The United States has a prolonged history of systematic racism. From police terrorizing and harassing back neighborhoods to the rapid growth in the incarceration of black women, this country has invoked nothing but trauma in black communities. As a black woman, I have grown to take this country for what it is, who it serves, and who it disregards. I have witnessed dirty stares from white people when I travelled on the 5 train to Wall Street for an internship; those same stares told me I didn’t belong, even though I was born and raised in New York City. As I visited family in the South as a child, I felt unsafe as we passed by confederate flags that were hung from homes and storefronts. I knew at a young age what those flags meant for me and my family, and what it meant for the family of the ones who owned it, and I often asked myself: “Why do they hate me because of the color of my skin?” This hate for black people is not a new discovery, but one that has been broadcasted throughout American history; the time period does not change the overall outcome of how we handle racism, nor does it disappear as the years go by. As the granddaughter of a woman who has seen first-hand the impact of Jim Crow, and the great-great-granddaughter of a slave, I became invested in learning about black history and the history of the country I was born and raised in. I’ve witnessed the injustices bestowed on black people and the killing of black children such as Tamir Rice, 12, and Trayvon Martin, 17, at the hands of police officers. Though I was a young pre-teen, I understood what was happening because I could easily see myself in that position, and I hated the unjust justice system as they always favored the ones who did wrong; though there was video evidence, the perpetrators were always acquitted, fired, or suspended without pay. These are the injustices I witnessed as a child and these are the same injustices I see today as an adult. Systematic racism will unleash a dystopian society in the U.S, bringing us closer to lawlessness, a strong police state, and environmental degradation.
What we see today—riots, protests, the taking down of statues—is just the tip of the iceberg as there is so much built-up anger, tension, mourning, and frustration with systematic racism and police killings. Many people claim that the black community is “whining”, but how much longer do we have to wait in submission for politicians to act while everyone else is first in line for having their problems tackled? How can we justify letting a human in uniform take another life without proper justice? We cannot allow an individual’s mere clothing to justify favoritism in this country, because “Lady Justice” is peeking through her blindfold, allowing the judicial and legislative system to rig the balances.
The black community is angry, and rightfully so, as more and more of our people are being killed, yet no one is being held accountable. As protests arose after the murder of George Floyd, 46 ─an unarmed black man—civilians of Minneapolis, Minnesota, took to the streets in remembrance of and anger in response of Floyd’s murder. Civilians burned down stores in the vicinity of the Minneapolis Police Department—the same precinct that officer Derek Chauvin worked in—and demanded justice, not just and arrest and charge. An arrest and a charge are not the icing on the cake, it is merely raw batter and not yet developed. We have seen officers being arrested, put on trial, and acquitted of those charges. Our anger is not because we are “angry black people”; our anger is for the constant let down that our government has served every time. Our outrage is not projected at the innocent, but the guilty; the guilty that the political system sweeps under the rug in hopes that no one will notice. Understandably, looting takes away from the message of peace and equality; the burning of buildings and businesses share that same fate as well. However, we much realize that this destruction, one in which destroys other environmental resources in the process (i.e. smoke and air quality, surrounding parks and trees) will continue, but it will also cease if there is justice and it will cease if there is action and accountability (one in which Qualified Immunity could support).
The murder of George Floyd sparked protests around the country, and even across the world, in places such as France and Britain. However, no matter how hard we try to make a difference, someone else is killed and is a victim of racial biases. Recently, in Atlanta, Georgia, according to CNN, Rayshard Brooks, 27, was shot twice in the back and killed by police as he ran away from them. No amount of training will prevent racist cops from terrorizing, harassing, and killing black people. No amount of “diversity training” will prevent some people who join the force with ill intent to wreak havoc because of their ignorance. Brooks was reportedly being arrested for a DUI whilst falling asleep in his vehicle at a Wendy’s drive-through. Though the arrest was justifiable, the killing was not. When an individual turns their back and runs away from you, they are no longer deemed a threat, however, officer Garret Rolfe did not seem to think so as he opened fired on Brooks. According to the United States Department of Justice Archives, the 1995 memorandum of the Policy Statement for the use of deadly force states:
“Law enforcements officers and correctional officers of the Department of Justice may use deadly force only when necessary, that is, when the officer has reasonable belief that the subject of such force poses and imminent danger of death or serious physical injury to the officer or to another person (Attorney General).”
