New president, old president: It’s the same life for minority communities

Illustration by Marisa Stratton

Tagwa Shammet, Opinions Editor

I was constantly asked when I was younger, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” 

Without hesitation, I would respond: “president.”

Even at a young age, I’d admired the power and elegance that had to be held by someone who was running a global superpower. I wanted to be a phenomenal president as I believed every former president had been. But, I’d yet to comprehend the dangerous consequences of mistakes and apathy in the Oval Office.

Now, more than ever, I am living those dangerous consequences.

The 2020 presidential election was disheartening. It highlighted this nation’s obsession with success, rather than human compassion. Both candidates threatened minority Americans through apathy toward civil rights, education, police violence and healthcare.

As we await election results, I want to make one thing clear. Regardless of who sits in that Oval Office, communities of color will still face an unbearable amount of hardships.

I voted last week but even after casting my ballot, I didn’t feel an overwhelming sense of pride. 

I voted for someone who was more interested in winning than my undeniable right to affordable healthcare. I voted for someone who found more satisfaction in beating his opponent than dismantling the school-to-prison pipeline. I had voted for someone who yearned for victory rather than justice.

So, with a new presidential term upon us, I wonder what our justice system’s fate will look like.

Mass incarceration has been widely discussed in relation to police violence and the Black Lives Matter protests. It is a fact that Black men fill up American prisons at a disproportionate rate. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, Black men are incarcerated at a rate nearly six times higher than white men. 

For every six Black men sent to prison to rot away, one white man follows. Some might argue that Black people commit more crimes. I won’t even dignify such bigotry with a response when the system’s inherent racism and oppression is so blatant.

Neither candidate has any interest in restructuring the justice system to provide fair and equal opportunity to all Americans. Let’s not forget that if President Donald Trump were to have it his way, the Exonerated Five would be put to death for a crime they did not commit. In 1989, he printed a full-page advertisement calling for the state of New York to adopt the death penalty after five Black and Latino teens were wrongly accused, and later convicted, of raping a jogger in New York City.

On the other hand, former Vice President Joe Biden would prefer to “lock the S.O.B.s up” in his version of law and order. In a 1994 speech on the U.S. Senate floor, Biden criticized the Democrats’ handling of violent crime rates.

“Every time Richard Nixon, when he was running in 1972, would say, ‘Law and order,’ the Democratic match or response was, ‘Law and order with justice’ — whatever that meant,” Biden said. “And I would say, ‘Lock the S.O.B.s up.’”

While we’re on the topic of criminal justice reform, neither of these candidates could find it in their oh-so-big hearts to protect children of color from the horrific school-to-prison pipeline.

The pipeline criminalizes young children, particularly children of color, by forcing them into disciplinary action and punishment — more specifically, punishment by law enforcement. It baffles me how this country can subject children to disturbing and dangerous interactions with law enforcement at such a young age and then expect them to get over it with ease. 

I have an 8-year-old brother — a Black boy. I could only imagine the trauma if he had an uncivil interaction with the police at his age. Trump nor Biden will protect my brother. Trump is too busy buying libraries at Ivy League schools and then sending his children there. Meanwhile, Biden’s running mate, California Sen. Kamala Harris, has a history of imprisoning Black men as the former attorney general of California.

I can find comfort in my brother’s safety, seeing how schools are closed due to the pandemic. But, then I remember the dangers of COVID-19, specifically to those with no access to healthcare. Again, I contemplate the state of my welfare.

Access to healthcare is a basic human right that should never be monopolized or politicized. Nobody should have to give an arm and a leg simply because they’ve broken one. Nobody should worry about the survival of their child because of the expenses of medicine.

Neither candidates value human life and all of its glory. Trump has spent the past four years trying to repeal the only form of affordable healthcare we have. On the other hand, Biden lacks creativity and is simply complacent with the work done during his vice presidency.

Can you see the point? I’m not excited to see who wins this election because it makes no difference to me. 

I’m still Black in America. I’m still Muslim in America. I’m still a woman in America. I’m still an immigrant in America. My struggles and fears do not disappear regardless of who steps into that office.

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