A double standard is defined as a rule or principle which is unfairly applied in different ways to different people or groups, and is a concept that can still be heavily applied to the history of the United States. The topics of racism, discrimination, and prejudice make many individuals uncomfortable, furious, or indifferent. Since humans began developing social classes, racial division has been a key factor in how societies organize – however, it’s important to note that race is simply a social construction.
On April 28, 1977, “Little House on the Prairie” aired an episode titled “The Wisdom of Solomon.” Solomon Henry was an 11-year-old African-American character that asked the main character, Charles Ingalls, this infamous question: “Would you rather be black and live to be 100, or be white and live to be 50?” The message behind this statement was that even though people of color gained their freedom in the United States after centuries of enslavement, they still were not free to act as a human being. When an individual’s bloodline is starved from resources and education for centuries, strong and knowledgeable foundations that allow success are almost impossible to come by.
Police brutality, protests, and death have been a lethal combination since the abolishment of slavery. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. used his voice to accomplish a milestone for humans suffering from the consecutive centuries of oppression and discrimination. MLK led millions during the Civil Rights Movement in peaceful protests, rallies, and freedom marches while educating the world about the hardships that people of color endured for too long. When MLK was assassinated, many of his followers rioted to get the message of “segregation no more” across to anyone opposed to the freedom of people of color. The death of MLK ultimately led to the disolvement of segregation throughout America, with major contributions from Rosa Parks, Malcom X, and many others. Even with a huge breakthrough of racial barriers, discrimination and prejudice still permeate American culture today.
Recently, Michigan and the entire nation has been under a lockdown because of the coronavirus pandemic, and some individuals don’t agree with the restrictions that are in place. Civilians have taken their frustration to Lansing’s Capitol Building and other capitals alike to protest against the restrictions – some armed with rifles, yelling in the faces of police officers, and exercising their constitutional rights. Some would even say that the Lansing gridlock inspired thousands across the nation as similar protests occur in other cities. Many, if not all, return to their homes that same day without any run-ins with authorities.
It’s extremely ironic that the phrase “exercising their constitutional rights” has been applied to these specific protests. Colin Kaepernick became infamous nationally and even globally for kneeling before NFL games while the national anthem was played. Millions labeled him as a self-absorbed, arrogant, classless thug. Kaepernick used his national platform to bring awareness to the social injustices that were continuously occurring against people of color in the U.S. Kaepernick stood up for what he believed in, yet was never viewed as exercising his constitutional rights while performing these non-violent protests.
Indigenous and environmental activists decided to take a stand against the Dakota Access Pipeline for many months, and were thankfully assisted in 2016 by President Barack Obama when he denied a key permit for the construction. Although the protests were not met with civility throughout the two-year fight: many were shot with rubber bullets, sprayed with tear gas and water at freezing temperatures throughout the night, and even had K-9’s sent after them. Many seem to forget that indigenous people were here long before many traveled to the Americas, and yet this is how they are treated for fighting to keep their sacred land from being completely revolutionized.
America is a place that allowed a jogger to be harassed, chased, then gunned down in broad daylight- all because he was a person of color. On Feb. 23, Ahmaud Arbery was shot and killed by two individuals who saw an African-American running and assumed Arbery was part of a string of recent break-ins. Gregory and Travis McMichael allegedly (left the safety of their home) armed themselves with a revolver and shotgun to make sure that Arbery didn’t get away. Any individual who is suddenly chased by a vehicle containing gun-toting individuals would fear for their life just as Arbery did. While trying to defend himself, Arbery was killed at the age of 25. On May 6, the story of Arbery’s death went viral when a video of the fatal encounter surfaced and was published by media outlets across the country. Hours later, the family lawyers of the Arbery’s called for prosecution. Seventy-three days after the incident, both individuals were arrested for Arbery’s murder. Many believe that if it weren’t for the video surfacing, the individuals would have never been arrested considering the amount of time the men were allowed to walk freely after the shooting.
In 2018, 60% of Americans were Caucasian while 30% were African-American and Hispanic. Although, African-Americans make up 37.7% of incarcerated prisoners in the U.S and statistics show that they are 2.5 times more likely to be killed by a police officer. The judicial system has been viewed by many as extremely biased against African-Americans as they find themselves with harsher punishments and less justice when applicable.
Trayvon Martin was 16 when he was shot and killed for “looking suspicious” and his aggressor was found not guilty even after authorities told him not to pursue Martin.
Philando Castile was 32 when he was pulled over for a broken tail light on his vehicle. After verbally announcing that he is carrying a permitted concealed handgun, the officer immediately pulled out his firearm and screamed at Castile to not reach for the weapon. Castile announced several times that he was reaching for the wallet that contained the information that was asked of him; yet he was still shot at point-blank range seven times. Castile’s girlfriend and four-year-old daughter were inches away from falling victim themselves as they witnessed their loved one being killed in front of them. Officer Jeronimo Yanez, who happens to be a Hispanic-American, was later charged with second-degree murder and two counts of dangerous discharge of a firearm. After 27 hours of deliberation, a jury found Yanez not guilty.
Eric Garner was 44 when he repeatedly said, “I can’t breathe” as he was choked to death by a police officer in broad daylight. Charges were not brought against Daniel Pantaleo, and the only punishment against the former officer was being relieved of his duties.
These cases are drops of water in an ocean compared to the endless amount of individuals whose names have been used in the same sentence as “they should’ve just listened.” Many of the individuals who are telling African-Americans to listen to authority figures are the ones who recently were “exercising their constitutional rights” to protest the restrictions designed to stop the spread of COVID-19. In the midst of a global pandemic, these protesters were allowed to go against state issued orders, brandish assault rifles that have no relation to the pandemic, and nest themselves inside Lansing’s Capitol Building, all because they believed their rights were being violated.
In 2018, FOX News host Laura Ingraham told NBA All-Star LeBron James to “shut up and dribble” when James decided to use his national platform to speak on social injustices. Ingraham believed James wasn’t educated enough to speak on the lack of leadership the U.S. was receiving during police shootings and brutalities, and others took major offense to her comments. An individual of European descent telling an African-American they aren’t educated enough to speak their mind about the unfair treatment African-Americans are still enduring is the backward direction America continues to take.
Many of the issues above are the result of the U.S. failing to cease the double standards throughout the nation. Individuals allow themselves to be influenced by things they are told while growing up, rather than experiencing these situations first-hand or researching the facts. Making assumptions about someone solely because of their difference in skin color rather than their character is wrong. Allowing the majority group to physically, mentally, and emotionally be free while discriminating and holding prejudice against minorities will never allow humanity to be unified.