Photo Courtesy of Andrew Dye/Journal
We can’t breathe, as a nation, when the disease of racism is killing any one of us. Every time an individual dies the entire body is hurt, and, despite the moments when the weight of oppression seems to lighten, racism has always survived our attempts to expel it from our country.
It is too late for a vaccine, the disease is already ravaging our body, but that doesn’t mean that all hope is lost. Like any disease, it can be overcome, and perhaps the current protests are a sign of our immune system fighting back. Most diseases can be defeated given enough time, but time means more Breonna Taylors, George Floyds, Ahmaud Arberys, and too many others to list. We don’t have time, so we need treatments and cures.
While I can not think of any single cure to treat every part of the racism inhabiting the body of this country, there are certain things that can be done. I believe that a good place to start is by giving everyone as equal a starting position as possible. The generational wealth gap is significant, and the jobs and opportunities of your parents should not determine your own ability to succeed.
The treatment for this symptom of racism includes providing free, high quality education to all people. This means free college, vouchers for students when public schools are not achieving their purpose, and distributing school funding to where it is needed instead of to the richest neighborhoods — as results from our current method of using property taxes.
I propose an additional treatment for the wealth gap: Capping inheritance and using the money obtained from this cap to give all young adults a starting amount of money with which to build their lives. This will equalize the playing field for all people, and redistribute the wealth which African Americans have been prevented from building up. By giving all Americans some of the resources they need, we allow them the strength and energy required to fight such a tenacious infection.
While providing more equal opportunities will ease some of the issues of racial oppression, it is clear that many areas of racism remain to be addressed and treated. One of these areas, which has been highlighted by our body’s ongoing attempts to address it, is our criminal justice system. Mass incarceration began as a way to oppress African Americans, and the disease of racism has been allowed to run rampant throughout this area to this day. Our country has the highest incarceration rate in the world, even higher than the dictatorships in which we like to believe the disease of oppression has spread furthest, and police brutality has taken so many beautiful lives from us.
Many treatments have been proposed, such as body cameras, but I think we need to treat the heart of the problem. As a country, our goal must not be to lock away as many individuals as possible, but to help as many people as possible to live together peacefully. The job of the police is to arrest people, so most issues should be handled through other means. Drug rehab, counseling and mental health care, housing, and so many other issues can be addressed without the police.
Additionally, our courts are set up on the assumption of mass incarceration. The courts were created to institutionalize and strengthen our country’s immune system, but they have been infected and overrun by the disease of oppression. The first step to treat the effect of this disease within the courts is to reduce the influx of arrested people as discussed previously. The next steps include removing bail except in cases of violence or a reasonable suspicion that the defendant will not return for their trial (for example, the defendant has previously failed to show up for a trial), limiting the use of plea bargains — which currently are used in 97% of all federal cases, with similar numbers for the states — so that innocent people are not encouraged to plead guilty, eliminating qualified immunity for police officers so that all people are treated equally, and removing mandatory minimum sentences.
While addressing oppression in the criminal justice system does not treat the underlying condition of racism within our country, the effect of this disease upon the police is especially devastating to our nation’s body, and curing the courts will strengthen the immune system and allow us to effectively fight the infection.
Especially in a democracy, any effort to rid ourselves of a disease as difficult to eradicate as racism must start and end with the people which make our country up. By removing the disease’s strongholds we give ourselves the chance for a cure, but in the end it will be up to us to ensure that our love is stronger than our hate.