Pick a Better Country This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.


   Isthere any justice in this country? I wondered when I read the verdict ofthe Amadou Diallo trial. I was so surprised that I read the same storyfrom several news briefs and Internet articles just to make sure thefirst wasn't a mistake. I was so disturbed I didn't want to see anyoneand curled up against the wall. I sobbed until I couldn't see straight.

For those who don't know about this case: On February 4, 1999 anunarmed immigrant from Guinea (in West Africa) named Amadou Diallo stoodin front of his Bronx apartment building. Four white policemenapproached because they thought he was a rapist they were looking for.When approached, he took out his wallet, which the police thought was agun. They shot at him 41 times; 19 bullets entered his body.

Oneyear later, the four cops were acquitted of all 24 charges. The dayafter the verdict, I bought several newspapers to compare perspectives.Reading them in a train station, I just looked at a wall and cried. Icried because I didn't understand how such a verdict could havehappened. I cried because 41 bullets were not called for. I criedbecause justice wasn't done. I cried because I knew race had a lot to dowith it. Yes, R-A-C-E.

The only reason for shooting at someone 41times is if you really hate them. Americans assign people stereotypes.Did the policemen really think Amadou was the man they were looking for?Or, did they make assumptions? If the roles were reversed, the verdictwouldn't have been the same.

You can read about the trial innewspapers and on the Internet, but I'd like to offer anotherperspective. Many don't realize what the United States represents forpeople in developing nations. People struggle, sometimes for years, toget here. The United States has freedom of religion and speech anddemocracy. The U.S. represents the perfect place to be safe for peoplefrom countries in political turmoil.

I don't know if I feel safehere anymore. I'd feel safer and more comfortable in Africa, despite thepolitics and turmoil. Amadou probably fought very hard to get here, andfor what? One fights so hard to get here, only to face racism and riskharassment and even death. That's bad enough, but when the principle ofjustice the country is supposed to stand for and be built on doesn'tmean anything and isn't applied in the most extreme cases, what's theuse?

There's a point few have analyzed: why Amadou took outhis wallet. People who think it was a fair verdict say if he hadcooperated and just put his hands up, everything would have been fine.But they missed the significance of the wallet. In West Africa, whereAmadou was from, you are supposed to show identification when the policeapproach. You do not put your hands up, you get your ID. Now, where isit usually located? In a wallet. From personal experience, I can saythis is something you get used to doing. When you've been conditioned todo this, your first reaction when approached by four policeman would beto take out your ID as quickly as possible. Amadou was trying to avoidtrouble - and a wallet does not look like a gun.

I will not lieand say I am not afraid to be a black person in this country. I knowracism is still very alive. But, I am even more scared for black males.This trial sent a message to armed white cops: you can murder and getaway with it. Will somebody please explain what kind of screwed-upsystem this is? Because of this incident, my brother will probably nevercome to school in America; because of this incident, I would be afraidto raise children here. I know several men named Amadou Diallo, and Ican't help thinking that it could have been one of them. It could havebeen my brother, my cousin, my best friend, my neighbor or any otherblack man I know, for that matter.

Recently I read a book calledPick a Better Country. It's written by a black man who argues blacksshould not complain so much; if we hate America and feel there's nojustice here, then we should just "pick a better country." If therecontinues to be no justice and murderers get off the hook becausethey're white and the victim is black, then maybe I will. Maybe I willjust pick a better country.




This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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