Institutional Racism: Using Law as a Tool to Perpetuate Racial Inequality

Cheryl Chambers, North Carolina State University

Law is a mechanism we use to instigate social change and bring about equality. It is also the tool that has been and is still used to institutionalize, legitimize and perpetuate inequality. In the past beliefs of racial inferiority and savagery have resulted in legislation designed to perpetuate a group's subordinate status. Utilization of law as a tool to perpetuate racial inequality used to be overt and blatant; however, with the changing political climate and the passage of antidiscrimination laws, it's now covert, not easily recognized, and at times even unintentional. Regardless of intention, discrimination is the outcome. Laws and public policy are created within a historical and political context. In this paper, Marxist and Weberian perspectives are applied to the role of the economy, politics and the state to foster understanding of drug laws and their racial consequences. Additionally, internal colonialism, specifically control over minority group governance and restriction of racial minority's freedom of movement, and Blalock's theory of minority group relations are utilized to examine institutional racism and drug laws. It is hypothesized that a historical analysis of drug laws will illustrate that competition and threat, economic and political, were present prior to the enactment of the laws.

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Updated 05/20/2006