Kaitlyn J Michigan

Racism in Today's America: Justice on Both Sides

America has undergone many phases of racial inequity. Many Americans like to believe racism is all in the past. However, it is crucial that we acknowledge injustices in order to further our country. Ignoring blemished societal foundations will only stunt, reverse and damage our growth and unity.

Dear Mr. or Mrs. President,

Throughout history, America has undergone many different phases of inequality. Our country blossomed into power, and much of this power grew from prejudice-laced foundations. America gained an upper-hand, not only over other countries, but over its own citizens; people became boxed into situations defined by their riches, skin color and social class. As times has passed, the United States has demolished legalized forms of discrimination against those who were formerly oppressed. However, I am here to argue that racism is still a rather encompassing issue throughout our country; though it is not prevalent in every issue of police brutality or arrest, it can be a major a factor in certain cases. It does not exist as legalized racism rather than one embedded within the fundamentals of society. There are many discrepancies amongst the general population in regards to racism, causing resentment that inevitably erupts under tension, contributing to the already harsh political environment. Discrimination grows even more complicated when it is the law enforcement who is suspected of targeting racial minorities. An issue with such indiscernible depths is one likely to further upset the already fragile balance of our nation, which is why it is imperative that the government takes action.

To begin, it is paramount to discuss that not all laws are created. Some laws are actively implemented while others remain idly unenforced.Throughout time, racism has supposedly diminished significantly as a result of the fact that it is no longer legally justified to discriminate or segregate based upon religion, gender, sexuality or ethnicity, as stated in the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The diminishment of de jure discrimination, however, does not necessarily mandate that de facto discrimination also decline. The act was broad and difficult to enforce; results of integration and desegregation were gradual and left many activists unsatisfied for the lack of immediate results4. Though the USA has evidently taken legal action against racism, laws regarding often unregulatable behaviors can be formed more out of good intent than drive to action . Laws dictating treatment of others are often disputable, which leads us instead to consider the options of social reform, education and precautions. However, it is vital to dive further into the issue before proposing remedies.

One great contributor to this issue is racial profiling. Racial profiling developed out of years upon years of legal oppression and the stereotypes that accompanied the situations following the downfall of such oppression. Undoubtedly, slavery and segregation made it exceedingly laborious for racial minorities to craft lives from the same cloth as folks who had not been subjected to the same course of existence; minorities received lower quality educations than majorities, when lower social status already had subjugated them to lower paying jobs. Barred from higher paying jobs, African Americans were boxed into lower class living styles that still remain a stereotype today. Stereotypes were instilled based upon the struggles, hardships and circumstances in which those who were previously oppressed fell victim to. The US government has acknowledged racial profiling and condemns it as both wrong and ineffective in "Guidance Regarding the Use of Race By Federal Law Enforcement Agencies"1. This shows us that the government itself acknowledges the flaw in their system, which is a major step towards fixing it, but also demonstrates the legitimacy of the issue. Despite the fact that such discrimination confirmed by the government itself, many individuals find themselves skeptical of racial profiling. It is often hard to acknowledge and accept discrimination seeing as racism is an ugly component of our history, and it is more comforting to believe it is in the past. It is human nature to form biases, thus, it is inevitable and forgivable, However, in the case that these biases hurt others, we can only overcome them by working to consciously reject them. Such stereotypes have been taught for centuries. We should not be ashamed of acknowledging our issues, but we should be ashamed of shunning them for the sake of being able to sleep at night. It is key to shift to a wider range of focus and peace.

Varying perspectives on racism can be observed more closely, yet generally, within the controversies or passions surrounding the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement, which overarches police brutality and the extent to which racial profiling is part of it. BLM is a solidarity group that includes guiding principles to do with affirming the humanity, contributions and hardships of black people. The growing complexity of misunderstandings between perspectives can be traced to the formation of the All Lives Matter movement in response to the ever growing BLM movement under the claim that it implies black lives are the only ones of importance. This is where lines become blurred and people begin to misinterpret motives. I often hear my peers express this concern, and while I do agree that all lives matter, it is important to acknowledge when they are not being treated in accordance to that notion. Black Lives Matter, when applied to the logic of many other organizations, is not stating that all other lives do not; there are organizations for homeless people, cancer patients, mentally ill people, and disabled people, amongst many others. Those organizations are not discriminating of those who have homes and are in good health, but simply aim to aid those struggling. Likewise, organizations such as Black Lives Matter are meant to give empowerment, support, voice and aid to a certain group of suffering citizens. The violence at BLM protests is more often times than not caused by radicals of the group, police attempting to suppress the peaceful protest, or All Lives Matter protestors. The commonality between the aforementioned three groups is their lack of understanding for the BLM movement’s intentions, which is not unpardonable, but redeemable. The organization is not without flaw, but it is not exclusive and welcomes the support of people of all backgrounds to rally around it. All Lives Matter was formed out of spite for Black Lives Matter (evident within its timing and phrasing), showing discomfort with the strength of a group that was for so long silenced. Groups are often threatened by those who unite against a common cause in the fear that the common cause they unite against could potentially be them. If people were to pause and consider that empowerment does not equal domination, the issue would be far less controversial.

