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What does prejudice, police brutality, and racism actually mean, and how do we ignore it? This is a question that everybody has their own answer to, but does that change the meaning? Many organizations have organized protests, for example, Black Lives Matter. Others have been raised against such organizations, for example, All Lives Matter. One could make an argument that all lives matter, but this was meant more toward police brutality, racism, and prejudice. African Americans are more affected by police brutality than any other race in the United States of America. This statistic is only true for unarmed victims, by which African Americans lead. Although more Caucasians die every year, most of them are armed. African Americans, on the other hand, have almost the same number of deaths, but the most in unarmed and killed (vox.com). Sometimes, there are other ways of communicating this unrighteous behavior. Books are often used to raise awareness. Two Great examples are just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption written by Bryan Stevenson and All American Boys written by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely. The books made me want to learn about the authors and their reason behind the books. I think the authors want the readers to be aware that racism and prejudice still remains a problem in U.S society.
Bryan Stevenson is a nonprofit lawyer born in Delaware on November 14th, 1959. He graduated high school with ease and continued on to earn his Bachelor’s Degree at Eastern University. He then went to Harvard Law School to earn his Master’s Degree in law. Bryan started an internship in Atlanta. He then started his own business in Alabama, where he now lives with his wife.
Jason Reynolds was born in Washington D.C on December 6th, 1983. He was raised by his mother in Maryland. He says that he hates boring books, this is the main reason why he writes books. His mother was a Special E.D teacher in a public school in Maryland. As Reynold’s life progressed, he became interested in poetry and writing. Even though teachers at his high school discouraged him, he continued into Maryland State University, where he earned his Bachelor’s degree. He then stayed in Boston after his graduation but moved back to start his professional writing career.
Brendan Kiely was born on July 2nd, 1977 in Boston. His father would take him to bookstores every Sunday afternoon, this is where he found his love for books. He went to New York City College to get his MDA. After he taught for 10 years at a high school in New York, he became a full-time writer.
Throughout “Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption”, as well as “All American Boys”, some key moments described how stories of racism develop. The first quotes I wanted to compare are “Well, you will have to go back and sign the book.” (Stevenson 195) and “Yeah, he was trying to steal those chips!”. (Reynolds and Kiely 21) The first quote about the jail warden is very meaningful. First, he has a truck supporting the Confederacy. Second, he makes his own rules. This just shows that some people have their own rules, even if they did not comply with the actual rules. The second quote came from the cashier at the store. He sort of made his own rules and almost got someone else killed for it. The cashier did not have any proof that Rashad had actually stolen the chips. Both of these quotes show exactly what happens when the people in charge make their own rules.
For my second set of quotes, I chose “When the indictment was announced, there was a joy and relief in the community that someone had been charged.” (Stevenson 50) and “But something’s gotta pop up.” (Reynolds and Kiely 59). In Just Mercy, people were happy that someone was convicted even though they had no evidence. In All American Boys, many people wanted the police officer to get released from service. They were met with resistance even though there was evidence. Both books divided groups of people. In Rashad’s case, many people sided with him because there was a video which displayed what happened.
Next, I chose “More than 2,500 children in the United States had been sentenced to life imprisonment without parole.” (Stevenson 269) and “Like we America’s disobedient dogs!”(Reynolds and Kiely 52). Spoony became angry because his brother was being doubted by his own parents. Walter got scared because he knew that he was going to death row for something that he did not do. This caused him to be mentally unstable, like many other children that had traumatizing experiences, after he was released from prison. Rashad did not become mentally ill but has a new fear that haunts him everytime he sees a patrol car. Walter is probably still scared of the people that set the scene so that Walter was accused.
Some quotes were like two puzzle pieces fitting together. First, “America’s prisons have become warehouses of the mentally ill.” (Stevenson 186) and second, “It’s about how the world looks at you and when they do.” (Reynolds and Kiely 69). Rashad and his beating had been recorded by someone, so the recording person must have been there. In Quinn’s case, there were friends around him at the time. Walter had a lot of witnesses to prove his innocence. Most mentally ill people are punished for something that does not seem normal from our perspective. This is a form of discrimination. There was also some evidence from people that had not been with Walter the day of the crime that he could not have been the person committing the crime.
The following quotes, “They are going to execute me for no good reason.” (Stevenson 279) and “Son, Pastor’s here to see you.” (Reynolds and Kiely 88), had a great meaning. The religious figure provided a good connection between the books. The pastor had taken time out of his day to come to Rashad and for that, he is grateful. The pastor also came out of nowhere and just showed up to give Rashad hope. I think the lawyer in Just Mercy has a similar function as the pastor in All American Boys. He just showed up at prison cells and gave people hope.
