Power of One iconPower of One

Deonate Cruz


Recently, the topic of social justice and racial equity has worked its way back into America’s consciousness. With the frequent shootings of citizens and police, and protests happening almost every week, it has become hard to ignore what is going on. Politicians, celebrities, schools, and everybody else in between, have spoken up and voiced their concerns. But have the voices of those most deeply impacted by these injustices truly been heard and validated?

Recently, the topic of social justice and racial equity has worked its way back into America’s consciousness. With the frequent shootings of citizens and police, and protests happening almost every week, it has become hard to ignore what is going on. Politicians, celebrities, schools, and everybody else in between, have spoken up and voiced their concerns. But have the voices of those most deeply impacted by these injustices truly been heard and validated?

For every individual’s opinion on America’s history with systemic racism, inequality, and oppression, there is always another individual with another opinion to counter theirs. However, I often find that people on opposite ends of the issue are actually saying the same thing: injustice is wrong. And no matter what you believe, I think we can all agree that people do not have to die due to a difference in opinion.

When people come forward with concerns about police interactions in their communities, those concerns should be validated and addressed immediately, not after 860 people are killed by police… since the beginning of 20161. Moreover, the systems that should hold police accountable should not be perpetuating the stereotype that the victims of shootings are guilty until proven innocent.

When I think about viable solutions to overcoming systemic racism, the first thing that comes to mind is allowing all people equal access to a fair justice system. For me, that would mean allowing people a way to voice their concerns and opinions, and to be assured that their grievances would be acted upon in a safe, supportive, and professional way.

Second, people in positions of power have to be willing to acknowledge the amount of responsibility that comes with their role. When responsibility is taken out of the equation, power can corrupt. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

A good example of how systemic power has shifted to make positive change is the work I have been a part of to reform foster care with The Mockingbird Society. Prior to Mockingbird’s inception 16 years ago, not too many people thought about foster youth as experts who should be consulted when making changes to the system. In fact, it was quite the opposite.

Today it is almost common sense that someone who lives their everyday life within the child welfare system would be in the best position to communicate how policies are actually working. Likewise, I believe those affected by inequality in the justice system are in the best position possible to tell you how policies are affecting their communities.

Sixteen years is a long time to change how people think about youth in foster care and their role within the child welfare system. When you look at our nation, a couple hundred years seems way too long to still be fighting against systemic racism, inequality, and oppression.
As we push to fulfill our mission of building a world class foster care system, let’s make it a priority to achieve social justice and racial equity in other systems in less than 16 years from now.


As of 10/19/16. This data is tracked by The Guardian: www.theguardian.com/us-news/nginteractive/2015/jun/01/the-counted-police-killings-us-database..

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We welcome submissions of articles, poetry, artwork, and photography from our young readers who have experience in the foster care system and/ or homelessness. If you want to be, or have been, published in the Mockingbird Times visit www.mockingbirdsociety.org, call us at (206) 407-2134 or email us at youthprograms@ mockingbirdsociety.org. Note: Incoming letters to the editor and correspondence to youth under 18 years should be addressed to the Mockingbird Times and will be opened first by adult editorial staff.