Fixing a Broken System
by Trent Miles
It comes as a great shock to discover that the country to which you have pledged allegiance has not pledged allegiance to you. I say this because the United States Criminal Justice system is broken. According to the United States Bureau of Justice Statistics 2,203 Black men per 100,000 were held in state or federal prisons in the U.S. during 2019 after being sentenced—roughly one in 45. I choose to write this because, based on recent headlines, it seems that many do not understand how unfair our criminal justice system is—let alone how antithetical it has become to our core constitutional rights.
The storming of the United States Capitol on January 6, 2021 was a dark day in American history for many reasons. It also revealed a double-standard. How would this attack have been handled differently by police if had been carried out by African Americans instead of white right-wing insurrectionists? The world watched the 2020 Black Lives Matter demonstrations that began after the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. When protesters hit the streets in Washington, the police and National Guard were out in force. In Washington D.C., Humvees occupied street corners and officers were mobilized to defend federal buildings. On January 6, not only did they not seem to be prepared—but a few officers were even later found to have helped.
In short, we have a massive double standard between the level of accountability that the government holds for themselves and for minority groups. Racism is built into the DNA of America—and as long as we turn a blind eye to the pain of those suffering under its oppression, we will never escape those origins. We cannot move on without realizing the harsh reality we are faced with. Real change can only be possible if we understand that there is a divide and take action to fix it.
It is not the work of any particular politician nor party to get America back together and restore what is damaged. All of us have to do our part to speak out, be heard, and to share and understand factual information that can benefit us all. Only then will we finally live in a country where equality is granted to all citizens regardless of skin color, ethnicity, and socioeconomic status.
Take this time to sit down and have a conversation with children and young adults about what they can do to promote racial equality. In doing so, we will support our country’s need to unite and transform into a nation that reflects what truly matters: democracy, peace, equality, and love. I want to leave you with words from Cesar Chavez: “We are convinced that non-violence is more powerful than violence. If you use violence, you have to sell part of yourself for that violence. Then you are no longer a master of your own struggle.”
About Trent Miles
Trent Miles is a senior at Richwoods High School and has been working for Big Picture Initiative since May 2020. He is academically competitive and a well-rounded student. Trent is the founder of his school’s Climate Action Club, Vice President of the Minority Academic Advancement Project, and a contributing Op-Ed writer for The Shield (school newspaper). Outside of school, he is heavily involved in Jack and Jill of America, where he currently serves as the Chapter Legislative Chair. Trent is also a writing intern for the New York-based platform LORYN, where he manages the featured artist page, interviews artists, finds talent, and more. He has earned several writing and Presidential Community Service awards. Trent contributed more than 1,000 hours of community service through various service projects, including a winter wear drive, collecting toiletries, and helping at the Neighborhood House in Peoria, Illinois.