The Justice System is Racist: Let’s Talk About It

Kyron Stevenson '24

Gabby Petito, a 22 year old white woman, went missing while on a trip with her white fiance. This incident received significant media attention, disproportionate to that received by the 400 missing indigenous people in Wyoming. Let’s unpack this.

Gabby Petito has been the subject of many news outlets ever since her disappearance. Body cam footage was found and used to locate her remains. Now the authorities are searching for her fiance, who was last seen on a boat; by this point, he could be anywhere in the world. 

According to Insider, between 2011 and 2020 in Wyoming there were 710 indigenous people that went missing, most of whom were young girls. 

While many people go missing in each state, very few of them get media coverage. There are hundreds of other missing persons cases or homicides of BIPOC people that have gone unnoticed by police departments. This issue spans the entire American justice system and how it prioritizes and favors white people over everyone else. This is not fair and needs to stop immediately.

The problem is not that Gabby Petito is getting media coverage, because she definitely deserves it. It’s the fact that this country refuses to see the privilege given to white people in the justice system. 

According to the American Bar Association, African Americans are incarcerated in star prisons five times more than white people. Keep in mind that African Americans make up about 13.4% of the population and white people make up over 60% of the population. However, the Black community also makes up about 35% of the individuals executed by the death penalty. So there is a clear inequality. 

These disparities in the justice system clearly go beyond just police officers – they go to the courtroom. In an article from the Marshall Project, a study of North Carolina death penalty cases stated that Black people were removed from juries at twice the rate of other races. All Americans have the right to a jury, but when there are that many less black people on a jury deciding what to do with somebody’s life, there is clear inequity. 

Hiring a lawyer is a prominent problem as well. The courtroom doesn’t just favor white people, but also favors the wealthy. Lawyers are expensive and the best lawyers usually go to the first class. Then the middle class are left with some decent lawyers, while the lower class may not be able to afford a lawyer and are thereby given public defenders. 

Public defenders are overworked. According to The NY Times, there was a lawyer who had 194 clients at once, all ranging from misdemeanors to cases that ended with life without parole. He needed to do the work of full time lawyers just to defend all of his clients properly, which is near impossible. 

The justice system of America is racist. My heart goes out to all of the people of color that the justice system has failed. 

For every missing or murdered white woman you see in the media, there are hundreds of BIPOC people that aren’t getting what they need and deserve from the justice system.

America has a lot to work on in its justice system. Let’s be aware of the problem and be a part of change.