Conflict theory offers the most comprehensive explanation for the disproportional involvement of racial and ethnic minority’s involvement in the CJS and apparent criminality. Recount the story of Raymond Tyler who was released from prison after serving nearly 30 years of what I am assuming was a life sentence for crimes he did not commit (his exoneration having been based) on irrefutable DNA evidence. His conviction for these [black on white] offenses was based on the “eyewitness” testimony of the victims, who being only 11 and 12 years old are legally defined as children. Other exculpatory testimony was apparently disregarded presumably because it came from Mr. Tyler’s friends and therefore could not be trusted unlike the “eyewitness” testimony of the victims whose veracity despite their age and the traumatizing nature of the event itself, should have given a “reasonable” person pause. In addition there was no damning physical evidence of Mr. Tyler’s involvement or guilt. Meaning Mr. Tyler was in fact just another in a long line of victims, scapegoats, straw men, and other entities of collateral damage produced by the ongoing conflict between those with power and those without it. History provides numerous examples of this conflict as well as the many different factors and facets of its nature. Exhibit one is America’s own history which includes the oppression and “extermination” of this continents’ aboriginal persons who due to an error in judgment became known as “Indians”. Clearly in this case the ensuing events ultimately led to a struggle for power and eventually survival for members of the weaker group whom even upon their defeat continued to be defined as deviants by those with power thus needing further control, segregation, and re-socialization. Exhibit two, the de jure institution of slavery in a nation founded upon ideals of the Age of Reason otherwise known as the Enlightenment such as “inalienable rights”, the Rule of Law, impartial justice, and egalitarianism, and which had no less just fought a war in hopes of “freeing” itself from “tyranny and oppression”. Could/would anyone today really try to make a case for a slave owner vs. an enslaved person arguing for his freedom? Perhaps, nonetheless most of us would reject the “right” of a slaveholder attempting to claim ownership of another human being. Yet many of us uphold the right of “society” to force its values and laws on others wishing to reject them based on the “greater-good”. Interestingly this is essentially the same argument used to defend de jure slavery in colonial times then later during Jim Crow and it’s the same argument used now to make Constitutional end runs around many of today’s issues.
These and many others examples plainly make the case for conflict theory and it’s dynamic of the have’s dictating to the have-nots what [is] good or bad, right or wrong, legal or illegal. All in terms ultimately designed to protect the interests of a shifting group of elites who hold the reins of power. However unlike a pure dictatorship, to ensure its hold on power a democracies collective body of norms, mores, and laws must contain enough overlapping values at any one time to provide cohesion amongst a plurality of the members of the dominant culture thus appearing to be a republic in nature while in truth it is likely more a plutocracy. The simple reason for the disproportional minority/ethnic involvement with the CJS lies in the near certainty, that it is these groups and the persons who make them up that comprise those having less power and as such they have been and are structurally discriminated against, labeled, controlled, and disenfranchised by those who do (Walker, Spohn & Delone, 2012).
- The Durability of Race (racefiles.wordpress.com)
- Danette Clark: ‘The Reparation Agenda: Obama’s Race Rhetoric literally scripted by Reparations Movement and international law’ (rbo2.com)
- Building Cultures: Social Classes, The Lowest Rung (Part Two) (gnomestew.com)
- ‘Master’ Jefferson: Defender Of Liberty, Then Slavery (npr.org)
- A tipping point in the fight against slavery? (bbc.co.uk)
- Slave Farms in the 21st Century: Reflections on the Socio-economic and School Pipeline to Prison (dogmaandgeopolitics.wordpress.com)
- Slavery’s Legacy (wnyc.org)
- Will ‘White’ and ‘Black’ Lose Their Meaning? (theroot.com)