|Issue of the Day: Expectations are High as Holder Assumes Office|
Published Monday, February 9th, 2009
Eric H. Holder Jr.’s swearing-in as the nation’s first black attorney general comes with a heavy expectation of righting wrongs amongst them: disproportionate prison terms for blacks, racial profiling and discrimination in employment and housing. However, in several public statements the new Attorney General has spoken about Civil Rights but did not indicate a great desire to seek out and correct broad wrongs in the criminal code. The last administration tried to limit the use of Racial profiling in a statement 2003, which outlined the guidelines for federal law enforcement officers. President Obama and Attorney General Holder have vowed together the restore public confidence in the department, which has recently been plagued by scandals.
For decades black males have been locked behind bars by the hundreds of thousands, arrested in disproportionate numbers. In fact, black males have experienced the highest rate of imprisonment—6.5 times that of white males and 2.5 that of Hispanic males—of the three major races in the United States. Black males also face execution at rates far greater than those for the general population—approximately 4.5 times more than that of white prisoners and 17.5 times that of Hispanics. In a study of routine traffic stops, racial differences were seen not in stops—blacks and Hispanics were stopped just as often as whites—but overwhelmingly in searches, as blacks and Hispanics were searched nearly 3 times their white counterparts.