The Declaration of Independence states: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
If the Declaration of Independence states that all are created equal, then why does it keep being ignored? We tend to stereotype people based upon their race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, and social class. As public protests and calls for justice on social media begin to dwindle and America changes its focus, it’s more important now than ever for everyone to take action. My goal is to point out some key issues and to provide solutions to help improve our country together.
Systemic racism and white privilege are key issues that still exist today. The recent case that took place in a South Georgia neighborhood is a prime example. Just a few months ago, an unarmed black man, Ahmaud Arbery was murdered while going on a jog on February 23, 2020. Gregory McMichael and his son Travis McMichael, who are residents of the neighborhood Arbery was jogging in, murdered Arbery by hitting him with their truck and then shooting him. William Brian, who watched the murder take place, testified that Travis McMichael called Arbery an “f-ing n-word” before fatally shooting him three times. There are three underlying problems that still remain beyond the fact that this man was murdered. First, Gregory and Travis McMichael took it upon themselves to make a “citizen’s arrest” because they felt Arbery did not belong in their neighborhood, and considered him a threat. Why did they consider Arbery a threat? Secondly, the murderers were not arrested until 3 months later, on May 7, 2020. This only happened due to increased social media attention by celebrities and others who brought awareness to the case. Why did it take viral status on the internet for the Georgia Bureau of Investigation to address the murder? And lastly, another underlying problem is the legislature. Georgia is one of four states in the U.S. that does not have a hate crime law. So far, the two murderers were charged with murder and aggravated assault. Arbery’s mother, Wanda Cooper-Jones, demands that Georgia pass a hate crime law. She believes that these men should be prosecuted not just for killing her son, but for also targeting him because of the color of his skin. How are there not even laws to help bring justice for hate crimes such as Ahmaud Arbery’s murder? I believe that by working together, we can help bring a reform by voting and electing more officials that stand for equality for all.
Police brutality is another key issue that needs to be changed. In my opinion, not every police officer is bad. However, police reform is needed to change the way they interact with minorities. Police stops or questioning should not result in the killing of minorities, specifically African Americans. With the use of social media and sometimes police body cameras, we have been able to witness police officers that treat African-Americans or other minorities differently than white Americans. In the Stanford Open Policing Project, nearly 100 million traffic stops were investigated between 2011 through 2017. The results concluded that Black and Latino drivers were stopped and searched based on less evidence than white drivers, who are searched less and more likely to have illegal items, according to the study. An example of this unfair treatment is the murder of George Floyd, a 46 year old man who grew up right here in Houston. He attended Jack Yates High School; the same school attended by my dad. It is troubling and traumatizing to see someone so similar to my own father be murdered by the police; the people that are supposed to protect us! On May 25, 2020, George Floyd was being arrested for allegedly using a counterfeit bill. Four police officers were involved in the arrest of Mr. Floyd, including officer Derek Chauvin. Officer Chauvin held down Mr. Floyd by kneeling on his neck, as Mr. Floyd repeatedly pleaded what seems to be a statement that is said far too often by minorities while being restrained by police: “I can’t breathe.” Officer Chauvin proceeded to keep his knee on Mr. Floyd’s neck for a total of eight minutes and forty-six seconds, until the last breath left Mr. Floyd’s body. What was the need for this when Mr. Floyd had already been handcuffed to the ground? What is just as disturbing as this murder is that while Mr. Floyd was held down, the other three officers saw nothing wrong with Officer Chauvin’s actions. They stood there and watched it take place, complicitly. I believe we can prevent more cases like George Floyd’s murder from happening by training our police better. If Officer Chauvin and the other officers were trained differently, or held under stricter rules for what they could and could not do, this type of behavior could and should have been prevented. Methods presented by former President Barack Obama tie into my ideas on solutions to improve our country’s current state. On June 3, 2020, President Obama presented a speech on a live-stream through his Obama Foundation. President Obama offered solutions to police brutality by encouraging people to vote for more minorities for city-wide positions, such as mayors and police chiefs. Both of these positions have the ability to reform the police system and help modify the rules that dictate what officers can do while on the job.
The last key issue is silence. People of all races are too silent when it comes to prejudice and racism. Most white Americans do not get involved because it does not directly affect them. Most minorities and disadvantaged groups only get involved when it directly affects them. We need to ban together as one people, one community and one nation to speak out against racism and things that are wrong.
Prejudice and racism is not just exclusive to African-Americans. Other minority and disadvantaged groups experience similar instances of racism. The LGBTQ+ community faces discrimination due to their preference or how they choose to self-identify. Asian-Americans have been verbally and physically attacked based upon allegations of bringing the Coronavirus to the USA; just because the virus originated in China. And people of Hispanic or Mexican origin have been discriminated against based upon assumption of their legal status. America cannot continue to discriminate against people because they “do not fit the norm”. We must come together and stand for what is right and stop the spread of hatred. As Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”
What if these things happened to you or someone in your family? What if they happened to someone in the SJS Community (past or present)? Would it matter? Would you stand and do something about it?
WE THE PEOPLE . . . RIGHT?
image: Michael Cali, San Diego Union Tribune