Submitted by Javier H. Figueroa, University Place Councilmember.
I acknowledge and feel the pain of our brothers and sisters that live under a microscope of racism and injustice from the very communities that are supposed to protect and serve us all. I’m an immigrant from Mexico that grew up in Texas during the height of racism towards anyone of color and of low social class. I lived in a time where the laws seemed to protect the privileged and suppress the less fortunate. People of color, especially African Americans overcame much of this injustice because of great leaders like Reverend Martin Luther King Jr.—who called for hope, nonviolence and dreams for a better life.
Hatred and violence are not “change agents” for social justice. In 1967, Reverend King Jr. wrote his last book “Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community?” He advocated for human rights and hope. He understood the power of nonviolent protest. He was and is a “change agent” to this day. His message of love, hope, and to dream for a better world changed the divide between all races—he advocated for equal treatment for all Americans!
Our country—our communities need to be free from oppression and injustice from anyone, but especially from those that are given the authority to protect and to serve. It’s time for change of our criminal justice system. We as a community have a social contract with the criminal justice system—to obey the laws of the land and expect to be protected from lawless actors/actions. Unfortunately, this social contract is broken—the criminal justice system is broken. Many of our community members live in fear because of their race or social class—fear that they will be singled out and charged without cause or worse…put to death. It is time for change, a change of the criminal justice system towards police brutality, accountability, and the court system.
Our nation is wounded and bruised right now. The unfolding of events in Minneapolis, D.C., New York, and Washington State over the last month has left all Americans saddened, confused, hurt and angry. Even as we grieve and seethe, we must remember that every life matters. The recent demonstrations in our nation reveals the deep fissures that exist in our society today. One of our most cherished freedoms as Americans is our right to demonstrate, to give voice to our frustrations. We must do so peacefully and with respect for our fellow citizens. Those who choose to engage in violence or intimidation simply negate their credibility and their message for change.
As in all aspects of life—families, workplaces, government, etc.—there will always be bad actors in every segment of society. We do not live in a perfect society, but we do live in a society that is committed to the ideals of law and order. Therefore, despite our anger, frustrations or sadness, we cannot let the actions of a few give us reason to turn to a lawless society.
Let’s work together to make the needed changes in our communities for the safety and security of everyone for today and into the future.
The views expressed in this article are the writer’s own.