"Fitting the Profile"

Adria Barnes

Grade 12, International High School

[3rd Place, 11th and 12th Grade Contest, 2014]

       There are many injustices that plague our nation today, injustices that never seem to end with justice being served. Yet, our nation can boldly state, as the American flag flies bold and true, “…with liberty and justice for all.” Does America even deserve the ability to make this claim? For justice is a rare commodity; very few people ever see it and even fewer people hope for it. Why hope for things that may never be palpable for you? So many American citizens crave for peace, justice, and equality but it always seems to evade so many of them; never tangible but always in sight. For all of those who do crave peace, justice, and equality we ask ourselves, is America the place for us? If this country’s foundation is built upon liberty and justice why is it that liberty and justice eludes some and is only given to others? Inequality, especially in regards to race is a prominent theme in America’s society.

       There is a continuing racial divide in the United States. When did America lose its sense of justice? Is it when slavery began or is it when slavery ended? When did racial profiling become acceptable? Is it when the civil rights movement availed and African-Americans realize that they too had rights? If all that we seek is peace and justice as American citizens why is it that we judge people simply because of their race? So many infringements of the rights we have as American citizens have taken place against African-Americans that it is no longer justifiable to turn the other way. We must take a stand and end the plight of the African-American people. The inescapable truth is that in America your race and financial standing usually determines whether or not you see the light of justice.

       All too often African Americans are being hauled off to prison because they “fit the profile.” Due to racial profiling so many African-Americans that are sitting in prisons are guilty until proven innocent whether they committed a crime are not. It’s astonishing how police officers are treating African-Americans; futhermore how it’s considered to be justifiable. Not only are African Americans being put into jail unjustifiably they are being wrongfully treated, killed, and face prejudice daily just because they “fit the profile.”

       Trayvon Martin was shot and killed because he fit that profile. On February 26, 2012 a fatal tragedy took place, a tragedy that could have been avoided had he been dressed differently and a Caucasian male. Trayvon Benjamin Martin was a 17 year old African American who was fatally shot by George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer, in Sanford, Florida. Zimmerman admitted to shooting Trayvon but claimed it was in self-defense. According to George Zimmerman Trayvon Martin was shot and killed due to an altercation between the two. On July the 13th of 2013 George Zimmerman was acquitted for the murder of Trayvon Martin due to the Stand Your Ground laws.

       Those who deny the racial angle to the murder of Trayvon and the acquittal of Zimmerman can only do so by a willful ignorance. The most fundamental of rights, the right to life, was violated the night that Trayvon Martin was stalked and then murdered all because he “fit the profile.” The issue of racial profiling has come to the forefront due to the murder of Trayvon. It seems as if America agrees the myth that blacks are more prone to bad behavior, and that racial profiling is therefore justified. This mindset is not only inaccurate but downright unwarrantable and unjustifiable. No one should have to grow up with fear, wondering if they will be the next victims to be racially profiled. African American parents shouldn’t have to worry about teaching “special lessons” to their children. African Americans shouldn’t have to worry about the risk of “driving while black.” America has a criminal justice system that is lacking in the justice department. Why is it that African Americans aren’t given the benefit of doubt and are usually guilty until proven innocent, but Caucasians are innocent until proven guilty?

       We live in a society where the criminal justice system finds little to no value in African American life. We live in a society where instead of criminal activity determining whether or not you are guilty or innocent your race determines your justice. Multiple studies have shown that when police focus on factors such as race, they tend to pay less attention to actual criminal behavior. Statistics show that African Americans are several times more likely to be arrested and incarcerated than white Americans. As of 2000, fewer African American men were in college than were in prison. Moreover, black children were nine times as likely as white children to have at least one parent in prison.

       No one should have to have their rights taken from underneath them. The undeniable truth is that until we gather together and take a stand against those who commit violations of human rights American will never be forced to change. Until we come together as one people not as different races but as American citizens, America will continue to get away with justice only given to some. No longer will we sit and hide, no longer will we turn a blind eye but we shall rise from the dust of irrefutable injustice and make a change. As American people we should make America aware of what has been done to the African American people, make them accountable for what they have done.

       Peaceful protest and petitions and letters to the President is how I advise for this to be done. No more violence, because in the end violence is not the answer. We have to remember that an injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere, and that we have to be the change we wish to see. Therefore peace, love, and justice will be the foundation that America will grow upon, not bias justice but justice for everyone no matter their race or financial standing.

“When racial profiling becomes acceptable injustice becomes excusable.”