You’ve seen it everywhere lately. Unless you’ve been hiding under an incredibly immense boulder, you’re aware what’s going on in Ferguson, Missouri. You’re aware what’s going on in New York City. You’re aware that widespread protests, riots, and general civil unrest are permeating the streets of American cities and towns from coast to coast.
You know the material facts – that two unarmed black men are dead, killed by police officers. You know that there are two sides to the issue – one side defending the police officers’ actions as justifiable, and the other side condemning the men in uniforms for committing what amounts to homicide.
No matter which side of the issue you land on, I think we can all agree that it’s a topic which requires further discussion. The media may be blasting the stories through your television and filling the pages of your newspapers 24/7, but this time it is not overkill. There are major problems in America, and we need solutions.
These two tragic events give rise to a myriad of topics that warrant discussion. It’s about race relations in America. It’s about equality and civil rights. It’s about the abject failure of the American “justice” system, and how far we’ve deviated from the ideals upon which this country was founded. It’s about the American military complex and propensity for violence that permeates the lives of those stateside and abroad. There is so much broken that we have never really attempted to fix. The time to change that is now.
This is an issue of race because two unarmed black men were killed by white police offers. This is an issue of race because black people are 30% more likely than white people to be imprisoned for committing the exact same crimes. This is an issue of race because black people are more than three times as likely to be killed by police officers than white people. One can argue that this is because black people commit crimes much more frequently than whites, but this is merely an argument of the chicken versus the egg. When such a disproportionate number of black men and women are imprisoned, killed, and kept living in poverty, it creates a self-fulfilling prophecy of broken families and tragic, hopeless situations. We are not removed from the age of racism. American xenophobia and biases are as prevalent as ever, even if they are expressed in markedly different ways than the dark ages of slavery and segregation. All people should be treated equally in this county, something which we are still struggling to achieve.
This is an issue of our justice system failing to do its most basic duties – namely, protecting the inalienable rights granted to all United States citizens in our much-venerated Constitution. Being an American gives you the luxury of having your fate decided by a jury of your peers, in a court of law. There is no subsection in the Bill of Rights that grants police officers the right to play judge, jury, and executioner in the court of city streets. There is no provision instructing judges and DAs to sentence those with more melanin in their skin to harsher prison sentences. We need to trust our justice system, not fear it. And truth be told, we’re a long way from this happening.
This is an issue of the American tendencies toward violence and hate. Our country has a long history of using bloodshed and aggression in places where more peaceful, diplomatic measures could easily suffice. This extends to the furthest corners of our borders any beyond; the trigger-happy, militant police officers that make the news for all the wrongs reasons are symptoms of the same disease that allows us to bomb buildings full of civilians overseas. We need to focus more on love and acceptance instead of hate and fear.
Because, that’s what all this boils down to – longstanding inequities etched into the very fabric of this wonderful country. America is still the greatest country on earth, but we can always be better. No matter where you land on these current issues, be part of the conversation.
If your voice is never heard, if you never contemplate these issues and do your duty to be a part of the remedy to our society’s ills, you may just be the next person being zipped up in a body bag, or the person holding the smoking gun and facing the scorn of the masses.
Let’s all work on becoming an example for the rest of the world again. If you’re not a part of the solution, you are part of the problem.