Mar. 12, 2014
by Dr. Chenelle Jones – Ohio Dominican University
Media outlets are constantly bombarding the general public with negative images of African Americans. These images often perpetuate irrational fears, negative stereotypes, false ideologies, and inaccurate perceptions. In fact, when typing “black people” into a google image search bar, many of the results render racists stereotypes including caricatures salivating over fried chicken and mug shots of Black men. These images, commonly known as microaggressions, are birthed from implicit and explicit racist ideologies. The problem however, is that they do not describe the majority of African Americans and far too often, they overshadow the good that is being done in the African American community.
In addition, many of these negative images are used to convince the nation that the problem in America lies with the African American community when in reality, African Americans are not the problem. They have made great progress over the years. The following list sheds some light on the accomplishments of African Americans, and includes a few positive facts about Blacks in criminal justice.
1. Majority of African Americans are NOT incarcerated. There are approximately 44.5 million African Americans in the U.S., of which, nearly 825,000 are confined in a local jail, state, or federal prison. That is 1% of the entire African American population.
2. There are more African Americans in college than in prison. In 2012, the U.S. Department of Education reports there were nearly 3.7 million African Americans enrolled in college. That is more than four times the amount of African Americans confined in a local jail, state, or federal prison.
3. There are more African Americans with advanced degrees. In 2012, the U.S. Department of Education reports nearly 1.6 million African Americans held advanced degrees. That is more than double the number of African Americans incarcerated.
4. There are more African American business owners. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, there were nearly 2 million Black-owned business in 2012, that’s nearly triple the number of African Americans incarcerated.
5. There are more African Americans who served in the military. According to the U.S. Census, there were nearly 2.4 million Black veterans in 2012, that’s triple the number of African Americans in prison.
6. The number of African Americans in state and federal prisons is decreasing. In fact, from 2011 to 2012, there has been a 5% decrease in the amount of African Americans in state and federal prisons.
7. Arrest rates for African Americans are decreasing. Over the last 17 years, total arrests for African Americans have decreased by nearly 25%, v*****t crime arrests have decreased by 25%, and murder arrests have decreased by 54%.
8. Homicide rates in major cities are decreasing. In 2013, New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, and Los Angeles all reported lower homicide rates than years past. In fact, both New York and Chicago reported record low homicide rates.
9. Once released from prison, most African Americans are not rearrested within a year. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, 77% of all African Americans remain free of a new arrest and 76% of African American men remain free of a new arrest with a year.
10. African American drug abuse violations are decreasing. According to the Uniform Crime Report, drug abuse violations among African Americans have decreased 11% over the last 17 years, compared to a 12% increase among White Americans.
11. More African Americans are filling judicial positions. Although there is still a lot of room for improvement, the American Bar Association reports a 4% increase in the amount of African American judges from 1990 to 2013.
12. More African Americans are filling policing positions. Although there is still a lot of room for improvement, the U.S. Department of Labor reports the percentage of African Americans in policing positions increased from 13.6% in 2008 to 14.2% in 2013. This is important because diverse police departments are essential to developing positive police/community relations.
It is important to recognize the collective accomplishments of African Americans in criminal justice. Far too often, the public is fed news of record high crime rates, black criminality, and other fallacies that influence the ways in which many African Americans are perceived. Unfortunately, these perceptions are resoundingly negative. It’s time for African Americans to use their collective voice to combat these fallacies, recreate positive images, and speak to the good works of the community.