Liberty and Justice for ‘All’

Photo Courtesy Imani Khayyam

By Meché Leflore

I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America,
and to the Republic for which it stands,
one Nation
Under God
indivisible,
with liberty and justice for all.

Ah, America, a country that prides itself on being a “free” country, a loving Christian nation, and a country whose forefathers declared that “all men are created equal.” As we sit here, in 2017, we find that America does not always hold those truths to be self-evident.

In the United States, at every sporting event or school program, people stand for the national anthem and the Pledge of Allegiance. The Pledge of Allegiance promises “with liberty and justice for all,” but in America,  if you are not a white Christian straight male, you too often are not served justice.

Since the Reconstruction era ended, African Americans have not been allowed full justice and civil liberties. From not being able to vote, to segregation, to being forced to live in poverty-stricken areas, to being killed by police officers, African Americans are far from achieving true justice.

In March 1991, four police officers mercilessly beat Rodney King in Los Angeles, Calif., as he lay on the ground with his hands and legs cuffed. Caught on tape, the incident sent the entire country into a frenzy.  In 1992, despite incriminating evidence, a jury acquitted all four police officers for the violence.

Now by 2017, we’ve watched police officers kill many more African American men on tape including Eric Garner, Alton Sterling and Philando Castile. Authorities even let Michael Brown’s body lie in the street in his Ferguson neighborhood for hours after an officer killed him.

None of the police officers has been convicted of their horrendous actions.

Philando Castile especially stood out for me. On July 6, 2016, an officer pulled over Castile and his family, including his girlfriend and daughter, for a broken tail light in Minnesota. The police officer asked Castile for his license and registration. Castile then informed the officer that he is a licensed firearm carrier and had his gun on him. Even with warning, the officer later said he feared for his life and as Castile reached for his registration, the cop fired seven shots into the vehicle.

Not one, not two, but seven shots into a man with his family in the car and a license to carry.

His girlfriend went on Facebook Live after the incident and showed the officer, after shooting Castile, still pointing the gun at his lifeless body. Even with incriminating videos and evidence, Officer Jeronimo Yanez was acquitted of the charge on June 16, 2017.

This situation is heart-wrenching because Castile did everything that he was supposed to do when in contact with police.  He compiled, he was respectful, he was informative, and he still gets killed like an animal. He was gunned down like he was worthless. Philando Castile had no criminal record. He was an outstanding citizen who worked in a school cafeteria. Castile was just DWB … driving while black.

Even after the evidence showed this horrible act, the officer still was found not guilty. I truly do not understand.

A University of California study found that police officers are about 3.49 times more likely to shoot black, unarmed people than white, unarmed people.

My question for America is, when is enough enough?

When will African Americans have to stop fearing for our lives every day—at the hands of the people that are sworn to “protect and serve”?  When will the legal system finally abide by the “justice for all” promise?

Philando Castile does not have justice, Trayvon Martin does not have justice. Michael Brown Jr. does not have justice. Alton Sterling does not have justice. Eric Garner does not have justice. Oscar Grant does not have justice. Tamir Rice does not have justice. We do not have justice.

So, America, I have a job for you. As a nation, we need to come together and change the social injustices of our society. This starts with our local communities. This means getting into communities and teaching our young men how to be real men. One thing our community is missing is strong men ​leading ​the young boys. This also means teaching children to respect people who are different from them. Knowledge is power. Though it may be too late for the adults to learn, if we raise all our children to know about diversity, then when they are adults, these incidents are less likely to happen. Change starts from within.

And to the police, if you know in your heart of hearts that you are not comfortable in the community you patrol, then you should not be there. Period. You are doing more harm than good.

So from now on, until there is true justice in America, I will not put my hand to my heart and pledge my allegiance to this unjust country. I will not “oh say, can you see” until America truly sees the state that they are putting their citizens are in.

I do not pledge my allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, 
and to the Republic for which it stands, 
one Nation divided
Under God when necessary
divisible by economic, social, and political views

 with denial and injustice for all. 

 

Meche Leflore is a 17-year-old rising senior at Jim Hill High School.

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