Our Youth Leaders Reflect on This Moment
We invited the members of our Youth Action Council to send us their thoughts on the racist murder of George Floyd, this moment of nationwide protest, and the struggle for racial justice. Here is what they shared with us.
white people, i welcome you to a part of my universe.
WARNING: this is just an ounce of my suffering and pain.
i have to tell my friends “i love you, stay safe.”
you tell yours “see you later.”
i guess black, white, yellow, orange, or green, we aren’t guaranteed to see another day.
but i’m sure you’re not scared to step outside of your house.
i look out my window to see you jogging around imagining what it would feel like to not think you could become the next #AhmaudArbery.
no matter what precautions i try to take, they can find me and take my life away.
i’m scared to just live because of the skin that wraps my flesh and bones.
you live in America.
but i live in Amerikkka.
the supposed ‘land of the free’,
but they act like we still have chains tied around our feet.
When I first became a part of RICJ I was glad to have found a place where individuals could voice their opinions on matters of oppression, racism, and brutality. Given the continuation of 400 years of systematic oppression in a nation that claims to value life, the time for change is long overdue. It’s time to shine light on what should be common sense, but for some reason provokes disagreement: BLACK LIVES are valuable and should be protected and treated with humanity. The news outlets only cast so much and the majority of the time don’t have an accurate portrayal of events.
This is where you need to be educated. Education that doesn’t just come from your history books, but from a variety of sources that give perspective. Women’s rights, civil rights, and LQBTQ+ rights did not all just come out of thin air because the white man decided that it was no longer fair, it came from a COMBINATION of protests, riots*, and unity. The overdue justice for POC, more specifically black people, is not a right or wrong approach because to the oppressors any challenge to the norms will be perceived as wrong. This was seen countless times when POC were told to wait; MLK’s Letter from a Birmingham Jail, addressed the clergy who classified his peaceful protest presence as “outside extremist,” is just one example.
With covid-19 it’s difficult to ignore the larger pandemic of racism that runs this country. If you can’t protest there are so many other ways to stand up for justice. You can donate, sign petitions, send emails to police departments, hold conversations at your dining room table, and head to the polling locations!! Like many others, I used to think elections meant voting for the next president; however, there are so many officials that you have the right to vote for. If you're 18+, the smaller positions, such as mayors and county executives, are positions you can vote for. Those officials are in charge of selecting police chiefs. Be a part of the change you want to see in the world!
* Rioting and violence are not equivalent to the peaceful protests being organized, and shouldn’t be used in substitution for each other because it belittles the message(s) BLM protests are trying to spread. *
86,400 seconds in one day and in just 600 milliseconds, the human brain can think of a word, apply the rules of grammar to it and send it to the mouth to be spoken. For hundreds of years the thought and ideas and the teachings of oppression and institutionalized racism have not only plagued the minds of the majority but suppressed the mind, emotions, creativity and ability of people of color. To join the sea of fallen men and women of these injustices. From slavery, racism, the sexual assault of our men and women, to the segregation, lynching, and everyday racial profiling still the consistent need for change is there.
As I reflect on my people’s history and the pain felt today, I constantly think what is the reason for a man to have so much hate to publicly humiliate or murder another man because of not only their skin but religion, sexuality and ideas. The only thing that I can think of, as James Baldwin once said, “These people have deluded themselves for so long that they really don’t think I’m human.” We are seen as barbaric animals and sometimes less than that. As I think of this quote I think of Ahmaud Arbery who was hunted. I think of Rodney King and Emmitt Till who were beaten with no remorse, no sense of shame or wrongdoing. For every minority who has been called thug, cholo, coon, chink, nigger or any other slur. Think how to burn people on crosses as torches, to bomb churches, kill children, burn black wall street. To tear apart families and stop the mind from learning and growing and developing thoughts and ideas. To preaching in churches that it was God's will for one race to oppress another.
The only barbaric thing I see is teaching your children to share your hate and insecurities. Teaching them white supremacy as something to be proud of and enjoy. The only animal I see are the cowards who once hid behind white sheets that hide behind gold badges. Who use the military to stop the progression of people. Hide behind their executive offices, cars, opportunity, privileges and guns to better their situation on the backs of others. Who hide behind the sayings “it’s just a word,” “slaves are in the Bible,” “the slaves wanted …” and “I have a black…”
While the minority are exposed and are battered and broken. Who work the 6-8 before the 9-5. Who are left with little jobs, little opportunities, little hope, horrible education and the only option left is get rich or die trying, maybe try to play a sport or make music. Because the only other option is to be stuck in the cycle of imprisonment or struggle, die and join the sea of names.
Even amidst the chaos of today we adapt, evolve, overcome and carry the weight of America on our backs on a country we built with our bare hands. Yet still face betrayal and injustice and are forced to fight in wars and go on living life with little hope of equality. Even though all odds are stacked against us we still revolutionize with our music our athletic ability our poetry our culture. Yet as they persecute us they rally behind our music. Mimes to our dances, language, and everything that makes us who we are. To preserve our culture, gain true freedom and equality, we must fight for change. For respect. Let the protest cover all areas of America and spark change among us.
This situation has me so angry. There is literal video evidence of that cop kneeling down on his neck and murdering him, yet they still have to ‘investigate’ it? You can hear him saying that he can’t breathe and the cop is just kneeling on him while looking around. I don’t know how many more black lives have to be taken before some type of reform happens. My heart mourns for the black community and what they go through. It took two days for the cops involved to get arrested and two violent protests for the FBI to make this murder their top priority. Only then did they charge him with third degree (it’s a start, but this was not a third degree murder, it was first degree).
And what bothers me the most is when there were (mainly) white people protesting in Michigan (over a pandemic mind you), with heavy-duty guns and AR-15s, literally spitting, screaming, and shoving cops, there was no tear gas. No arrests. No type of retaliation. But when people were peacefully protesting against police brutality, to make the voices of the black community heard, there are people being maced, getting shot with rubber bullets, and teargassed. There was a little girl that was maced by a cop in Seattle. There are cops pushing, shoving, beating, kicking, and driving into protesters, yet people still want to say “not all cops”?
This country is so backward and so against POC, mainly black people. This situation makes me so angry and makes my heart hurt. It’s completely insane that it took two nights of rioting for their voices to be heard. This is proof that peaceful protests alone don’t work for the BLM movement to be heard. For people’s voices to be heard, they have to resort to rioting and violence. As MLK said, “Riots are the language of the unheard.” I may not be black but I hear them, I mourn with them, I respect and value them, and I will fight with them until their voices are heard.
How I’ve been feeling for the past few days with everything that has been going on is that it makes me feel sad but mad at the same time. Because a poor and innocent man lost his life due to a police man being racist. And it just makes me feel like this has been going since I can only remember and still there hasn’t been any justice made. Then with all the protest going on and people destroying stuff and breaking into the malls and stores it all just worries me. But at the same time I feel like people need to know and understand that it doesn’t matter about the skin color of a person, that they are still human beings and that their skin isn’t a weapon. That they need to stop what they’re doing because it’s hurting people and also destroying their lives.