The perception lingers that justice remains far from color-blind. James B. Eaglin, chairman of the National Association of Blacks in Criminal Justice, was quoted as saying, There is a view in this country that if you're poor and black or Hispanic or Native American, you won't get a fair deal; and the basic contentions that there are biases at every level of the system are well founded (Simpson, 17). Awards for black victims in civil suits are a third or sometimes half the amount of those given to white plaintiffs. Other studies show that sentences for black criminals tend to be longer than those handed down to whites convicted of similar crimes.
Defenders of the existing system say that sentencing decisions are based on objective measures such as prior arrests, employment history and stability of family background, factors that are commonly believed to predict whether the culprit will err again.
Critics argue that these standards stack the deck against the member of a minority group; they are likened to the literacy tests once used to prevent Southern blacks from voting. Some of the criteria that sound neutral and non-racially discriminatory are in effect proxies for race.
More black faces on the bench, or even at the stenographer's table, might prove to be just as helpful. Franklin Williams, chairman of the New York State Judicial Commission on Minorities, was quoted as saying, when a black person walks into a court and sees a white judge, white prosecutors, white clerks, white stenographers, do you think they are going to believe they are going to get justice? Black attorney frequently complain that they are not accorded the same respect that their white colleagues receive. Archibald Murray, executive director of the Legal Aide Society in New York City, says black members of...