While watching the documentary, 13th, I felt overwhelming waves of sadness, frustration, and fatigue. It quickly became evident to me that as people, our torrid love affair with the criminal justice system was something continuous to this day. To this day, discrimination, criminalization, and dehumanization are tools still being regularly perpetuated by law officials, lawmakers, policemen, civilians and so many others with or without juridical influence. The face of injustice within the legal system rears its ugly head over and over again, with several masks that promise safety and order. Time and time again, we welcome this sly monster in with its dubious aliases such as “war on crime”, “war on terror”, and so on. We let its friends “police brutality” “minimum sentencing” and “overpriced bail bonds” hang around due to its empty promises of ensuring protection. What we fail to notice, over and over again, is that few are protected, while far too many are denied of their basic human rights.
Our turbulent relationship with the so-called justice system has spanned centuries. It heeded us first from far away by sending its media wingmen. Together, they showed us images of those who would attack our mothers, our sisters, and anyone we ever cared to love. It whispered in our ear that the only way to solve crime was to lock it up, to deprive it, to put it in a place so dark that it would never be seen again. It told us the people to fear were those in poverty, the marginalized, the oppressed, the mentally overwhelmed, the over-looked. Ignore sense, it hastily urged, people commit crime because they want to, not because they somehow are put in a position by society to.
We fall for the smoke and mirrors time and time again – the result: a barrage of reforms that only prove to disengage us from the real issues and disregard those who need to be protected. It’s time we take a step back and exhale. Our love affair needs to end -- by acknowledging the past, learning how to recognize changes that only serve to worsen, and pioneering the way forward. The implementation of these changes falls on the present generation and those to come. We have the power to influence and set out innovative ideas to change the way the justice system is ran and disseminated. It’s up to us to take the mistakes from the past and use it to create a future where we not only see criminals, but circumstance.