The country was reminded of that fact when whites and blacks reacted in different ways to the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.
80 percent of African Americans said the incident raised important ideas about race in the week after the killing.
In contrast, 47 percent of whites said the issue of race was getting more attention than it deserved.
Whites are used to seeing the police as a source of safety rather than danger, and often fail to understand what such incidents look like from the other side of the racial divide.
As Ferguson struggled for calm, sympathy for the police officer who shot Brown generated several online efforts to raise funds for him and his family.
The betrayal of the public trust by law enforcement officers who believe that black men are more dangerous than whites was one of the reasons why the Brown murder was not an exception.
Colin Kapernick, a quarterback for the San Francisco 49er, knelt during the national anthem in 2016 to protest police violence.
The players who followed his example were accused of protesting the flag or anthem instead of highlighting the violence they were trying to highlight.
The owners of the National Football League decided to fine players who took a knee during the anthem after President Trump weighed in.
It is painfully clear that African Americans and white Americans don't experience the same things when it comes to the criminal justice system.
The practice of "stop-and-frisk" tactics in black neighborhoods in New York City, for example, is technically random in nature but affects mostly black men.
Blacks and black men tend to see the police as persecutors rather than protectors.
Justice Sheindlin called for reforms and a federal monitor to oversee them, but stopped short of ending the practice entirely.
A study shows that blacks are three times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than whites, and that young whites use marijuana at higher rates than blacks.
The criminal justice system is not the only factor that divides Americans.
Income makes it harder to equal treatment by the law.
Half of the people who were convicted of felonies in the United States were enthusiastic about their assignments.
The pay is modest and sometimes irregular.
The quality of legal representation available to the poor is not as good as that available to those who can afford it.
John H. Langbein is a law professor at Yale.
The wealthy can afford crackerjack lawyers who can use the "defense lawyer's bag of tricks for sowing doubts, casting aspersions, and coaching witnesses," but "if you are not a person of means, if you cannot afford to engage the elite defense-lawyer industry--and Protestors took to the streets of Ferguson, Missouri, to express their anger over what they saw as a pattern of unfair treatment by the police.
Equal access is an issue for the civil justice system.
In our lifetimes, most of us will have some legal problems.
There is no guarantee that low-income defendants will get legal assistance in civil cases, despite the Supreme Court ruling.
Less affluent citizens have recourse for their legal problems.
There are both public and private legal aid programs.
The Legal Services Corporation was created by Congress in 1974 and provides resources to more than 100 legal aid programs around the country.
The LSC helps people with legal problems such as housing, employment, family issues, finances, and immigration.
Conservatives have feared that this program has a left-wing agenda.
Many of the legal needs of the less affluent are not being addressed through the legal system.
The civil justice system ends up discriminating because people of color and women are more likely to be poor than are white men.
The arguments do not mean that the U.S. justice system has not made progress toward equal justice.
The lives of African Americans are still at risk in the justice system.
Since Michael Brown's murder, the Black Lives counternarrative about the justice system in the United States that has helped to bring the experience of African Americans home to whites in a new way.
Hillary Clinton invited the mothers of young black men slain by police to the Democratic National Convention in 2016 in order to put the public spotlight on that narrative.
The mothers occasionally joined her on the campaign trail, as they took the stage to chants of "Black Lives Matter".
Let's revisit: What's at stake.
The possibility of being caught without an elected leader at a critical time has been put into a broader perspective by the national crisis that began with the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001.
Changing national circumstances and subsequent elections don't mean that the Court's unusual and controversial move in resolving the 2000 election shouldn't be analyzed.
Justice Stevens pointed out at the time that the long-term consequences of people's attitudes toward the Court were at risk.
It is more difficult to maintain that illusion now that most people don't see it as political.
The justices, speaking around the country, tried to contain the damage and reassured Americans that the decision was not made on political or ideological grounds.
But fifteen years later, retired Justice O'Connor expressed some regrets, not about the ruling itself or her vote in it, but about the Court's decision to get involved at all.
O'Connor wondered if the court should have said "We're not going at stake in such a deeply divided decision was the Court's own internal stability and ability to work together."
The confidentiality of the justices' discussions in arriving at the decision has been well guarded, but the decision itself shows that they were acrimonious.
The justices tried to put a unified front on what was clearly a bitter split.
Justice Scalia told an audience that if you can't disagree without hating each other, you better find another profession.
The members of the Supreme Court are used to disagreeing over important issues and probably handle the level of conflict more easily than the Americans who look up to them as diviners of truth and right.