BY SHARON MARTIN
The divide between those who believe it is OK to shoot an unarmed teenager [or even a 12-year-old with a pellet gun] and those who believe a crime has been committed, comes down to whether or not you comprehend these facts:
– A poor boy is more likely to end up in prison, even if he isn’t more likely to commit a crime.
–Young black and Hispanic males end up in prison at higher rates than whites.
This is deliberate.
School funding based on property values rewards the wealthy and hurts the poor.
Starvation wages impact marriage rates, home ownership, and quality of childcare.
Prohibition and punitive measures for specific crimes hurts those most who can least afford legal services. In our country’s bloody history, laws have been used to control and lock away specific groups of mostly young men.
As the protests continue, so does the denial of what this is all about. It’s not about Michael Brown anymore. It’s about centuries of injustice. And many on the privileged side just aren’t seeing it.
This week in the teacher’s lounge, we were discussing the unrest. I suggested the link between economically poor schools and joblessness.
“Then why don’t they move?” one of the teachers asked.
Very quietly, her aide said, “They can’t afford to.”
This has been going on for generations, this systematic dismantling of self-reliance. And when anyone suggests that the system we’ve created might be to blame, we shift it instead onto those whom the system has slighted.
“It’s not my fault,” say those who have never been victims of segregation, racism, or an unequal justice system.
Well, it is. The fault belongs to all of us, both those who deny there is a problem and those who feel hopeless in the face of the problem’s enormity.
We can turn the injustice around, but it won’t be quick. It might not happen during the first generation or even the second. But it won’t happen at all if we don’t start. Now is the time to be honest. Now is the time to speak out. Now.
Make schools work for everyone. Insure that everyone has access to healthcare and healthy food. Pay wages that will feed, clothe, and house a family.
Demand justice. That means a black teen’s life is worth as much as a white teen’s, that a rich man’s daughter and a poor man’s get equal treatment under the law. The promise of this country is liberty for all.
We haven’t gotten there yet, but we can get to Jordan if we start the journey now.
– Sharon Martin lives in Oilton, OK and is a regular contributor to The Oklahoma Observer