How Many Prosecutors Do YOU Think Are White?

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I guess it’s not about numbers.

It’s more about percentages. The percentages reveal more about the problem.

The percentages are more damning.

And here, you can see the percentages — glaring in how deeply they reveal the structural racism of the criminal justice system — in animated form.

Animated to best allow for comprehension, because the depth–the scale–of the criminal justice system’s racism is truly incomprehensible.

The percentages are damning because 95 percent of elected prosecutors across the country are white.

Only one percent of the 2,400 elected prosecutors in the United States are women of color.

And most prosecutors — especially considering the extremely racist impacts of prosecutorial discretion in the criminal justice system — wield even more power than judges or cops.

(Which is terrifying. Because cops in the United States kill U.S. citizens at 70 times the rate that cops kill citizens in other economically dominant countries.)

The animation — a project by the Reflective Democracy Campaign on Who Prosecutes America — illustrates in no uncertain terms the fact that almost 80 percent of prosecutors across the country are white men. Only 31 percent of the population of the United States is white men.

(The amount of power they have? Who wouldn’t be shocked by that?)

These white male prosecutors have almost complete impunity to run the system as they will. Their decisions are “almost entirely outside of public scrutiny.”

And these decisions? These decisions that they make? These decisions include altering the jury pool so that more Black people will be killed by the state, as such:

Federal prosecutors often seek the death penalty in federal court in cases that otherwise would be tried in state jurisdictions with substantial minority populations.  Because the federal districts are much larger – they are made up of many counties – they are predominately white. Crimes that are usually prosecuted in state courts can be prosecuted in federal courts based on any “federal interest” such as a carjacking. Federal prosecutors have repeatedly sought the death penalty in New Orleans, Richmond, St. Louis and Prince Georges County, Maryland, where African Americans make up the majority of the population in the county and the jury pools. The decision to prosecute federally in these jurisdictions alters the racial makeup of the jury pools from predominantly black to predominantly white. Those same federal prosecutors seldom seek the death penalty for crimes that occur in counties with largely white populations.

These decisions include seeking life sentences for possessing small amounts of marijuana.

Life. Sentences.

That means that these decisions include sending mostly people of color to die in prison because they carried pot in their pockets, something that white people like me do daily without fear.

This animation is important. This animation is key.

Because this animation demonstrates why and how so many people of color are sentenced to death, daily, by white men.

And it’s completely legal.

Featured Image Courtesy of [Christian Senger via Flickr]

Jennifer Polish
Jennifer Polish is an English PhD student at the CUNY Graduate Center in NYC, where she studies non/human animals and the racialization of dis/ability in young adult literature. When she’s not yelling at the computer because Netflix is loading too slowly, she is editing her novel, doing activist-y things, running, or giving the computer a break and yelling at books instead. Contact Jennifer at



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