It is unfortunate and unnecessary, albeit understandable that race plays such an influential role in the criminal justice system. There is a noticeable discrepancy between police activity in the ghetto compared to that in more affluent areas. The disproportionate prosecution of the poor black community leads to distrust between the black community and the police. Each thinks the other is an irredeemable evil force preying on the weak. And it isn’t that hard to see why they feel that way. The author says at one point that if crime itself (drug dealing specifically) was the actual problem, the police would do in white areas what they already to to black kids:
We could saturate the white high schools and colleges with undercover officers, arrest lots of white kids. We could follow the weed dealers back home, make sure they get in the house, kick in their doors, twist-tie their parents, shoot their dogs, seize their houses, get them and their families evicted from their apartments, make them homeless. Tap their phones, find their suppliers, get everybody on RICO charges, threaten them with federal prison, drop hints about anal rape, flip them on their friends. Easy. If this were really about crime, we’d be doing it.
It’s not really about crime itself, the violence and impact on the surrounding community is the issue. Each individual person is as likely to commit a crime as anyone else. This is true across socio-economic classes, races, ethnic groups, and geographic location. The variance is in which type of crimes they are likely to commit. Poor black kids are much more likely to get involved in gangs, drug dealing, and other “street crime.” Whereas middle class white kids might get into theft, vandalism, or financial “white collar” crimes.
Because street crime offends the community (and poor black kids can’t afford a lawyer), there is a disproportionate police response. This cycle only leads to widening the divide between the classes and adding to the animosity between the police and the black communities. It is counter productive and predatory, locking up entire generations of citizens. I’d highly recommend the book to anyone interested in reading more about how these issues can (and have been) addressed.