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An ancient African Proverb said, “If the lion does not tell his story, the hunter will.” When Colin Kaepernick sat, then kneeled for the national anthem before his NFL games back in 2016, he said that he did it to protest the systematic oppression, injustices, and inequalities that African Americans in America face today. “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color. To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way.
There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.” This was a very controversial moment, and many supported his brave, bold, and outspoken protest. Nike even gave him a huge endorsement, and campaign. In the Nike campaign the advertisement featured him, and the quote that said “Believe in something, even if it means sacrificing everything.” This campaign got huge support and caused lots of controversies, but it was big for a company of Nike’s stature to show support for Kaepernick.
On the contrary, many opposed Kaepernick’s protest for various reasons. Many people who opposed his protest said that he was exaggerating and that African Americans don’t suffer from the conditions of systematic oppression, injustice, and inequality today.
One of the biggest opposers, Mike Ditka, a former NFL player, even went to say “All of a sudden, it has become a big deal now — about oppression.
There has been no oppression in the last 100 years that I know of,” Ditka said. “Now maybe I’m not watching it as carefully as other people. I think the opportunity is there for everybody — race, religion, creed, color, nationality. If you want to work, if you want to try, if you want to put effort in, I think you can accomplish anything. And we have watched that throughout the history of our country.” This statement can really be a representation of how many people in America, that are uninformed feel about this controversial topic today- uninformed on the plight of African Americans in America today, uninformed on the struggles African Americans face today, uninformed on the conditions African Americans live through, uninformed on how this systematic oppression, injustice, and inequality does go on, and has been going on from slave times to present day. In America, it’s almost as if we’re living in two different countries inside of one, and most people don’t see the life of African Americans beyond the television screen, news, music, and social media, if even that.
Therefore, it’s time to inform the uninformed. Many people tell African Americans to just “go back to Africa.” if they aren’t happy with how they are treated in America, but they’re ignorant to the fact that African American slaves helped make America the powerful nation that it is today. The economic power of America was built on the backs of African American slaves. Slavery made $3.5 billion, and was the earliest example of racial oppression- slaves were snatched from their homes in Africa, forced into slave ships under substandard conditions that many didn’t survive through, raped, tortured, trapped in chains, displaced from family, forced to slave under horrendous conditions, treated more horrible than imaginable, and treated like animals rather than humans for over 200 years (1619- 1869). If it wasn’t for slavery, America as we know it would not exist. The value of cotton in the slave era can be compared to how valuable oil is to the world now. Slavery produced 90 percent of the world’s cotton, and it is proven by historian Edward Baptist that slave labor for cotton accounted for 50 percent of America’s exports and ignited the economic boom that helped make America the prosperous world power that it is today.
Edward Baptist also proved that slavery was central to the establishment of real estate, insurance, finance, and Wall Street- all things that dominate the economy today; slaves also literally built the Wall Street wall. Many big banks of today including JPMorgan were proven to have even accepted slaves as collateral. Many are taught that slavery was just a southern thing, but it was in fact, a national thing that built America. With all that African Americans have contributed to America, and all that they have been through, they have continually been treated as a lesser man, facing systematic oppression, injustices, and inequality by America from the beginning of slavery to the present day; with more than 400 years. Now it’s time to bring the evidence that these problems are actually evident in the black community today. In 1968, the great Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “The plantation and the ghetto were created by those who had power both to confine those who had no power and to perpetuate the powerlessness.”
The vicious cycle of poverty, crime, and mass incarceration can be attributed to the oppression that African Americans have to endure today, but for the purpose of this essay I will expose where the issue is mainly overlooked but most evident, the inner cities of America. A 2012 study showed that 35 percent of African Americans live in poverty compared to 13 percent of whites. The state of the education system in inner cities is one major contributor. Nelson Mandela once said “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” In a world where education is supposed to be the key to the future, for minorities in America, it seems that the opposite is true. Based on a report by Center for American Progress, schools nationwide spend $355 more on white students than non-white students. Schools in the inner city suffer from bad conditions, inadequate education, and less opportunity.
These conditions seem to be a recipe for failure and lead to a higher dropout rate, and lack of education keeps us trapped in a vicious cycle of poverty which is also a catalyst for crime. In America, Mass Incarceration is a huge problem. African Americans make up 30 percent of the population, but account for 60 percent imprisoned. 1 in 3 black men are expected to go to prison in their lifetime. The issue is bigger than what may scratch the surface though. A recent report shows that the government boosted spending to $80 billion a year on funding prisons, which former Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said could have been put into education. If education is the key to the future, then it should be funded more than furthering the prison system, because a good education is the first step of being successful rather than in prison. Students living in poverty with less opportunity, and more financial need should get equal or more funding and opportunities, instead of less; anyone can see there is a huge disparity there.
When there is a lack of good education and opportunities it can turn many people to a hopeless route leading to being killed, or in prison trapped in the justice system. The justice system in America tends to do the opposite of what its meant to do, serve justice. The conditions of the justice system further show that injustice is widespread in America. Racial disparities in prison, and sentencing is one of the most alarming aspects. Slavery ended centuries ago, but a new form of slavery is replacing it, the prison system- the prison system that profits off of labor of prisoners which makes what’s coming next even more alarming. Judges are statistically continuously sentencing African Americans to harsher sentences than their white counterparts. In Florida for example, African Americans are sentenced to more and often double the time for the same crime in each instance. For 60 percent of felony cases African Americans are sentenced to more time than their white counterparts for the same crime under the same circumstances, for first-degree crimes it is 68 percent more, and for burglary, it is 45 percent more.
The most famous representation of the racial disparities in sentencing is the case of Brock Allen Turner, a student-athlete on Stanford University’s swim team. Brock Turner was given only a six-month sentence for five charges- two felony sexual assault charges, two rape charges, and one attempted rape charge. These type of charges typically carries 14 years in prison, but his judge Aaron Persky gave him six months because “A prison sentence would have a severe impact on him. I think he will not be a danger to others.” In the case where black Vanderbilt University football student-athlete Cory Batey was charged with rape, he was sentenced to 15 to 25 years in prison. Both crimes were horrendous, but the point is to show the disparities that there are in the sentencing of African Americans versus whites that commit the same crimes. This issue is bigger than just sentencing disparities.
The alarming thing is there is disparities in almost all other aspects also. Besides the proven fact that African Americans are given 20 percent longer sentences than white men in America, black people also are three times as likely to be randomly searched by police, and twice as likely to be arrested for drugs over whites even though studies have shown whites use and sell drugs at the same or sometimes higher rate than African Americans. The recent controversial murders of Mike Brown, Philando Castile, and Eric Garner plus 223 more African since Colin Kaepernick protest has sparked lots of conversation about police brutality in America.
Many say that police brutality is nonexistent, and often pull up the fact that cops kill more whites than blacks while often overlooking major details. For example, the number of whites in America largely outnumber the number of black people in America. It is proven that if you weight adjust the number of whites and blacks, you will see that black people are five times more likely to be murdered by a police officer. The main goal I’m trying to accomplish is to bring awareness that African Americans do face overlooked oppression, injustices, and inequalities that others in America often don’t face. This is an extensive topic that could be expounded on and on about to truly be given justice. Hopefully, by highlighting a few key areas, I show that oppression, injustice, and inequality are not exaggerated issues that doesn’t occur anymore, because that’s far from the truth in America today.
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