US-POLICE-RACE-JUSTICE-PROTEST
Protesters stand during a demonstration against the chokehold death of Eric Garner in Foley Square in New York City on Dec. 4, 2014. Timothy A. Clary—AFP/Getty Images

Sen. Rand Paul: Break Down the Wall That Separates Us From the 'Other America'

Jan 19, 2015
Ideas
Paul is the junior U.S. Senator for Kentucky

In his 1967 address to Stanford University, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke of two Americas. He described them as, "two starkly different American experiences that exist side by side."

In one America, people experienced "the opportunity of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness in all its dimensions." In the other America, people experienced a "daily ugliness" that dashes hope and leaves only "the fatigue of despair."

The uneasy coexistence of the two Americas is brought to bear by the deaths of Eric Garner and Michael Brown.

Although I was born into the America that experiences and believes in opportunity, my trips to Ferguson, Detroit, Atlanta, and Chicago have revealed that there is an undercurrent of unease.

Witness Protesters Taking Over the Streets After the Eric Garner Grand Jury Decision

Police Chokehold Death
A group of protesters rally against a grand jury's decision not to indict the police officer involved in the death of Eric Garner occupy the eastbound traffic lanes of the Brooklyn Bridge in New York City in the early morning hours of Dec. 4, 2014.Jason DeCrow—AP
Police Chokehold Death
People Protest No Indictment in Eric Garner Chokehold Case
Grand Jury Declines To Indict NYPD Officer In Eric Garner Death
Protests Erupt Across Country After Grand Jury Does Not Indict NYPD Officer Over Chokehold Death
Police stand guard on the West Side highway as protesters block traffic after the jury verdict in the death of Eric Garner in New York
Demonstrators Gather In Philadelphia To Protest Eric Garner Grand Jury Decision
BESTPIX - Demonstrators Gather In Philadelphia To Protest Eric Garner Grand Jury Decision
Protests Erupt Across Country After Grand Jury Does Not Indict NYPD Officer Over Chokehold Death
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People take part in a protest against the grand jury decision on the death of Eric Garner in midtown Manhattan in New York
NYC reacts to Eric Garner Grand Jury decision
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Police Chokehold Death
A man holding a child walks past protesters demanding justice for the death of Eric Garner in Manhattan
People Protest over no indictment in Eric Garner's chokehold case in Atlanta, Georgia
A demonstrator stands next to makeshift memorial where Eric Garner died during arrest in July in Staten Island borough of New York
A group of protesters rally against a grand jury's decision not to indict the police officer involved in the death of Er
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Jason DeCrow—AP
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Congressman John Lewis, who heroically marched in Selma, still sees two Americas. He writes: "One group of people in this country can expect the institutions of government to bend in their favor, no matter that they are supposedly regulated by impartial law.”

The other group: "[C]hildren, fathers, mothers, uncles, grandfathers . . . are swept up like rubbish by the hard unforgiving hand of the law. They are offered no lenience, even for petty offenses, in a system that seems hell-bent on warehousing them by the millions . . . while others escape the consequences of pervasive malfeasance scot-free."

We need to notice and be aware of the injustices embedded in our criminal system. However, we shouldn't be misled to believe that excessive force is the norm, not the exception. I believe that most police are conscientious and want only to provide safety for us.

The blame should be directed to the laws and the politicians who order police into untenable positions, that insist on "taking down" someone for selling a couple of untaxed cigarettes.

Our pursuit of justice should not obscure the fact that on many occasions, good people do step forward to find justice.

This past fall, Helen Johnson was desperate to feed her two daughters and their small children who had gone two days without food. When she got to the store, she discovered that the $1.25 she had was not enough to buy eggs. She was a mere fifty cents short, so she stuffed the eggs in her pocket.

Helen didn't even make it out of the store before the police were notified.

When Police Officer William Stacy arrived, something special happened. Instead of handcuffing Helen and taking her to jail, he used discretion and compassion to mete out justice. He warned Helen not to steal again and he bought her the eggs himself. Helen saw Officer Stacy again on Thanksgiving Day. He delivered a truckload of groceries to Helen’s home. Her grandchildren were overjoyed and proclaimed that they had never seen so much food in all their lives.

It isn’t hard to find injustice around us, but we must not let injustice smear the good deeds that do occur everyday.

I am optimistic, but peace will only come when those of us who have enjoyed the American Dream become more aware of those who are missing out on the Dream.

The future of our country will be secure when we break down the wall that separates us from "the other America."

Let’s commemorate the life of Dr. Martin Luther King by uniting the two Americas into one: an America that includes justice for one, and justice for all.

Paul is the junior U.S. Senator for Kentucky.


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