Though Brooks wrestled a taser from one of the officers and pointed the taser away from him whilst running away—without direct aim—the officers, in this situation, should shoot to disarm, not to kill, as a taser is a non-lethal weapon. This case may be different from George Floyd, or even Breonna Taylor [a 26 year-old black woman, and EMT who was shot and killed in her home in Louisville, Kentucky, by police after being suspected of having drugs in her home]; however, what we must understand is the regular deadly encounters that black men and women have with police officers. We must understand that if these individuals were white, they would still be alive today, at home with their loved ones.
The police state is a tactic used by the government to involve the police in secretly supervising citizens’ activities. According to the History Channel, the Black Panther Party was formed in Oakland, California by two African American men, Huey Newton and Bobby Seale, who brought together black men and women to fight for their rights and to stand up against police brutality. This Party received massive media attention as members of the Black Panther Party lawfully armed themselves with guns as they protested in the streets. Eventually, the police engaged with two members, Fred Hampton, and Mark Clark, shooting them, and killing them in their apartments while they were asleep. The FBI used one of the members of the Party ─William O’Neal─ as an informant, taking down the Party. The police state is nothing new and we have seen an increased number of police presence in black neighborhoods in recent years. The police presence has always left a traumatizing shadow on the black community as police officers who have sworn to protect and serve refrain from doing so. Instead, some police officers believe that because they are law enforcement, they are above the law, often getting away with murder and potential framing black individuals for crimes they did not commit. This is systematic racism at play in this country and the lack of action from those in power will accelerate our path to a dystopian society. What makes a society a dystopia is civilian resistance, control from the government, and environmental degradation as a result. Recently, peaceful protests during the day turned into riots at night. Today, we are entering such a society because of the racial injustices that this country has put off for too long, and now that the alarm has blared, we cannot ignore it any longer.
Systematic racism is not only an issue within policing but also the justice system. The justice system has always been opposed to the black community. Black women are often victims of such bias as the rates of incarceration have increased in recent years. Black woman, though we make up 13 percent of the general U.S population, represent 30 percent of all incarcerated women, according to the ACLU. Black women have had stereotypes labeled against them, often being named the “welfare queen”. This stereotypical label displayed on black women, however, has not stopped systematic racism. It costs more to incarcerate an individual than it does to provide an income for people on welfare, who often must work more than one job to make ends meet. On average, it costs $31,000 to incarcerate an individual; some costs can range up to $60,000 in some states (Marketplace.org). However, these costs could be used to help some black women on welfare, but this system would rather place someone in jail—sometimes under false pretenses—than assist in the longevity of its underserved citizens.
Black women have been targeted for their reproductive rights as the racist origins of abortions were used to prevent black women from conceiving. Margaret Sanger, a feminist, and advocate for women’s reproductive rights, successfully implanted the use of birth control methods such as contraceptives and abortions. Sanger originally had the intention of helping women keep their sexuality intact whilst not having to worry about conceiving—giving women the choice to bear a child. In the book “Killing the Black Body: Race, Reproduction, and the Meaning of Liberty” by author Dorothy Roberts, Roberts explained that though Sanger did not intentionally seek to control the black population, she did allow eugenicists to use her methods of planned parenthood to the “unfit” population. Roberts writes:
“Even if the Negro Project did not intend to exterminate the Black population, if facilitated the goals of eugenicists. Eugenicists considered Southern Blacks to be especially unfit to breed based on theory of “selected migration,” which held that the more intelligent Blacks tended to migrate to the north, leaving the less intelligent ones behind.[…] research did not stop plans to reduce Southern Blacks’ birthrate (Roberts, 79).”
