As somebody who has grown up under the fiercely one-sided application of law, I think I’m speaking for most people in poor black communities when I say that our demands for equality are limited to equal punishment. Political leaders often meet our demands with promises of reform, but so-called criminal justice reform is only one part of the problem. Yes, accountability is necessary, but retribution is dangerous because it solves nothing. It brings no closure, nor does it end anybody’s suffering.
It also distracts the whole of society from our true mission, which is to live amongst each other peacefully, and with the true sense of brotherhood and sisterhood. Progress is slowed when society is forced to focus on punishment, and since punishment is synonymous with retribution in America, I think it’s safe to say that retribution functions as an effective check on progress and potential.
The U.S. Constitution guarantees every citizen the unalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Though the black community wasn’t in mind when those words were written, black bodies have been on the front lines of defending those words since the very beginning. Equality means equal treatment as a human being: equal access to good housing, good education, good healthcare, and good meaningful employment; it means equal access to good opportunities. You could put every corrupt police officer in prison, and it still won’t change a thing because these officers are a result of the ideology which drives the system.
Claiming that black outrage is the effect of unfair and unequal prosecution of police is a gross misrepresentation of Black America’s true concept of equality. It undermines our struggles and limits the scope of the kind of progress that we truly seek. It isn’t a matter of civil rights, it’s a matter of human rights because we can’t accept each other as citizens until we first accept each other as human beings. That can only happen when equality goes from being a right to being a fact. My name is Sergio Hyland, and you can follow me on Instagram at @uptownserg.