America has a racism problem. It’s not new, and it was not resolved with the Civil Rights Movement. The United States is filled with racists, and that is the truth, whether it offends people or not. Many people want to believe that everything is equal in this nation, for all races. They claim: “I don’t see race” (I know because I have heard these things), when we all know that begging race blindness is insulting, insincere, and a lie. These same people scoff at Black Lives Matter and respond to the injustice that BLM highlights with, “Blue Lives Matter”.
These are the people who defended George Zimmerman’s right to murder Trayvon Martin because Trayvon was wearing a hoodie and “looked suspicious”.
Zimmerman was found not guilty.
They argue that the police officers that murdered John Crawford III in an Ohio Walmart were justified. Mr. Crawford was holding a toy bb gun, and the cops shot Crawford because some anonymous racist claimed that Crawford was threatening people with a gun in the store. The store video footage proves this was a lie.
The cops were found not guilty.
They argue that Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old boy, got what was coming to him when cops pulled up at a park and shot him dead, without even stopping to see if the gun was real. Why were the cops called? Because some racist felt threatened by a 12-year-old African American boy playing with his bb gun in the park.
The cops were found not guilty.
I, along with thousands of other Americans, watched the murder of Philando Castile on video. Castile had been pulled over for a broken brake light, was legally licensed to carry a firearm, told the cop that he had a gun, and was shot dead within seconds, in front of his girlfriend and her 4-year-old daughter.
But that cop was found not guilty.
An endless list of victims with predictable “not guilty” verdicts. The pattern is clear. Why aren’t more of us wondering, do black lives matter?
In the aftermath of these killings and the outrage they create, the roar of the people defending the cops is deafening. “He had a police record”, “He shouldn’t have…”, “If a police officer tells you to do something, you do it…” These arguments are racist and despicable. The fact that police officers get away with murdering people of color, regularly, is a horrifying reality in the United States, “the land of the free”.
Not all police officers murder people of color. Not all police officers are bad. Many of them are good, and I know some personally who are exemplary human beings. The problem is that rather than admitting that there are some evil people wearing the uniform and gun, killing innocent people, most police officers and their supporters rally around the shooter! Why not admit that there are some incompetent people in their profession? Why not admit that there are evil people in their ranks? The reality is that if you take any group of people, you will have evil within that group. I am a public school teacher, and I don’t rally around and defend the perverted actions of the evil teachers out there. I, and many of my colleagues, denounce their evil deeds, and we call it what it is. There are evil teachers, evil accountants, evil store managers, etc. The good police officers and the police unions need to be honest, take stock, and become change agents for good. They must not allow the murders and excuses to continue.
Over 2,000,000 Americans are Imprisoned in this Nation
The criminal justice system in this country is broken and corrupt. Our nation has the highest prison population in the world. Apparently, the United States is the best in the world in imprisoning its citizens. According the NAACP, this number grew astronomically from around 500,000 in 1980 to 2.2 million Americans today. With the advent of private prisons, incarcerating humans has become a profit-maker.
The NAACP highlights the racial disparity of the United States prison population: “Though African Americans and Hispanics make up approximately 32% of the US population (combined), they comprised 56% of all incarcerated people in 2015” (http://www.naacp.org/criminal-justice-fact-sheet/).
As for the risk of being killed by police, the statistics on African American males is startling. A study by The Guardian found that: “Young black men were nine times more likely than other Americans to be killed by police officers” (https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2015/dec/31/the-counted-police-killings-2015-young-black-men).
In 2016, Colin Kaepernick and Eric Reid of the NFL San Francisco 49ers decided to peacefully protest the murder of unarmed African Americans as well as the immoral criminal justice system in this nation. They chose to take a knee during the playing of the national anthem before the NFL football games began. This silent protest has sparked heated debate as well as racially motivated insults, smears, and censure.
At a rally in Alabama on September 22, 2017, Donald Trump attacked the NFL players who had continued Kaepernick’s and Reid’s peaceful protests. Trump said, “Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now. Out! He’s fired. He’s fired!” (https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/sep/22/donald-trump-nfl-national-anthem-protests) Trump encouraged his followers to boycott the NFL and leave any and all games in which a player engaged in this type of protest.
It is not lost on me that 75% of NFL players are African American men. Trump’s comments and rancor cement the fact that he is racist and using his position to continue to racially divide this nation and embolden those with similar views. After all, in the wake of the Charlottesville, Virginia, Neo-Nazi rally-turned act of terror, Trump claimed: “You had many people in that group other than neo-Nazis and white nationalists…The press has treated them absolutely unfairly. You also had some very fine people on both sides.” So NFL players who quietly, peacefully take a knee during “The Star Spangled Banner” are “sons of bitches” but the Neo-Nazis in Charlottesville include “some very fine people”. There is no other conclusion to draw from this than Trump is a white supremacist. In the wake of his derogatory remarks, the number of NFL players taking a knee and engaging in other forms of quiet protest during the national anthem has increased dramatically.
In response to Trump, Eric Reid wrote in the New York Times: “It baffles me that our protest is still being misconstrued as disrespectful to the country, flag and military personnel. We chose it because it’s exactly the opposite. It has always been my understanding that the brave men and women who fought and died for our country did so to ensure that we could live in a fair and free society, which includes the right to speak out in protest.”
Without the First Amendment, We the People are Not Free
Colin Kaepernick, Eric Reid, and all of the NFL players engaging in peaceful protests have the same right to protest as Trump has to tweet. They are using their Constitutional First Amendment right. The First Amendment reads: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.
Trump, and other conservative politicians, are staunchly against citizens’ exercise of The First Amendment, yet the politicians, like Trump, take advantage of it constantly. Just look at Twitter.
In fact, since Trump’s inauguration, Republican politicians in at least 18 states have introduced and/or passed laws to make protesting more difficult and dangerous. These bills include measures to make it legal for a driver to run over a protestor blocking their path, as well as a bill that punishes protestors by seizing their assets.
What type of country would we live in if we were not allowed the First Amendment? We would be living in a nation ruled by fascism. Americans need to wake up and realize that if they support the repeal of our most precious freedom, they enable their own enslavement. Without free speech and the ability to protest, without the ability to redress grievances with our government, we are powerless peasants paying homage to a flag and a national anthem that means nothing. Those symbols would cease to matter because without freedom, our nation is not the one that the framers of the Constitution envisioned, nor is it the one that my great-grandfather, grandfathers, and father fought for.
If We the People truly value freedom, not just the symbol of freedom represented by the flag, the Pledge, and the national anthem, then we must value freedom for ALL Americans, not just the ones that look like us. Racism is an American tradition, but it is one that must end. We the People must do better.