Over the past couple weeks, Americans have seen their democracy severely targeted to achieve a political objective that is governed by injustice. The privilege that law enforcement officers carry is one of the many factors contributing to our corrupt justice system. 

As a young woman engaged in a revolution against injustice, I’ve been profoundly impacted by firsthand accounts of blatant racism by the police. In witnessing the unlawful arrests of peaceful, black protesters at my state capitol, I’m emboldened to use my voice as an emblem for my generation’s outrage over racial inequality. To be quiet about the clear discrimination is not an option.

Police brutality exists because the government has repeatedly condoned racist actions of those in blue by giving them near unlimited power to serve equity as they see fit. When law and order means taking innocent black lives instead of fair and honorable policing, it’s clear our American values of “liberty and justice for all” do not ring true.

This is why we say Black Lives Matter and not All Lives Matter. ALM is a statement meant to diminish and discredit black issues instead of acknowledging the oppression black people are still trying to end to this day. No one ever said only black lives matter. We simply want you to know that they do matter

However, due to the fact that our country’s law enforcement struggles to understand this very basic human rights concept, any silence on this topic is choosing to be complicit. 

Black lives matter, but they are also in danger every single day. 

Breonna Taylor lost her life while she was sleeping because she was black. Trayvon Martin lost his life while walking home because he was black. Tamir Rice lost his life while playing in a park with a toy gun because he was black. Philando Castile lost his life while reaching for his license because he was black. Yvette Smith lost her life three seconds after opening her door to police because she was black. Stephon Clark lost his life while on the phone because he was black. 

Among dozens of other killings of innocent, unarmed black men and women, none of the officers responsible for these murders have been charged. 

So we shouldn’t be defending good cops. It’s not about those good cops. It’s not even about the bad ones. From the beginning, it has been about the entire criminal-justice system.

Unfortunately, this is not surprising, because between 2013 and 2019 99 percent of police killings resulted in no charges according to Mapping Police Violence. As well, the same research group reported that last year the police killed more than 1,000 civilians, black people accounting for 24 percent of those killings, despite only making up about 13 percent of the US population.

Police brutality has become a standard in law enforcement as the system has repeatedly and with no consequences shown to be corrupt, violent, hateful, and unjust. 

Not all cops are bad. We know that. However, many of them willingly support systemic racism when they allow their privilege, pride and prejudice to mean more than their ability to police ethically and humanely. 

This blatant systemic racism is why we say ACAB. Because all cops’ jobs require them to work against the interests of minorities, specifically black people. 

Blue lives do not exist. Police officers choose to be police officers. George Floyd did not choose to be black. 

But do not be mistaken, the systemic racism in law enforcement has never meant that everyone involved or working for the system is racist. It means that we have a system that produces racially disparate outcomes, regardless of the intentions of those who work within them. Much of the criminal justice system was built during the Jim Crow era, so this is not hard to fathom. As well, that era was a time of de jure racism, a form of precise discrimination against black people, whereas today, the law is rooted in de facto racism, meaning the law is not specifically discriminatory, but the application of the law — by police officers — is. 

We see de facto racism carried out all the time but because of a lack of education on the subject, many people unsoundly make the argument that prisons are filled with a black majority and therefore, they commit more crimes which means law enforcement is simply doing their job. 

This is not the case. Black people are severely overpoliced and severely racially profiled. The evidence to support racial profiling is not only convincing, but overwhelming. In their book, Suspect Citizens, Frank R. Baumgartner, Derek A. Epp and Kelsey Shoub reviewed 20 million traffic stops. They found that just by getting in a car, a black driver has twice the odds of being pulled over than a white driver and four times the odds of being searched, despite the fact that they are less likely to be found with contraband.

A 2018 Washington Post investigation found that the murders of white people are more likely to be solved than the murders of black people. This explains why Breonna Taylor, Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice, Anthony Hill, Oscar Grant, Eric Garner, Sandra Bland, Yvette Smith, Michael Dean, Kenneka Jenkins, Kendrick Johnson, and dozens more have not received their justice. 

Black people struggle every day to get law enforcement to even acknowledge that an officer has murdered an innocent person of color. 

Meanwhile, black people are being wrongly convicted of murder at very high rates, particularly when the victim is white. Only 15 percent of those killed by black people are white, but 31 percent of black exonorees were wrongly convicted of killing white people. 

The same report from the National Registry of Exonerations stated that black people convicted of murder are 50 percent more likely to be innocent than white people being convicted of murder.

And racism in the justice system goes so much further than the police officers themselves. It also exists within who is selected to be jurors in major crime trials and which witness’s account of a crime is taken as true versus false. 

For example, 16 percent of sexual assaults of white women are committed by black men (whites making up about 75 percent of those assaults), but half of the exonerations for sexual assault involve cases in which an eyewitness wrongly identified a black man for the rape of a white woman.

This is due to the fact that black defendants often have racially unequal juries. A 2011 study from Michigan State University College of Law found that between 1990 and 2010, state prosecutors did not allow 53 percent of eligible black people to be jurors in criminal cases, versus only 26 percent of white people. The study’s authors concluded that the chance of this occurring in a race-neutral process was less than 1 in 10 trillion

Black people in this country are wrongly accused of crimes at astonishing rates, and then can’t even get a fair trial for those crimes. 

On the flip side, black people who are guilty of crimes are more likely to receive the death penalty and are more likely to not receive a plea bargain according to the Southern University Law Center Journal of Race, Gender, and Poverty.

Something important that needs to be made clear is that black people do not commit more crimes than white people and those who use high crime rates in black neighborhoods to justify racial profiling are uneducated on the subject. More crimes by people of color get caught, not committed, and that is because of over-policing. And over-policing is rooted in racism.

A startling truth to process is that even though more than half the people on Mississippi’s gang registry are white, every single person prosecuted under the state’s anti-gang law from 2010 to 2017 has been black. 

That is racism, a direct reflection of the justice system and its inherent prejudice. 

We want our justice system recalled the way this country recalled lettuce last year. 

How do we do it? We vote for leaders who want to dismantle white supremacy instead of fuel it. We stay loud on social media and in the streets. We educate others. We make sure we raise our children to love and respect all of humanity. 

My generation and our kids’ generation are this country’s future doctors, future lawyers, future presidents, future change-makers and activists. 

I’ve already observed real change begin with us. I’ve seen the passion, I’ve witnessed the vitriol, and I’ve been an accomplice to the profound outrage among young adults protesting with me through the streets. They give me much needed faith that we will do well to revolutionize society and politics. Our voices and our minds belong in government just as much as they do on the corner of J Street in Sacramento. 

So we shouldn’t be defending good cops. It’s not about those good cops. It’s not even about the bad ones. From the beginning, it has been about the entire criminal-justice system.

Black Lives Matter.

Black lives have always mattered.

And we will not stop fighting for justice. 

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