CROTON-ON-HUDSON — June 3, 2020 — Hello. my name is Julie Morgillo. I’m a 17-year-old student at Croton Harmon High School, and lately I’ve been thinking a lot. When I was a kid, I was always taught America was a place where if anyone worked hard, their dreams could come true. I was taught that slavery and racism were events of the past, but now, Blacks and whites are equal and have been since Martin Luther King Jr. gave his “I have a dream” speech in the 60s. I was taught that even though sometimes you can’t please everyone, leaders passed laws with good intentions. I was taught that if you committed a small crime you would go to prison for a short time and if you committed a big crime you would go to prison for a long time. I was taught that you would only be killed if you were dangerous or did something really bad. I was taught that cops had the intention of protecting all and keeping America the fair, just, and free society I truly believed it was. Over my teenage years, especially this past year I have learned all of this is far from the truth.
America is a society with deep roots of racism and oppression. I always thought that being a police officer you were supposed to protect everyone from those who were unsafe. However, this past summer I learned that the origins of the police force came about from the fugitive slave act. Police officers were originally a force designed to catch black people and bring them back to their slave owners. Of course, we have made progress as a society. I do believe there are good people who choose to be police officers. I know good people who have chosen to be police officers.
However, as a profession, the police force is designed to enforce American laws and the American system. A system rooted in racism and oppression. Being a white male I could have easily lived in a world where I believed everything I believed in as a child. I did not have to seek out the education and knowledge to find out about the racism in American society. I had the luxury of living in ignorance.
This is not the case for Black people. Black people are constantly aware of the dangers they face in this society. One of my friends’ ten year-old little sister cries about how she may be killed by a police officer. This is a ten-year-old child. She shouldn’t have to worry about being murdered by those who are supposed to protect her. Black parents shouldn’t have to be afraid of sending their children to the store or letting them drive. It’s not fair.
However, I believe in change. I believe we can have an America where blacks and whites are equal. I believe we can have an America where leaders pass laws with good intentions. I believe we can have an America where your sentence is appropriate for your crime. I believe we can have an America where cops protect everyone and keep everyone safe. However, for that to happen we need to make some serious societal changes.
White Americans need to be properly educated on system oppression, specifically systemic racism. The police force needs to be completely revamped and training must be longer of longer duration, less based in how to harm people and more based on de-escalation techniques. This change will not be instant but it can happen.
So please, talk to teachers at your school about implementing lessons about systemic racism into classrooms. Talk to your local police force about how they train their cops. If you can vote, elect leaders at every level that believe this system requires change. Get educated and get involved.
As a 17-year-old kid, I want to see the country I have mentioned come about. I want to see a country where cops are truly societies’ protectors. I want to see a country where everyone has a trial and everyone gets punished justly for the crimes they commit. I want to see a world where we acknowledge the immense struggle Black people have faced in society but we can move past it and truly reach equality. I want a world that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks, Barack Obama and countless other Black activists and white activists, as well, can be proud of and feel as if their goals have been fulfilled.