Photo Courtesy of Jamie Germano – @jgermano1
Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness-these are the three specified “unalienable rights” that our founding fathers promised us all in the age of a new United States of America. While white Americans have the privilege of living out this reality, People of Color cannot enjoy such luxury because our so called “Great Nation” was and is built on institutional racism and slavery. When 17-year-old Trayvon Martin was brutally murdered for buying a package of Skittles, we learned that the true crime is being black in America. Since the initial rise of the #BlackLivesMatter movement, several new “movements” such as #AllLivesMatter, #BlueLivesMatter, and yes even the horrific #WhiteLivesMatter have arisen across the country, proving that racial oppression is a disease that we have yet to find a cure for. I propose that the remedy for this disease is a big, heaping dosage of education combined with a generous application of open-mindedness.
I believe much of the racial oppression we witness and experience in our day-to-day lives primarily stems from three main issues: a) the teaching of racist notions through cultural inertia, b) the accustomization to white privilege and, c) the misinformation from biased media sources. In summary, we can attribute racial oppression to ignorance, and the best way to combat ignorance is with education! Our education system has the most responsibility in this fight. It is no longer “acceptable” for our history teachers to white-wash our lessons and ignore the pressing issues of oppression. Our principals and faculty members cannot remain silent as acts of hate spread across the nation like wildfires, even on school grounds. Today there are more important topics to discuss than the pythagorean theorem or MLA formatting. It’s about time that we start learning about this “real world” they keep telling us about. However, in order for us to learn, we must first open our minds.
It is important to realize that we, as humans, should never stop learning; There are too many experiences we have not had, too many lessons we have yet to learn, and too many perspectives we cannot see from. When we take on a fixed mindset, one that causes us to accept things exactly as they are, we limit our potential as a society. When a black person is three times more likely to be killed by a police officer than a white person, things are not “good enough” anymore. When a black person is five times as likely as a white person to be incarcerated, things are not “good enough” anymore. We cannot remain complacent any longer, and that is something we must teach the rest of America. These are the facts, these are the statistics. This is not “fake news,” and we are not “thugs,” as President Donald Trump likes to say. Racism is alive and well in America, and it is up to us to abolish it. Now is the time for us to evolve from “not racist” to “anti-racist.”
Finally, it is important that we as white people understand and accept our white privilege. We are inherently racist because we live in and benefit from a society that favors white people and oppresses People of Color. So many people are in denial of this privilege because they fail to understand the concept. Even if a white person experiences some form of racial targeting, they are able to escape into a society where they are once again accepted and favored, whereas someone who is black or brown does not have that privilege. (Hence the term, “white privilege.”) Once we recognize the privilege we have, we can use it to the benefit of the #BlackLivesMatter movement by amplifying black voices, sheltering black lives from police during protests, and leading by example for white people who have remained silent, and therefore complacent, during this time. It is not our job to speak on behalf of the Black Community, but to show our support for the messages they are spreading.
We as a nation have endured and upheld racial oppression for far too long, 244 years too long to be exact. The targeting and murder of our innocent brothers and sisters cannot and will not be tolerated anymore. I firmly believe that our education system must be the spark that ignites change in the world, providing the information and platforms for discussion we need in order to address racial oppression in the 21st Century. The United States of America arose from a bunch of angry people oppressed by the powers that be, so who says another big change can’t arise in a similar manner? With graceful words and hearts of gold, we will win this battle to free ourselves from the cold, merciless chains of racism that imprison our society.