Yet another issue is the manner in which we allow fear to control us. We, as a nation, have collectively decided to allow guns, yet allow firearms to serve as excuses for uncalled for killings. It is our second amendment right to bear arms with a permit, however, in cases such as Philando Castile, a black man, the second amendment proved to be demise. Philando was asked for his license and registration upon being pulled over. Philando informed the officer that he was licensed to carry a weapon and had one with him in the car. The officer commanded that he put his hands and up2. There is controversy on whether or not Philando obeyed this command immediately; some say he reached for something (possibly a permit but also, in the officer's mind, possibly a gun) while others say he followed the officer’s command. Either way, Philando was shot without having harmed or posed a clear threat to the officer. This contrasts immensely with many cases in which legitimate murders or evidently harmful criminals are arrested without being shot, proving that is indeed achievable. Possibly reaching to show evidence of a permit and not immediately following an officer's command cost him his life. Many white gun owners broadly display their second amendment rights, brandishing guns and managing almost with complete certainty, to escape alive3. Unjustified killings and rash action on the part of law enforcement are not acceptable. Though clearly not every situation is one of racial profiling and brutality, there have been enough names turned to hashtags to call attention to the situation. The nation is left in a stir of confusion induced by hazy or nonexistent video footage evidence, inconsistency in the facts of witnesses and the ever-present fear surrounding a heavily armed society such as ours. Stigmas on race enable unfair implementation of such a policy, imposing further bitterness within an already fragile community as privilege is repeatedly denied. 

The people most affected by these issues are racial minorities such as police or minorities like African Americans or Native Americans, however, controversy and misinformation drag almost anyone and everyone in the whirlwind. I have always found the promotion of equality of utmost importance and as someone who cannot stand divisions, hatred, and violence. Despite the fact that I am caucasian, watching the news imposes new stresses on my conscious and strains on my relationships. In America, another thing to relentlessly argue over is the last thing we need. This is not to say that different opinions are detrimental to society; it is only once we allow them to drive us apart that they pose a true threat. It is when an unguilty person’s life becomes simply another tally, another name on the news, and we dismiss it, that we are in trouble. Some might argue racial profiling in law enforcement is not widespread enough to be of major concern, and that, as something based upon internal prejudices, it is not simply regulated. However, in the larger picture, our country has a large multitude of different issues. Issues are not weighed with equal value from one individual to the next, seeing as we all value certain aspects of our lives over others. All issues deserve attention, especially when they concern themselves with problems we allegedly solved long ago. In order to preserve our nation's ideals, any issue that does not abide by them is one of utmost importance in keeping America true to its core morals. Secondly, it is not reasonable to state that racial profiling can be complete eradicated. However, I find it reasonable to say that it can be taught against, and caught on tape when it does occur. These measures would not only benefit those often mistreated by the government, but allow everyone a larger sense of security and faith in our law enforcement. Foreseeable ways in which to put such issues at ease should be acted upon despite that the implementation of these alleviators would not benefit everyone directly. Overall peace and equality should be things all true American people strive for.

As we have observed, internalized racism that results in racial profiling is not easily identified, let alone easily solved. Laws banning discrimination are fruitless in the face of unclear intentions. However, it is not implausible to educate and equip citizens with the means to handle such situations. I believe it is the duty of our government to provide dash and body cams to all law enforcement as concrete evidence for complex cases, as well as to encourage officers to evaluate the situation carefully rather than resort immediately to the use of a gun in self protection (this includes using tasers/non-lethal weapons as first resorts). The police should serve as a force of protection against all things wrong and unjustifiable, which is never exclusionary to the actions of officers themselves. It is not possible to eliminate such situations entirely, but it is possible to encourage better ways in dealing with such situations, whether it be abiding to police commands, having law enforcement use non-lethal defense mechanisms first, and assuring clear evidence to help decipher any unsettling aftermaths. In battling injustice on both sides of the law, we secure not only liberty, but unity and peace of mind.


Kaitlyn J

Bibliographical References

1"The Reality of Racial Profiling." The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. Civil Rights Organization, n.d. Web. 20 Oct. 2016. <http://www.civilrights.org/publications/reports/racial-profiling2011/the-reality-of-racial.html?referrer=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.google.com%2F>.

2 McLaughlin, Eliott C. "Woman Streams Aftermath of Fatal Officer-involved Shooting." CNN. Cable News Network, 8 July 2016. Web. 21 Oct. 2016. <http://www.cnn.com/2016/07/07/us/falcon-heights-shooting-minnesota/>.

3Graham, David A. "The Second Amendment's Second-Class Citizens." The Atlantic. Atlantic Media Company, 7 July 2016. Web. 21 Oct. 2016. <http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2016/07/alton-sterling-philando-castile-2nd-amendment-guns/490301/>.

4"The Civil Rights Act of 1964: A Long Struggle for Freedom: Immediate Impact of the Civil Rights Act." Immediate Impact of the Civil Rights Act. Library of Congress, n.d. Web. 30 Oct. 2016. <https://www.loc.gov/exhibits/civil-rights-act/immediate-impact.html>.