and say that there is something wrong with these kids because they were raised by same-sex parents, or that their needs weren’t being met, or some other horribly pompous remark that is absolutely irrelevant and false (Weber, B.).

http://www.upworthy.com/some-kids-of-gay-parents-tell-us-their-secrets-and-theyre-adorable

Aside from the social implications mentioned above and the threat of violence, homophobia presents further complications when it threatens to leave people without a doctor. Whether it be a gay person, a gay couple, or the children of a gay couple, the risks are clear. It threatens the health of a patient while they are left to look for a doctor who is comfortable treating them.

The biggest issue is a lack of laws supporting gay citizens. Not only are they lacking, there have been multiple attempts to bring in further laws that are, in essence, anti-gay. They state a variety of things, from criminalizing gay relationships to stating that someone who is gay can be refused service from someone whose religion or personal beliefs condemn being gay (Ford Z.).

Further, those laws that do exist are mediocre at best, as can be demonstrated from 3:09 to 3:19 in the original video where it basically says that though in theory doctors cannot refrain from caring for a patient based on his or her sexual orientation, in practice they are able to do so if their personal, religious, or moral beliefs do not support it. That is to say, if a doctor completely supports gay rights they cannot refuse to care for a patient based on their sexuality (which, realistically, a person in this context would not do anyways because they support gay rights), but if that doctor does not support gay rights they are able to refuse because the patients sexuality is not compatible with their personal beliefs (Doctor).

In closing, there is clearly still a large amount of homophobia within Western countries, but especially within the United States.  However, that is not to say that there is no acceptance. Huge strides are made as more and more states within the US gain equal marriage rights. Having discussed the bad, I would now like to leave you with a short video, though only 2 minutes in duration, is full of potential, full of hope, and that ultimately tells it as it is.

http://www.upworthy.com/when-you-have-common-sense-like-this-guy-who-needs-to-argue-with-homophobes-9

Resources

Alfred, T. (n.d.). Canadian Colonialism. Retrieved March 14, 2015, from http://www3.nfb.ca/enclasse/doclens/visau/index.php?mode=theme&language=english&theme=30662&film=16933&excerpt=612357&submode=abou

Aulette, Judy Root, and Judith G. Wittner. Gendered Worlds. 2nd ed. New York: Oxford UP, 2012. 18-120. Print.

Dann, G. (2014, January 1). Worldwide Homophobia: The Case of Sacred Sex and Trinity Western University. Retrieved March 14, 2015, from http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/g-elijah-dann/homophobia-trinity-western-university_b_4770956.html

Doctor refuses treatment of same-sex couple’s baby. (2015, February 18). Retrieved March 14, 2015, from http://www.myfoxdetroit.com/story/28142401/doctor-refuses-treatment-of-same-sex-couples-baby

Duffy, N. (2014, January 1). Kellie Maloney: I’m not homophobic, but I don’t think same-sex couples should have children. Retrieved March 14, 2015, from http://www.pinknews.co.uk/2014/08/15/kellie-maloney-im-not-homophobic-but-i-dont-think-same-sex-couples-should-have-children/

F., J. (2009, July 9). Culture, Medicine, and Body. Retrieved March 14, 2015, from http://culturemedicineandbody.blogspot.ca/2009/07/medicalization-of-homosexuality.html

Ford, Z. (2014, February 3). 9 States With Anti-Gay Laws That Aren’t That Different From Russia’s. Retrieved March 17, 2015, from http://thinkprogress.org/lgbt/2014/02/03/3241421/9-state-gay-propaganda-laws/

Harek, G. (n.d.). Facts About Homosexuality and Mental Health. Retrieved March 14, 2015, from http://psychology.ucdavis.edu/faculty_sites/rainbow/html/facts_mental_health.htm

Weber, B. (2013, January 1). Retrieved March 17, 2015, from http://www.upworthy.com/some-kids-of-gay-parents-tell-     us-their-secrets-and-theyre-adorable

3

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/