The Black Lives Matter movement isn’t new, but it has regained momentum since the death of George Floyd while in Minneapolis police custody on May 25 and more recently, the death of Rayshard Brooks at the hands of the Atlanta police on June 12.

As we reflect on the state of our country this Juneteenth, it’s time to stop thinking our problems will disappear. What everyone is experiencing now is years of Black America getting pushed down. If you cannot see this then maybe the riots are opening your eyes.

This movement feels different from what we have seen in the past. Throughout U.S. history, numerous protests and riots have occurred. But this is the first time since the anti-Vietnam War movement of the late 1960s that a mainstream movement is being led by the younger generations.

The time to stop treating the younger generation as though they don’t know anything. This younger generation could change the world in ways we never thought possible is now.

How could they notice this unrest but the older generations cannot? Let’s stop giving those older generations excuses.

‘It’s OK for them because they grew up when racism was at a high.’

‘It’s OK because they are from rural areas.’

Once again, stop giving them reasons to act the way they do. And if you are saying these things, you are part of a bigger problem.

These protests have been revolutionary. Around the world people are battling against everything and anything racist. While we at The Penn do not condone vandalizing property, we do agree with the peaceful protests.

How did we get here? It’s pretty easy to see it’s a result of decades of black Americans being oppressed. And now more than ever, it seems to stem from the top.

It has become apparent that our President cannot – and perhaps doesn’t want to – resolve the problems in this country. A country divided has only grown more apart and longstanding racial inequalities continue, even as Americans nationwide are shouting for change at the top of their lungs.

Take the disparity in household incomes, for example.

In 2018, the median income of white, non-Hispanic households was $70,642, while it was $41,361 for black Americans, according to the U.S. Census.

There’s a direct correlation between these figures and education.

We all know college is not cheap, and it’s even less affordable for black Americans. Furthermore, prospective college students from low-income homes don’t always qualify for student loans, and thus cannot afford to continue their education.

How is this relevant? Many workplaces will not hire anyone without a college education, a dumb concept in itself. So now black Americans are left to work the jobs that pay minimum wage, further perpetuating the cyclical nature of poverty.

Worst of all is the fact that our government seems to prefer the status quo. At least, that’s the perception in many people’s eyes, and you know what they say: Perception is reality.

Far too many politicians in Washington, D.C. are more worried about where their next vacation will be than ending the systemic injustices that have re-energized the Black Lives Matter movement.

Black Americans aren’t asking for special treatment or to be treated better than anyone else. They’re just asking to be treated the same and offered the same opportunities as everyone else to succeed.

Let’s stop and think about the IUP campus for a minute. We’ve all seen minorities thriving on our campus, and it’s empowering to see. Of course everyone wants to succeed, but if they are not in a thriving environment it becomes more difficult.

Which brings us to the next issue, which has been overlooked much too long: Police officers have too much power. They are to protect us, not kill us. They cannot play the part of Grim Reaper.

We’ve seen far too many instances in which officers don’t do their job properly, overstep the rule and use excessive force when there is no immediate threat to their safety. The internet is rife with videos documenting these incidents.

So when is it going to be enough?

Bad police work affects everyone. It does not matter if you are black, white or even indigo, this problem could affect you. Of course, this does not go for every officer because there are plenty of examples of good officers in the world.

But the bigger issue at hand is how officers handle stressful situations. Ask any officer and they will say, their first goal when arriving on scene is to defuse the situation. Far too often, we see them escalating the situation with unnecessary and/or excessive force.

That being said, there needs to be more restrictions on officers. Some officers work upwards of 10- to 12-hour days. Some may say, “That isn’t a lot.” But when you consider the stresses of the job, yes, that is a lot. And maybe that’s why they seem to struggle defusing situations.

There needs to be restrictions on the hours that they work and what is deemed excessive behavior. Maybe they need more training and once-a-month psychological evaluations.

The last thing that needs to happen is that we need to see more accountability for officers that do wrong. Any officer that has used excessive force needs to be disciplined, no two ways about it.

Even police officers aren’t above the law. At least that’s what we’ve been told. Yet, we can all recall cases where officers got off scot-free because of their positions.

Almost daily, we hear stories of black U.S. citizens who are treated less-than by the police just because of their skin color. A white person gets a ticket for a traffic violation, while a black person is likely asked to step out of the car for the same violation.

Take the death of Rayshard Brooks in Atlanta, on June 12. He was the subject of an investigation into a potential DUI.

Is a DUI a crime? Yes.

Is it a crime a 27-year-old man should have lost his life over? Absolutely not.

Any officer that has killed another human without just cause should be in jail, no questions asked. Just like you and I would be.

Everyone should be tried the same. A crime is a crime.

Kudos to the younger generations for seeing the problems many generations could not. Do not march in these protests because you want to look like the good guy. March because it’s the right thing to do. March because these problems should not exist in the “Land of the Free.”

Black Lives Matter and if you do not see it that way, then you are what is wrong with this country. Stop looking at the mirage set up. It is time to unite as a country to stand for what is wrong whether you are old or young. Everyone deserves the same rights and same opportunities. After all, the country stands for freedom.

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