Thursday, October 31, 2013

The American Illusion

The land of the free and the home of the brave. America the beautiful, the one and only. A country founded on liberty, whose pledge promises justice for all. The citizens of America have gained intelligence and enlightenment over the years. African Americans were enslaved, and treated as property. After being freed they suffered another hundred years of legal oppression. They were placed in lesser schools, denied the right to vote, denied access to many public establishments, and forced to live in different areas than whites. Even today, almost fifty years after the civil rights movement, African Americans still face many problems due to racism.

However we are obviously more intelligent about civil rights today than we were in the past. We have gotten smarter, and more compassionate. But we still have a ways to go. Homosexuals still face discrimination, and are not allowed to get married legally in many states. Much of our culture still harbors negative feelings towards the LGBT community. These people are the same as anyone else, and should be treated the same. 

In addition to the LGBT community facing discrimination, African Americans still face much racism from our own government. They are arrested and incarcerated at disproportionate rates, especially considering their crime rates. More than 60% of those in prison and jail in the United States are ethnic minorities. 1 in 10 black males in their 30's are in prison or jail at any given moment. 66% of those arrested for drug charges are those of color, despite statistics showing drug use is not that much higher among minorities. Some of these people are charged with felonies just for drug use, and are unable to vote after because of it. Felony disenfranchisement leaves 1 in 13 blacks unable to vote. The sentencing project said this of the effects of this discrimination: "Our bursting-at-the-seams “prison-industrial complex” is the product of laws enacted since the early 1980's. Many of these laws were aimed at stopping the flow of illegal drugs through our communities, but a number of them were designed to cut down on recidivism and keep repeat offenders off the streets.They were sold as a way to push skyrocketing crime rates down. Now, about 30 years after the first of these laws was passed, we know that they have failed to do that. What they have done instead is sever family ties among our most vulnerable citizens and disproportionately harm black communities that need men in them as role models for young boys."

The probation system is another huge flaw of the criminal justice system. When looking at it objectively, it almost seems designed to bring people back into jail. Drug tests are set up at random for people who already had drug problems (remember they are facing drug charges). These people often never received any treatment. Failing a drug test can send you directly to jail. Other offenses that are considered "probation violations" are another arrest, a ticket of any kind, missing or being late to a probation appointment, and violating any other terms specific to one's probation. All of this adds up to many people sitting in jail for silly reasons. Besides being morally wrong, it also has negative effects on taxpayers. The probation system is racist considering the race of most of those caught up in it, as it was designed to keep people in jail.  

Imagine growing up with your father in and out of jail for non violent charges such as marijuana possession? Your parents were always poor because they were paying some court fee or another, and your dad couldn't find a steady job due to his felony charge. This is the cruel reality that many american families face today. Shed some light on these issues, spread the word, bring change about.