This country has taken every opportunity to undermine the progression of black people. A simple plan to assist women in preventing pregnancy, has turned into a project to reduce the birthrate of blacks who were deemed “unfit” and “unintelligent”. Placing black women behind bars –as well as the utilization of planned parenthood—ensures that we do not have the ability to reproduce, placing us “back” into slavery—working in prisons whilst barely an income. Incarcerated people generally earn $3.45 per hour, except for some states that can dive as low as 33 cents— not including some states don’t pay their prisoners (Prison Policy). Typically, prisoners earn their wages by partaking in custodial work, maintenance, and other recreations positions. As stated previously, black women make up 30 percent of all incarcerated women in the United States, taking us back into labor.
Where there is justice, peace will follow close behind. Many can argue that voting is going to help our system and change the state of the country today. However, voting is simply the tip of the iceberg as we wait in submission on empty promises from corrupted politicians. We can prevent a dystopian society not only by voting in new officials, but by dealing with the ones we have in power right now—from the local level to the presidential level. We need the officials in power to propose a plan of action for justice, accountability and cease favoritism and biased theories. Our democracy is slipping away as politicians have continued to ignore our voices, though they are loud and clear and have been for centuries. Without the hard work and free labor of black people in America, we would not be where we are today. Nearly all our infrastructure in place today is because of the blood, sweat, and tears of the Africans who were treated like animals, torn away from their country and their families unwillingly. From historic buildings such as the Capitol and the White House, to our roads, railroads, cultivating crops that have made the economy of his country, black people have carried this country on their backs whilst being treated like anything other than human. We were not paid, we were not volunteers, we were not willing to leave our families, nor watch them die in a world unfamiliar. The United States would not be where it is today without black people. This country cannot continue to lie about its prolonged history of lies, prejudice and injustice, praising the “founders” who were biased and racist. This country cannot afford injustices as the riots will continue to worsen, and this war on race will be fueled by the fire of injustice and police incompetence. This country cannot thrive on a President who does not uphold the law, who lies to the public, who holds racist values, and who holds childish tendencies as they tweet from behind their smartphones. If we can prevent a dystopian society by changing the system from the people who are already in power, we will prevent chaos, and the further progression of a dystopian society altogether; its starts with holding the people in power accountable, and ends with justice.
Almasy, S., Yan, H., & Maxouris, C. (2020, June 16). Family and officials say Rayshard Brooks didn’t have to die. Retrieved June 21, 2020, https://www.cnn.com/2020/06/15/us/rayshard-brooks-atlanta-shooting-monday/index.html
“Attorney General October 17, 1995 Memorandum on Resolution 14 (Attachment).” The United States Department of Justice, The United States Department of Justice, 8 Mar. 2017, www.justice.gov/archives/ag/attorney-general-october-17-1995-memorandum-resolution-14-attachment-0.
Black Women Statistics. (2020, February 27). Retrieved June 21, 2020, from https://blackdemographics.com/population/black-women-statistics/
Facts about the Over-Incarceration of Women in the United States. (n.d.). Retrieved June 21, 2020, from https://www.aclu.org/other/facts-about-over-incarceration-women-united-states
History.com Editors. (2017, November 03). Black Panthers. Retrieved from https://www.history.com/topics/civil-rights-movement/black-panthers Mills, E. (2019, April 29).
How much does it cost to send someone to prison? Retrieved June 21, 2020, from https://www.marketplace.org/2017/05/19/how-much-does-it-cost-send-someone-prison
Initiative, Prison Policy. “How Much Do Incarcerated People Earn in Each State?” Prison Policy Initiative, 10 Apr. 2017, www.prisonpolicy.org/blog/2017/04/10/wages/.
Roberts, Dorothy. Killing the Black Body: Race, Reproduction, and the Meaning of Liberty. Penguin, 1997.