RACISM: How African Americans are treated under the law.

Following the recent protests and violence that has erupted in cities across the country over the death of African American, George Floyd after he was physically restrained and murdered by police in Minneapolis.

Data have been drawn around crime and justice related cases in the country, and what it shows about the experience of African-Americans when it comes to law and order. 


African-Americans are arrested for drug abuse at a much higher rate than white Americans, although surveys show drug use at similar levels.

Drug Abuse arrests by race

Hispanics are not counted separately. Others are Asian, American-Indian, Hawaiin or Pacific islanders.

According to FBI and US Census Bureau data for 2018, about 750 out of every 100,000 African-Americans were arrested for drug abuse, compared to around 350 out of every 100,000 white Americans.

Previous national surveys on drug use show that white people use drugs at similar rates, but African-Americans continue to get arrested at a higher rate. For example, a study by the American Civil Liberties Union found that African-Americans were 3.7 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than whites, even though their rate of marijuana usage was comparable.


More African Americans are imprisoned. According to the latest data, blacks are imprisoned at five times the rate of white Americans and at almost twice the rate of Hispanic-Americans.

Prison Population per 100,000 people by race

Source: US Census Bureau, Bureau of Justice Statistics

In 2018, African-Americans made up around 13% of the country’s population, but represented almost a third of the country’s prison population. White Americans made up around 30% of the prison population, despite representing more than 60% of the total US population. That’s more than 1,000 African-American prisoners for every 100,000 African-Americans, compared to around 200 white inmates for every 100,000 white Americans.

The US prison population is defined as inmates sentenced to more than a year in a federal or state prison. Imprisonment rates have dropped for African-Americans over the last decade, but they still make up more of the prison population than any other race.


Source: US Census Bureau, Bureau of Justice Statistics (2019)

According to the figures available for incidents in which the police shoot and kill people shows that African-Americans are at higher chances of being fatally shot relative to their overall numbers in the population. In 2019, although African-Americans made up less than 14% of the population (according to official census figures), they accounted for more than 23% of the just over 1,000 fatal shootings by the police and that figure has been relatively consistent since 2017, whereas the number of white victims has come down since then.

Against the backdrop of these inhuman treatments against the black community, what can be done to make the country more habitable for all races?

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