Parallel from the Past

As society moves forward we convince ourselves that we are moving further from the discriminating actions that we have all been taught in the past. The real truth is that we are only improving and have a long ways to go. An example of this comes from issues within our legal system and its problem with unfair treatment between minorities and non-minorities with respect to punishments.

It is important to note that unfair treatment based on social standing has been around since written law was first employed. The Code of Hammurabi is a great example of what unfair treatment based on social standing means as many of the laws within were intended to treat a group unfair depending on their status on the social hierarchy. For example, the Code of Hammurabi says, “If he has destroyed the eye of a peasant, or broken a bone of a peasant, he shall pay one mina of silver.”[1] This is important because it proves the unequal treatment of people based on where they stand in society.

The Code of Hammurabi definitely comes off as shocking when you first read it causing us to question how citizens could ever agree to such a law code. However, it has some very close parallels with today’s judicial system in the United States, such as the unequal treatment of minorities when it comes to punishments. For example, a member of a minority is more likely to be searched and arrested for drug possession compared to a non-minority member. According to the Drug Policy Alliance, minority groups throughout the United States have been victims to this unfair treatment by the law and it is shown by the percentage of incarcerated minorities for drug offenses.[2] Minorities make up 80% of all people in the United States who have been incarcerated for drug possession which seems unreasonable because minorities are definitely not the only possessors of drugs. This suggests the fact that minorities are treated differently and are held to different standards of the law compared to non-minorities.

The punishment minorities receive is disproportional to the punishments that non-minorities receive. How can it be possible that 80% of all drug possession charges belong to a minority of the United States? This finding is an indicator to the unfair treatment in our current legal system. From the outside looking in, the Code of Hammurabi is a thing of the past that is easy to brush off without any further investigation. When it is given a deeper look, what is found can be alarming to those who demand fair treatment of all people regardless their societal standing. The code encouraged the unfair treatment of people based on their social status. Not to say that the United States’ legal system encourages the unfair treatment of people, however, it does not protect against the unfair treatment of people based on their social status.

Accepting this reality is step one to destroying the flaw within our legal system. Refraining from creating excuses on how to defend against the claim that minorities are treated differently is a case not about politics or social status, it is a case about people. Treating people fairly regardless of their title, position, race, or income should be the goal for us moving forward.

Jonathan H. Lopez

Word Count: 555, Quotes: 23


[1] Code of Hammurabi

[2] “Race and the Drug War.” Drug Policy Alliance, http://www.drugpolicy.org/issues/race-and-drug-war.

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