“I ain’t scared of no dog” (Stevenson 180) and “No Big Deal. NBD.” (Reynolds and Kiely 61) The video of Rashad’s brutal beating had taken a few days to be made public. In this time, the policeman could have easily gone somewhere else. Some people forget small things about a crime scene such as hair color, clothes, and car. This evidence was actually gathered by the lawyer in Walter’s story. People had seen him the whole day at his home. Some others said that his lowrider truck had not been a lowrider truck at the time of the incident even though the sheriff said it was.
“What would happen if we all just acknowledged our brokenness.” (Stevenson 290) “They’re speaking up, man” (Reynolds and Kiely 197). Our brokenness was addressed in Just Mercy and All American Boys. In All American Boys, people realized their mistake by seeing the video and speaking up about police brutality. In Just Mercy, it was a very hard fight against the ignorance of some people. In the end, when the excessive amounts of evidence were presented, most people recognized their brokenness.
“Several dozens innocent people who had been wrongly condemned to death row had been freed before him.” (Stevenson 242) and “RASHAD IS ABSENT AGAIN TODAY” (Reynolds and Kiely 165) both very great examples of stepping up and seeing the wrong. Most victims of police brutality try to flee. This causes the officer to pursue and make another confrontation. Second, the victims are usually brutally beat up like Rashad. The victim is sometimes shot and killed, but this does not happen as often as someone being beaten. Last, most people side with the victim because they either saw a video of what happened or saw other evidence. Many people start to make organizations and start a trend to help the victim in their fight against brutality.
Although one book is written fictionally, they both make it realistic. The non-fictional account has multiple examples of injustice in America but connects to past laws. Even though a book might be non-fictional, it can be a prediction of a future account based on past or present accounts. Racism has not changed a lot, but the nuances make the difference between harassment from the 19 hundreds to the 21st century. Social media and the news always have some story of racism, but it is just another thing people skip while looking through their social media.
As I read through All American boys and Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption, I was trying to put myself into everyone’s perspective. This was very hard in Just Mercy because there were so many characters in the book. The biggest connection I felt was to all the children. What they did is not something to give them life imprisonment without parole for. Although All American Boys is a fictional story, it felt very realistic. It made so much sense and mimicked society almost exactly. The characters were easy to connect to because there were few that had a detailed story.
Kalief Browder & Michael Brown
Many African American teenagers experience injustice. Kalief Browder is a recent example of how the judicial system fails those people. Kalief Browder had gone to a party in 2010 when he was only 16 years old. He was arrested for supposedly stealing a bag. He was unrightfully prosecuted and was sentenced for second-degree theft. Shortly after, he was sent to Rikers Prison in New York. He stayed there in Solitary Confinement because his family could not pay the bail for him to get out of prison. After he was finally released three years later, he returned home. He was showing signs of trauma and two years later, he took his own life. After three years, his story still makes an impact on people’s life.
Another tragic story is the case of Michael Brown. He was a 6 foot 4 inch-tall teen who had been walking on the street with a friend. Darren Wilson, a police officer, told him to get on the sidewalk. Brown responded by saying: “What the f— are you gonna do”. The policeman called for backup and drove his car in front of Michael and his friend, blocking their way. Michael supposedly responded by punching the officer. Next, the officer pulls out his gun and threatens Michael. Michael punches him again and the officer fires. At first, nothing happens, so he pulls the trigger again, but Michael was wrestling for the gun, so the shot misses. He then chooses to run away. The policeman knowingly pursued him and found him leaning on a street light. Michael Brown charges at the policeman while the policeman shoots at him. The policeman chose to kill Michael Brown by shooting him in the head. Michael’s life could have been saved if the policeman would have just stayed in the car. I wish it was possible that people could not get into situations that escalate to the point that someone dies.
Even when people recognize racism, prejudice, and police brutality, and try to prevent it, there will almost always be something to distract that person from new developments. Advertisements have been known to distract people from common problems, but even as someone might resist the urge to watch advertisements, they are distracted by trying not to be distracted. This is why need to call forth a change in the way media and advertising affect us today. The people that we see on the news, who were treated unjustly, injured, or killed are someone’s family and someone’s friends. All people should learn to be more compassionate and also strive to find solutions that help our society as a whole, even if some members are not directly affected. If we understand and help the stranger, we learn something about ourselves and can become a better person. We all should be activists for humanity.
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