Although most people would like to believe that insitutionalized racism is a relic of the past, the data just doesn't support this naive fantasy of the post-racial state. According to data coming out of the United Kingdom, skin color predicts the rate of random police searches. If you live in England or Wales and that you are black, you are seven times more likely to be randomly searched by a member of the force. If you're Asian, you're twice as likely.
The video below was created by The Open Society Justice Initiative (OPJI) and compiles experienced from people living of color living in England and Wales. Their stories will shock you.
In this short film, the OPJI tells the stories that lie behind the statistics to show the human cost of random searches. Judging by the horrifyingly high rate of stop and search these people have experienced, the cost is unfathomably high. Many of them have experienced their first encounter with police when they were as young as 14, some despite having done absolutely nothing wrong. As the OPJI puts it, "the vast majority are ordinary people guilty only of being the wrong color."
These findings reflect research published this week showing that marijuana possession arrests are four times more likely for blacks than for whites in the United States. According to a report commissioned by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and an independent review by Stanford University, 2010 police records reveal a worrying trend in marijuana-related arrests. Despite the fact that African-Americans and white Americans use the drug at "similar rates," black people make up a disproportionate amount of arrests.
The ACLU condemns the racial biases in police forces and are asking them to revise their practices. They've launched a campaign asking for an intelligent and fair reform to make sure that tax payer money stops being funnelled into perpetuating a culture of racially biased arrests. They assert that it doesn't make us safer, nor does it channel the right resources at the right place.
"The aggressive enforcement of marijuana possession laws needlessly ensnares hundreds of thousands of people into the criminal justice system and wastes billions of taxpayers' dollars ... Despite being a priority for police departments nationwide, the War on Marijuana has failed to reduce marijuana use and availability and diverted resources that could be better invested in our communities."
It's time to stop racially biased arrests and rethink the way we fight crime. From the United Kingdom to the United States, change can't wait.
For more on race, politics and the war on drugs, follow me on Twitter: @feministabulous