Since its inception, America has been a place of hope, new beginnings, and equal opportunity. It has been a country based on merit not on familial ties or financial status. This has always been the ideal, the dream, the long lasting goal for our great country. However, while we as individuals all have pie in the sky ideals we are also human and therefore we all have our faults. We all are selfish; we all have our unmerited biases; we all are inherently imperfect. It is this dichotomy of human nature that is the very essential essence of America; dream big while overlooking our own faults and biases, turning a blind eye to major problems that will plague us for centuries down the road. There is no more perfect example of this than slavery in the United States. While the founders of our great nation were penning the documents outlining freedom and equal opportunity for all, they were also owners of slaves and labeling them as 3/5ths a person. It is this paradox that defines us as Americans to the present day.
Jump forward to present day. We have seen the end of slavery, reconstruction, the Jim Crow South, the Civil Rights Movement, Martin Luther King, and the splitting of America politically into Red v Blue in consequence. Progress comes in a unique manner; two steps forward, one step back. This current generation of Americans are not immune to this greater historical trend. We have elected the first African American President and are on the way to making marriage for homosexuals a reality. These are two accomplishments many did not see coming for another fifty to one hundred years; yet here they are staring us in the face, and for some they are completely freaked out and do not recognize the America they see before them.
There are many demographics in the United States that have many different ideals and beliefs, all of them reacting to situations that present themselves differently. A perfect example of this is that of the financial crisis in 2007-2008. The ultra-right wing conservative, soon to become tea partier, blamed the government for this collapse; claiming that their interference in the market place is what caused the housing bubble and therefore collapse. There is some truth to this but to blame it solely on the government without looking at any other factors is asinine. Young left leaning individuals that were coming out of college with very dim employment prospects blamed the banks for their risky behavior. They also blamed those in government who they believed were pets of the financial industry. This group would be come to known as Occupy. These two groups were experiencing the same exact event but due to their upbringing, where they were in their lives, their values, etc saw the culprit as two completely different entities. This damaging event in US history is one example of how different demographics within the US reacted differently to the same event.
Presently, there is a crisis in America. More and more African American boys are being shot and killed by police and average citizens without any ramifications for wrong doing. Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Eric Garner the list goes on and on. There is nothing organized about these killings. No one is targeting these individuals with a vendetta to kill them. These acts are not being committed by the KKK or some other terrorist organization. These deaths are happening due to institutionalized prejudice that is coming out of the closet as a response to rapid progress for civil liberties here in the United States. There is a demographic of white lower to middle class individuals who are not out and out racist but closeted prejudice towards minorities, whether they are black, latino, gay, does not matter, that are starting to be more brazen and starting to react to an America they do not know. They see a black President who was reelected to office, gay and lesbians assaulting the sanctity of marriage, and now undocumented immigrants have amnesty to stay here if they have American born children. This white demographic will no longer be the majority in the upcoming decades, and they are acting out subconsciously, they have snapped.
When this demographic looks in the mirror they do not see racism or prejudice. When they look in the mirror they see America and what it stands for in their mind. They have a view of America that is rooted in nostalgia; grounded in the beliefs they were taught when they were growing up in a white privileged America that turned a blind eye to its social ills. From Ronald Reagan until George W. Bush this demographic, not the out and out racist such as a KKK member but a lower to middle class white individual who had their prejudices but kept them to themselves, had cover; a safety blanket of leadership that held the same views and espoused the same goals that they had, to keep the status quo. Then without warning a tidal wave came and washed away the country and status quo they knew. America now has a black President, we are in dire financial shape, we have two wars, healthcare for everyone, “the gays” can get married; their world has been turned on its head.
The current outpouring of violence and no justice for African Americans as well as all minorities is a response to the progress that we have seen since the mid to early 2000s. When progress comes, it comes with a bang and often those that usher in the change are not ready to deal with the ramifications of their actions. Right now we may be experiencing the backward step that comes with progress; two steps forward, one step back. It is this natural reaction to change that is the impetus for the killings that we see today. This of course is not the appropriate response to such change. Violence is never the answer to social change. However, when it comes to issues such as race, religion, and sexuality, these are hard views to change over a short period of time. This current generation is in for a long hard struggle no doubt.
How to address these killings and stop them from happening is a matter with the utmost urgency. There is a divide in America for those who are privileged and those who are not. Anyone who disputes this is not living in reality. While our justice system is one of, if not the best in the entire world, its actions is evident of this very dichotomy that shapes our society. If you have money and are privileged enough you can reduce any crime you have committed and most likely stay out of jail. However, if you are poor and do not have the resources to afford a good lawyer odds are you will be incarcerated for a minor crime such as drug possession. Race also plays an enormous role in our judicial system. The amount of disparity between African Americans and white Americans who face jail time for the exact same crime is alarmingly large. To claim there is no racial element to this is to turn a blind eye to your own prejudice. These people, the ones who do not admit that race is an element that plays into this equation, are the ones whom we need to show the divide that exists in America. These are the individuals who are most likely to cause harm during the current status of change in the United States. These are the people that we need to walk a mile in the other side shoes of divided America. Until then I fear we will be facing this situation, bashing our heads up against the wall time and time again with no progress no change no betterment of society. Until all of us recognize all aspects of the problem there is no way to address it truly so that change for the betterment of all can be achieved.