Be a Voice. Not an Echo.

The world suffers greatly ­not from the violence of the wicked, but from the silence of the virtuous.

We are told to trust a system where one’s personal background, race, gender, and appearance is judged before ruling out the actual law. The brainwashing of people has obscured the realities of a criminally unjust court system.

The U.S. criminal justice system continually commits felonies itself. Its race­-based nature, where African­ Americans are directly targeted and punished in a much more aggressive way than white people are, greatly contradicts the “criminal justice system” name itself. However controversial a topic, the facts are non­negotiable.

In 2014, prosecutors said the police officer who killed 12 ­year-­old Tamir Rice outside a Cleveland recreation center would not face criminal charges. They justified this decision by claiming Rice’s size “made him look much older,” and that he was armed with a weapon: a pellet gun. One must now question whether the role of race affected this outcome, as he happened to be African ­American.

Similarly, when Sandra Bland, an African ­American woman, was found dead in her cell three days after being arrested for allegedly failing to use her turn signal on July 10, 2015, it took over six months and a multitude of people to speak up for indictments to be issued upon those related to her death.

Different factors play large roles in end results. By simply reversing roles in both cases, the outcomes suddenly seem to end justly. Many say that if Rice had been white, his pellet gun may have been viewed less threateningly,­ simply as a harmless toy, therefore not ending his life. Likewise, if Bland had been of a lighter skin color, those associated with her death may have faced charges. Upon viewing case after case from different angles and perspectives, both the criminal justice system decisions and the actual crime itself would have ended alternatively. Not only do reverse role outcomes completely alter the justifications, but they also prove how many deaths could have been prevented.

Police are trained to draw and fire a weapon in a third of a second or less if threatened. Therefore they must react quickly to any menace. However, during those few short moments, it is difficult for police officers to differentiate their skepticism and fear from reality and the law. How can we truly trust that countless deaths were committed only after a reasonable assessment of the situation and not out of personal or irrational fears? When will the cause of these avoidable deaths be solely based on factual evidence and not on stereotypes stemming from race, gender, and even one’s attire?

The definition of a threat is repeatedly and unapologetically taken lightly. Too many innocent lives have been taken by irrational fears formulated through the mind of the shooter.

It does not end here. Like for any crime committed, the criminal justice system steps in afterward and rules out all consequences that the actions of any subjects related to the incident might have. Too many times has the role of race been considered an excusable reason to find the suspect innocent.

 A pervasive pattern of unequal treatment of African­ Americans is evident through the course of history. Little does the system realize that this provides consequences not only for the victims and suspects, but for the system of democratic government itself and for all of humanity. It is distasteful that much of mankind has become numb to the reality of the system’s outcomes.

The reforming of the broken criminal justice system is only one of the many crucial steps to achieving a just and equal society. Prior to making this change, small modifications must be made in the minds of those affected, from police officers, to the jury, and simply to those aware of world occurrences. Once close­-minded individuals adjust to a more open-­minded outlook, change is bound to happen.

Martin Luther King Jr. once said that “our lives begin to end the day we become silent about the things that really matter.” Truth is found in this statement as change and productivity is in the hands of those who speak up. Our freedom is at stake as more people choose to stay silent about the things they want changed. Silence achieves nothing, but to speak up even when your voice shakes is to be the start of change.

– Written by Hala Ozgur (redefy journalism team member) on 1/3/16