August 12, 2014

Vast majority of blacks view the criminal justice system as unfair

Over the weekend, Michael Brown, an unarmed black teen was shot and killed by a police officer in a St. Louis, Missouri, suburb. Following the shooting, the predominately black city of Ferguson erupted into protests, prompting U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to launch a federal investigation into the incident.

Vast majority of blacks view the criminal justice system as unfair The shooting comes only weeks after the New York City Police Department was criticized for subduing a black man who later died in police custody. Both deaths have led to questions of whether discriminatory practices contributed to these incidents.

Blacks are much more likely than whites to say that blacks faced unfair treatment in dealing with police or in the courts, according to a 2013 Pew Research Center survey. And blacks perceived racial biases to be greater in the criminal justice system than in other institutions.

Seven-in-ten blacks said that blacks in their community were treated less fairly than whites in dealings with the police. In comparison, 37% of whites and 51% of Hispanics held that view. Also, 68% of blacks said that the court system was unfair to blacks, far more than whites (27%) or Hispanics (40%).

While half or more blacks said that blacks were treated less fairly than whites at work (54%) or at school (51%), those are still smaller percentages when compared with perceptions of unfair treatment by police or in the court system.

Additionally, younger black men are more likely to report unjust treatment by the police. Nearly one-quarter of black males ages 18-34 said they had been treated unfairly by the police in the last 30 days, according to a Gallup poll conducted June to July 2013. This represents a similar percentage with those 35-54 (22%), but double the rate cited for those 55 and older (11%).

Topics: Criminal Justice, Discrimination and Prejudice, African Americans

  1. Photo of Monica Anderson

    is a research associate focusing on internet, science and technology at Pew Research Center.


  1. Grant2 years ago

    I feel that there is some racism but it is not as bad as the liberal media makes it seem. I have the feeling the Obama is not making it any better just like Al Sharpton or Jesse Jackson who makes it worse by fanning the flames. Before we had Obama in office we didn’t have such a large amount of violence towards police like we do now.

  2. Danny Gattoni2 years ago

    I agree that black Americans have clearly be mistreated. In the court system they suspect that African Americans have committed a crime when accused. African Americans are beginning to fight for there rights now. I don’t blame them at all. Michael Brown was killed, without even having a weapon on him. All in all, this justice court needs to change because it is leaving in the past. We Americans know not to live in the past because back then their were a lot more segregation’s towards African Americans and other immigrants. America needs to stop segregating and it starts now!

    1. jessie2 years ago

      wow what an amazing person you are!

  3. Joed2 years ago

    Think a lot of the racial tension stems from a false belief of some American blacks . A belief that some how other races have it easier than they do . A belief , that admittedly did exist at one time but is long since dead. It seems to me that a culture of ” why try to succeed when the man will hold you down” has been passed down from generation to generation. A belief that gives the perfect excuse to not go out and succeed . After all success is hard. Couple that with the epidemic of black children growing up without father’s to teach life lessons. I agree it is hard for some African Americans but hard work will set us all free . If we want a better life we all have to make it ourselves, we must all create our own happiness and not blame others for our short comings .

    1. clara2 years ago

      The issue of racism in america is long rooted in the nations culture. Black people were once owned by white slave owners, treated brutally, and discriminated against publicly. People fought, and died for their rights and are STILL fighting and dying today. These are not “short comings”.. this is the reality of a long history of prejudices blacks continue to face today.

    2. valerie2 years ago


      White people are the blame for the condition of Black people and it did not end a long time ago.

  4. A.W2 years ago

    i get pull over every other day by a white cop.and I have license and i get search.

  5. clinton lewelling2 years ago

    i would like to know were they gathered these stats

  6. vera2 years ago

    i think white americans are the problem for black american lives being taken away

    1. MJL2 years ago

      I think you should read some of the other Pew articles regarding crime in the black community. Around 90% of black murder victims are killed by other blacks. With only 13% black population, it is very clear that white people kill very few blacks. Sadly, statistics show that black on white crime is much greater than 13%. Visit for a complete crime breakdown and analysis. Statistically, black people have very much less to fear from white people than other blacks.

      Have a nice day.

    2. valerie2 years ago

      I do too Vera. Anybody that denies that Black people are treated badly is trying to do what white people have done over the entire history of the US and that is ride the backs of the blacks to get ahead.

  7. malik3 years ago

    White people are indenile, they know racism is alive and well but would never admit it. We need to work together whites and blacks to end racism and spread the word.

  8. Donnie Walsh3 years ago

    There are far more whites committing crimes in ski masks as well as suits and ties. The common reality is the entire playing field is NOT balanced. The white power structure because that’s what it is – A White Power Structure, ie., Financial/Banks, Law Enforcement/Military, Big Oil/Wall Street all have systematically raped, pilfered, stolen, manipulated a system and laid waste to an average family’s opportunity to hold a job, keep a house and afford healthcare and an education and now want to blame the victims.

    1. Eli Jackson3 years ago


      1. White Man on the Right3 years ago

        Unfortunately, you didn’t provide proof Eli.

