The injustice within the justice system

Letter to the Editor: No one is claiming that all lives don’t matter; it’s solely the fact that Black lives require the most attention and help since they are constantly under attack. 

On+Monday%2C+Hills+students+and+faculty+protested+in+support+of+the+Black+Lives+Matter+movement+by+writing+slogans+and+the+names+of+police+brutality+victims+throughout+Hills%27+parking+lot+and+near+its+entrance.+The+protest+was+planned+by+the+Hills-Valley+equity+team.

Stephen Schmidt

On Monday, Hills students and faculty protested in support of the Black Lives Matter movement by writing slogans and the names of police brutality victims throughout Hills’ parking lot and near its entrance. The protest was planned by the Hills-Valley equity team.

[Editor’s note: The following is a Letter to the Editor from a Hills student. The opinions presented are the writer’s own and are not representative of the Trailblazer newspaper staff or Pascack Hills High School.]

My name is Nikki Spinak and I am a student at Pascack Hills High School. I’m not really sure where to begin with all this. I cannot stop thinking about George Floyd and what his final moments must’ve been like. He pleaded, “stop you’re going to kill me,” and “I can’t breathe”; however, the inhumane, malicious murderer (let’s call him what he is) decided to take his life anyway. This is a clear, vulgar act of racism, and the current criminal justice system feeds off of it. 

I attempt to avoid political conversations because I find them to be irritating, enraging, and most of the time purposeless. After all, an ignorant mind is resistant to change. I realize now though that it is my privilege holding me back from having these uncomfortable conversations. I know I will never have to face something like this. I won’t be discriminated against due to the color of my skin. I won’t be attacked by the police due to the color of my skin. I won’t have to live in fear of just doing everyday activities due to the color of my skin. At this point, it isn’t a matter of left-wing, right-wing politics; it’s a matter of being human and having morals. 

I refuse to believe that alteration within the government is impossible. The next election is pivotal for the future of the United States. Donald Trump is a menace to society. His constant racist, iniquitous actions are a contributing factor to all the hate in this country. When a person of such authority acts a certain way, it is mimicked by their unknowledgeable followers. Donald Trump, via Twitter, has directly asked the police to start shooting looters. When has stealing become so despicable, that it can be compared to murder? Don’t get me wrong, I am not claiming that destroying properties and looting is acceptable; however, who are we to tell others how to protest after facing over 400 years of systematic oppression? Let us also not forget that the Martin Luther King Jr. assassination riots are what inevitably caused the Civil Rights Act of 1968 to pass through the House of Representatives. Additionally, many of the “looters” are corrupt police officers, white supremacists, and others not involved with the Black Lives Matter movement, attempting to spread hate amongst the protesters. In my opinion, the real looting is how corporations collected over 500 billion dollars in simultaneous checks meanwhile everyone else received $1,200 to spend on food, rent, electricity, etc. 

In a spiral of racist tweets violating Twitter’s guidelines, Donald Trump has painted a large target on the Black community and those who advocate for the movement. Why is it that people protesting a literal murder are referred to as “thugs,” yet white people protesting a virus are referenced as “very good people?” Keep in mind these are the same people that brought their guns to a protest, screamed at officers, spat on others around them, refused to wear masks, and carried signs with slogans directly referencing the Auschwitz concentration camp. However, police did not feel the need to become violent at the anti-quarantine protests; there were no rubber bullets, no beatings, no tear gas, no chemical mace. Several videos and images depict peaceful protests on behalf of George Floyd; nonetheless, once the officers get involved, it is a different story. The police are initiating the violence. Protesters are simply exercising their First Amendment right yet are being punished for it. The juxtaposition between these two protests is solely the skin color of those demonstrating. 

Importantly, I’m not claiming that all police officers are awful human beings. That would be inaccurate and demeaning to all those who have saved lives; the majority of the police force exert their power for the greater good. However, there are a few bad apples, and as Chris Rock stated, “some jobs can’t have bad apples. American Airlines can’t be like most of our pilots like to land.” This analogy reinforces the meaning behind “serve and protect.” Similar to how all pilots must be certified to fly a plane, all police officers must be qualified to help defend all people. Those few corrupt cops dismantle a whole system of trust. These police officers must be held accountable for their actions; they shouldn’t be allowed to receive a free pass just because they carry a badge. According to Mapping Police Violence, a research collaborative collecting data on police killings nationwide, there were only 27 days in 2019 that a police officer did not kill someone. 

Is it possible that some officers are aware of their hateful ideals yet join the task force in order to escape convictions from criminal activity? Many of these dishonorable cops have a history of abusive behavior and several complaints. 

Furthermore, the far-right can argue about gun restriction violating the Second Amendment. Nevertheless, I question what happened to the Fifth, Sixth, and Seventh Amendments? These defend the rights to life, liberty, and property. These defend the rights of the accused. These defend the rights to those involved in civil cases. So why is it that officers can just shoot an unarmed, “suspicious-looking” Black person sight on scene? They are protected by the Constitution to have a grand jury present, go to trial, and have a lawyer. The 5th Amendment clearly specifies, “No person shall be… deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law.” 

America: land of the free, home of the brave. Right? At least that’s what our national anthem states. So how is it possible for police to act like such cowards around Black people? How is it possible that African Americans continue to have to fight for their freedom? They should have never had to face such oppression throughout history; however, even now, in 2020, the United States still can’t grant them all the liberties they rightfully deserve? As the first article of the Declaration of Independence states, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.” How can we live up to these morals if lives are taken away, liberties are monitored, and death denies happiness? If you truly are as “patriotic” as you claim, you too would be fighting to instigate all the rights guaranteed by the Constitution.

I urge you to educate yourself on the atrocities Black people continue to face on a daily basis. Learn about Breonna Taylor. Learn about Trayvon Martin. Learn about Tamir Rice. We cannot forget their stories. It is never too late for justice to be served. Black Lives Matter should not be a political debate. African American classmates, neighbors, friends, brothers, sisters, mothers, and fathers have all passed due to the erratic amount of police brutality: an immensely avoidable act. After all this, how could one still assert that white privilege doesn’t exist? Don’t conjecture about the movements without researching the truth just because you are pressured into following the opinions of your friends and family. 

What if the roles were reversed, some might ask? They won’t be. That will never happen because the whole system is set up to protect white people. We can never genuinely comprehend what it is like to be an African American in the United States; however, we can put our privilege to the test and defend Black lives. No one is claiming that all lives don’t matter; it’s solely the fact that Black lives require the most attention and help since they are constantly under attack. 

How many more David McAtee’s, Tony McDade’s, George Floyd’s, Breonna Taylor’s, Ahmaud Arbery’s, Michael Brown’s, Antwon Rose’s, Tamir Rice’s, Trayvon Martin’s, Sandra Bland’s, Philando Castile’s, and Botham Jean’s must there be until change occurs? The names I just mentioned only make up a small fraction of the police brutality cases in the United States. Black people are two-and-a-half times as likely to be killed by police compared to whites, despite making up only 13% of the total population. I am sick and tired of hearing these stories, so I can’t even fathom what it must be like to experience them.

We must do better as a nation to bring about change. It is not just a Black people problem; racism affects everyone negatively. Don’t become vexed simply because you don’t have a movement; be exhilarated that you don’t require one. Finally, let us continue to strive to become better human beings, let us continue to educate others on our privilege, let us continue to fight for equality, and let us continue to expose the injustice within the justice system.