Following the killing of George Floyd, a surge of protests broke out across the nation against the mistreatment of black people by the police. Now, more than ever, we must take action to change the system that neglects and abuses so many. These actions, no matter how small, can be the impetus for widespread, meaningful, and lasting change for America, so I encourage everyone to use the resources that they have because we may be on the brink of a revolution.
One incredibly important action is to start discussions. With such a difficult topic, this is no simple feat. Nevertheless, the discussion should no longer be avoided, since it is essential for educating others and creating awareness. Furthermore, the discussion is not just about conferring with those who share the same views, but challenging oneself and starting conversations with people who possess opposing ideals.
The best place to start is first educating yourself before educating others. Learn about how systemic racism effectively treats people of color as second class citizens. Read books and essays that explore race and call out discrimination by black authors. Watch movies and documentaries from black filmmakers that educate. Look through history to understand the context of all that is happening. And at the same time, stay up to date with what is occurring in the present. You will find that there is much left to be fixed and changed for the better.
Understand Each Other
Approach these discussions as a way to better understand each other. No matter what, maintain a level of respect amongst one another.
Ask Tough Questions
When you ask tough questions, you force people to stop and contemplate.
Ask questions about perspectives on race:
“Do you speak out against instances of racism?”
“Are you actively avoiding people who hold different opinions from you?”
“When your opinions are challenged, do you immediately defend your way of thinking or do you pause to consider what they have to say?”
“Do you recognize prejudices prevalent in your community?”
Ask questions about racial disparity:
“Why is it that unarmed black Americans are being killed?”
“What is the reason behind 48% of those serving life sentences in prison are African American?”
These questions all lead to a solution for systemic racism.
When others voice their opinions against the Black Lives Matter movement, rise to the occasion, speak up, and challenge their perspective.
“All lives matter.”
This statement is inherently problematic because it disregards the issues that plague American institutions that blatantly neglect black lives. Yes, all lives do matter, but in the country’s current environment, black lives are not treated as if they mattered.
“Racism does not exist anymore.”
Challenge this idea by presenting evidence that racism not only exists in our society but is also rampant. No longer can we allow people to pretend that systemic racism is only a myth. People may recognize the progress that has been made for black people in America, but racial barriers continue to persist.
“White privilege is fictional.”
Having privilege does not mean that one does not suffer. It means not having to worry about your safety around the police, those meant to serve and protect. It means being able to watch the media and see your race represented. Metaphorically, white people spend their lives swimming downstream, while people of color struggle harder, going upstream, and against the current.
“Peaceful protesting is okay but not when people start looting and destroying property.”
First off, many fail to recognize that there are those who seek justice and are peacefully organizing, and there are those who are opportunists. These people are taking advantage of the chaos and discrediting the protest’s real objective. Further, this sentiment detracts from the issue of black lives being taken. Property can be rebuilt but lives cannot be recovered.
Finally, the sentiment, “I am neutral in all of this.”
Neutrality in these dire times is unacceptable. Those who remain neutral, have essentially chosen to ignore the oppression that afflicts black Americans. Thus, they side with the oppressor. More than ever, people must take the position against oppression and stand up and speak out.