        1. T3 years ago

          Nor do you.

        2. Tom3 years ago

          Where’s your’s?

  9. Jack Dixon3 years ago

    Black people are not shooting each other at alarming rates in Chicago and other urban areas because of gun laws or our drug laws or a criminal justice system that has it in for them. The problem is primarily cultural — self-destructive behaviors and attitudes all too common among the black underclass. The problem is black criminal behavior, which is one manifestation of a black pathology that ultimately stems from the breakdown of the black family. Many want to talk about what others should do for blacks instead of what blacks should do for themselves. But if we don’t acknowledge the cultural barriers to black progress, how can we address them? How can you even begin to fix something that almost no one wants to talk about honestly?

    1. eric3 years ago

      Very well said. Agree with you 100%

    2. obsidian_2 years ago

      Sure the problem is “primarily cultural,” unfortunately that cultural problem is American, not specifically Black. Assume that Black people are fully human (you would be correct in such an assumption), the “real” problem then becomes the pretense that racism doesn’t “really” exist—that Black people are biologically or culturally disposed to criminality, violence, etc; invent whatever pathology is convenient to justify/excuse statistically provable *racism* at work in the legal system. An example is criminal sentencing: discriminatory policing aside, when you actually *convict* Blacks and whites for the same crimes, they are NOT sentenced equally. Yep, racism… and if it exists there, foolish to believe racism is not at work elsewhere in the legal process. Why pretend?

      The thing with *actual* culture is that it is adoptable. If a different culture has better crops, better food, a better mathematics your culture adopts it. The Mongol Empire was quite famous for this, often adopting large elements of the cultures of those they conquered. We *all* use Arabic numerals because that works better. I’ll spare us more examples; the list would never end.

      So if Black people are fully human, which they are, what *prevents* them from adopting the cultural advantage of family? Oddly, that breakdown correlates with two things: the *general* breakdown of family for *all* Americans and… wait for it… the over-policing of Blacks that lands so many of their men in prison more frequently, and for longer stints, than white men guilty of the same crimes. I’m sure other factors also apply (an example would be correlation between unemployment and the nuclear family), but whatever the factors, they will probably be amplified by racial discrimination—it’s going to hit Black people harder. Or we can pretend “inherent” Black inferiority.

      Too wordy already, so I’ll cut to the chase. I don’t think Blacks are intellectually inferior to whites, which is to what perspectives like “the cultural pathology of Blackness” must always—and mistakenly—boil down . 80% of murdered white people get murdered by white people; the better than 90% rate for “Black on Black” isn’t that much of a difference and the discrepancy is far more likely a result of higher population density. When America crowds people because of racist housing discrimination (should we pretend that’s not real?) you get a higher incidence of violence; it holds for lab rats and it applies to human beings. Poor Blacks don’t crowd themselves into the inner cities by choice, they are prevented by ingrained discrimination across institutions and inherent in American culture. The racial situation is probably getting better, but I imagine it’s slow going with so much self-serving denial of reality.

  10. Joan Secrest3 years ago

    I would agree in some instances. But when you have looting, violence , lawlessness, that is the impression given.
    The problem is Eric Holder and the Progressive democrats who formed social programs to divide the poor families in this country. Incentives count. They are real. Giving money to poor mothers only if the father of their children can not live there has destroyed the family in the inner cities. What the communities need to learn is that this is how the government can control their lives. If there had been fathers in their lives someone would have told them, if a policeman stops you, you say “yes sir!”. That is what you do. Daughters and sons are told the same thing. If you have a problem, later, after you have calmed down, you contact the police and tell them what happened and file a complaint. Police treat whites the same in most cases, but we have been told by our parents, don’t go after the police, they have the power on the street, and many times they need it. Don’t test them. I know that many blacks do not believe that whites get pulled over for speeding or questioned, it is not so. Jesse Jackson and AL have told you they are out to get you, instead of telling you to say “yes, sir” and then file your complaint. Most of the time we know we have done something wrong and we have to be able to admit that. If we don’t we take the risk, an incident can occur.

    1. Sakonya3 years ago

      One cannot file a complaint if one is dead, because they were not given even a chance to show a driver’s license, or any kind of I.D., which probably should not have been required anyway. Black people can’t even drive or walk down a street without being stopped, for no other reason than the one that is trumped up by some power hungry and racist cop.

      1. MJL2 years ago

        Two weeks after the Baltimore riots, over 100 blacks were shot by other blacks, and 35 died. No riots resulted. No protests. No nothing. So apparently the murder of a black man by another black man is “acceptable” in some way, while the murder of a black man by cops is not. Well, I think both are unacceptable but I can not help wondering about the 35 dead who were essentially ignored. Perhaps they would be alive if the cops had stopped and confiscated the guns presumably used to commit the murders. I for one think that anyone using a gun during a crime should get the maximum sentence no matter the race profile.

  11. suetiggers3 years ago

    It IS unfair (and I’m one of the many whites who feel this way) !!

