President Obama noted in a recent essay that racial bigotry still adversely affects millions of Americans in their interactions with police officers and the courts.
According to Breitbart News, the president called for greater understanding of how lingering prejudices influence the criminal-justice system. “We cannot deny the legacy of racism that continues to drive inequality in how the justice system is experienced by so many Americans,” he wrote in the Harvard Law Review.
In Obama’s 56-page paper, published less than a month before he was to leave office, he pointed to NAACP studies indicating that police officers stop and question African-Americans and Latinos at a much greater rate than whites. People of color also are more likely to receive bigger fines and longer jail sentences.
“If we are to chart honestly the path for criminal-justice reform, we must confront the role of race and bias in shaping the policies that led us to this point,” the president wrote. Referring to his administration having used pardons and clemency orders to release 1,324 prisoners in the past eight years, he added: “While not a substitute for the lasting change that can be achieved by passage of legislation, the clemency power represents an important and underutilized tool for advancing reform.”
Racial issues came under greater scrutiny during the two terms of the nation’s first African-American president. Many conservatives, including the publishers of Breitbart News, never accepted Obama. Donald Trump and others challenged the president’s legitimacy by falsely claiming he was born in Africa.