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Editorial: United States still a nation in desperate need of equality

Equality for all groups is the key to national unity and stronger democracy

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The greatest thing about equality is that it is loved by nearly all Americans, regardless of race, religion or gender. It is, in this sense, equal in its adoption by the American people.
Among all the principles that “We the People” hold most dear, there are few more important than equality. It is the American devotion to equality that binds together all of the other things that make America great; for it is equality that leads to national unity, and a sense of this national unity that leads to the strength of democracy. Even in the most divisive and trying political times, we are bound together by the belief that all men and women are created equal and are entitled to the same opportunities.
Unfortunately, inequality still exists in many aspects of modern life in the United States. Just one area where these disparities exist is the justice system. According to the NAACP “Five times as many whites are using drugs as African Americans, yet African Americans are sent to prison for drug offenses at 10 times the rate of whites.” Furthermore, despite making up just 12 percent of the total U.S. population of drug users, they make up 59 percent of those incarcerated for drug offenses in state prisons. Even more startling is that African Americans serve about as much time for drug offenses as whites do for violent crimes.
It’s not just the court system that is broken; police departments nationwide have work to be done. Department of Justice investigations into the Baltimore and Ferguson police departments found patterns of discrimination against African Americans, and patterns of excessive force in the Chicago and Cleveland police departments.
A lot of this work falls onto the shoulders of various minority groups who need to remember to judge instances of police brutality on a case by case basis, and avoid making broad generalizations about police. We are all indebted to police for the great work that they do.
A fair criminal justice system is one of the fundamental pillars of any democracy, our society, the justice system has a ways to go in order to secure the equal treatment of all.
Equality is just as important economically as it is socially. Both presidential candidates expressed support of a policy to ensure that men and women receive fair compensation for the work that they do; and this policy is clearly needed. A mid 2016 report commissioned by the Joint Economic Committee in the U.S. Congress showed just how concerning the gender gap is. The report found that on average a woman makes just 79 percent on the dollar of what a man earns, so, for every five dollars a man makes, the average woman makes less than four. This difference is more exaggerated among minorities, where according to Forbes, “Latinas are paid only 55 cents on the dollar.” It would be easy to dismiss these claims along lines of education, but “the typical woman with a graduate degree earns $5,000 less than the typical man with a bachelor’s degree.” While there are a plethora of economic factors that can be blamed for the wage gap, the congressional report attributed up to 40 percent of the gap to simple discrimination.
The reason all of this matters is that equality is the great driving force behind national unity. When any one group is systematically oppressed there cannot be a rigid foundation for which a democracy can be built upon. Any policy that is designed to target a particular religion, race, or other minority group is morally wrong and entirely un-American. It is these kinds of policies that undermine national unity.
When President Washington warned against the loss of “The unity of government,” he was primarily concerned with the divisions that political parties cause, but division along religious or racial lines are just as dangerous in undermining national unity.
At Palmer Ridge, our school has recently made major strides in promoting the importance of diversity. This is exemplified by the recent introduction of the Fusion club, which hopes to enlighten the student body about the importance of understanding different cultures.
It is important to be a willing and faithful watchdog for the equal treatment of others. We as a student body must practice this equal treatment now, and treat all people with the same amount of respect.
Racial or religiously charged comments can no longer be tolerated in the student body. While it is just a small minority of the student body that makes such comments, it is up to all of us to take a stance against such statements. These kinds of comments are not acceptable in our culture, and are not up to the standards of Palmer Ridge.
Beyond this responsibility, is the importance of political activism. High school students of today have as important a role in politics as anyone. We must lend our youthful energy to any cause that energizes us, whether it is local or national.
This activism cannot be limited to the cycles of our democratic process, or the conviction of our leaders.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., whose legacy we celebrated earlier this week, wrote in his famous Letter from a Birmingham Jail that “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”

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Editorial: United States still a nation in desperate need of equality