  12. max3 years ago

    Regrettably, there is a confluence of some level of disparate treatment of Blacks in the legal system and other areas with a cultural self-pity. In addition, there are manifest behavior patterns within Black culture as seen in the media and in venues controlled by Blacks themselves that emphasize confrontation, disrespect for authority, and decreased perception of the value of self-control. That is to say, too often various members of the Black community play to the stereotypes for both internal and external consumption. The Ferguson riots exemplify this far too well.

    1. Sakonya3 years ago

      Your comment is just plain wrong on so many levels that I hardly know where to start. I will start with your first assumption that there is “cultural self-pity” in the Black community. What is that? Do we pity ourselves because of our culture? Do we pity the aspects of the culture itself? Do you realize that the term “culture” emcompasses many aspects of any group’s identity, including language which is complex within itself, food, religion, artistic expression and other facets of life? The term does not make sense. Secondly, I, at the age of 62 yrs. old, have not seen Black leaders nor Black media advocate nor encourage any “disrespect for authority”, or any general overindulgences that are not found within the dominant cultural stream that runs throughout America. There are aspects within Black culture, like some of “rap” music that may fit that description, but, the elements you named are also in “rock, “rave”, “hard rock” and other types of music associated with whites, and youth of all races, nowadays. Many Black leaders, including Martin Luther King, have been the epitome of peacekeepers, despite being harassed, maimed and killed in various ways when they called for major social changes and fairness. Thirdly, what is happening in Ferguson is not a “riot”, it is a demonstration of protest and a crying out of the angst over another unarmed young Black man, being gunned down in the street, by a policeman, who shot him at least six times, when he had his hands in the air. Sure, there are riotous elements to the protest, like when the police launched tear gas and percussion devices at peaceful protesters and some looting and destruction from those that had ulterior motives. The majority of the protesters were exercising their “Constitutional rights”, to which they are entitled to do. They weren’t armed like the Bundy posse, that threatened federal agents, with high powered guns, in Nevada, this year. Now, maybe those are the ones to which you should apply your labels as they were making terroristic threats and coming to the defense of a poacher and thief who owed at least a million dollars to the government. Try applying your labels to them.

  13. weefuddled3 years ago

    Considering the number of blacks convicted of all manner of crimes compared to their percentage of the population, do you Really wonder that the police would be more inclined to be suspicious of young blacks? Just listen to your nightly news cast. Wish it wasn’t so.

    1. Sakonya3 years ago

      Many aspects of the judicial system are anything but fair and there exist broad discrepancies in the way that Blacks and whites are charged, found guilty or not guilty and then penalized. The drug laws are a big example of this, and it runs all the way through the entire system. Justice is not blind, not when it comes to the color of the one brought before her in this country.

  14. Muthyavan.3 years ago

    It is only a short period of time has passed ,since over turning the age old system of slavery and colour discriminatory practices. Breaking that old system in these modern days , there are many colored people in highly educated ranks. In police services, justice , and in all other human services. It will take centuries to forget the bad past and make every body think and believe strongly in their minds regarding the existing present day human equality. More Worse thing are happening in many other part of the world even today, with worse human rights abuses are in practice. Among same coloured type of people, speaking the same languages and practicing the same religion. These so called discriminations and bad treatments are no where close to several hidden practices adopted and practiced in many other part of the dark world.

  15. M. Smith3 years ago

    What you state is the exact opposite of what I hear, repeatedly, on major news stations, obviously not “main” stream media.

  16. M. Smith3 years ago

    The behavior this polling suggests is now, and has been, at the “habit” stage. The people engaged in this mindset are fighting an uphill battle to rid themselves of it. First they will have to “want” to be rid of said behavior before any progress can be made. Any attempts by an outside force to provide an inducement will amount to enabling of the same old behavior.

  17. Kate3 years ago

    I am a white woman who has actually witnessed this via friends who are not white and also work within the legal/correctional field. Black men get longer sentences and are also convicted more often than whites. There is a lot of research that proves this is true from around the country, so it is not mere perception of blacks in the U.S. Additionally, I have seen non-white friends harassed by police, stopped more often, followed in stores and treated disrespectfully, including by fellow restaurant or store customers who assume the person works for the store, etc. I also know people in bi-racial marriages who face judgment and discrimination with complete strangers asking things like “oh, are your children adopted?”

    1. Eddie3 years ago

      There is a big difference between asking questions to acquire an answer, vs. asking questions to be discrimanant.

    2. Jack Dixon3 years ago

      Black crime and incarceration rates spiked in the 1970s and ’80s in cities such as Baltimore, Cleveland, Detroit, Chicago, Philadelphia, Los Angeles and Washington under black mayors and black police chiefs. Some of the most violent cities in the United States today are run by blacks.

  18. paintcan3 years ago

    Seems there should be a civil rights movement with laws that gives that group everything they want .. but ..wait ..didn’t we already do that?

  19. Packard Day3 years ago

    What a coincidence. The vast majority of Americans view blacks (as a cohort, but NEVER as individuals) as…well…criminally inclined. If not that, than certainly as a minority group that tends “to punch way over their weight” with regard to its familiarity with criminal behavior.
    Would that such were not so…