Tomorrow we celebrate Independence Day, an invitation to remember the importance of resisting tyranny, fighting for freedom, of in fact defining what freedom means. The powerful protests in Egypt now poignantly point to the undeniable human will for freedom.
and there is no freedom without justice.
On the eve of our national tribute to independence, our Supreme Court sent mixed messages about whether everyone in this country is entitled to justice, and therefore full freedom. The death of DOMA is a tremendous victory for human progress. And yet, the Voting Rights Act was slashed and the dangerous consequences unleashed instantaneously (…..”Texas announced shortly after the decision that a voter identification law that had been blocked would go into effect immediately, and that redistricting maps there would no longer need federal approval”) When, voting, the most basic aspect of a free society is put in jeopardy for some, (the same “some” who’ve always been made to prove their own oppression) we’ve regressed as a whole.
What will it mean if the Assembly here in New York passes the law the Senate recently passed making it a felony to “annoy” a police officer? How easy is it for a young person of color to annoy a police officer? Students in exalt’s current class, who’ve been stopped by police told us:
“Ask too many questions”
“Know your rights”
“Bump into him” (officer)
“Argue with them”
“Wear a certain color”
“Looking the wrong way”
Yes, there may be technical language embedded in the law that indicates some form of physicality must be involved to justify an arrest for aggravation or annoyance, but we already know from Stop and Frisk stops that the territory of correct interpretations is generally ruled by law enforcement, not defendants. exalt youth, representative of so many young people negatively affected by racial profiling and discrimination, will continue to bear the burden of proof.
Help exalt elevate expectations for our youth so neither they, nor we, assume they’re worthy of handcuffs rather than hope.