We can’t breathe

An examination of racism and protest in America.

June 5, 2020

Before you judge the uproar and anger, make sure you understand where it is coming from

Disclaimer: If this article is too long for you, your mindset is wrong. Realize that this is only a small step towards understanding the feelings of African Americans. If you are not willing to read this, then you may as well stop right here. Also, if this makes you uncomfortable then I did a good job. You need to be uncomfortable in life or else you will not change. Lastly, for all the people reading for understanding, thank you. Together, we can change the world. If you have any questions or need encouraging words during this time you can contact me at my email, [email protected]

Introduction:

Many people are watching the biased news reports that only speak on how the looters are destroying communities and moments when peaceful protests turned violent. Not to mention, they show the few clips of police officers kneeling with protesters in order to shift the view on the police officers and make the protesters seem violent. If you are not personally going to protests or if you are not constantly surrounded by these actions, it is very easy to form a biased view or reinforce your already present biased views. Many people start with the wrong perspective when approaching this uproar. If you start at the looting and riots, of course, you’re going to disagree with the whole movement especially if you never understood it in the first place. Who agrees with riots? Who believes that stealing is right? I can guarantee you that most people don’t believe these things. You don’t necessarily have to agree with the way people are fighting for justice but you sure as heck have to understand it. In many ways, people are acting out over built-up trauma. Generations of stress due to blatant racism, systemic racism, police brutality, and silence can do that to you. I saw a post on Twitter comparing the actions of rioters to a student who is bullied. The student is bullied every single day with no help from other students or teachers until one day, they explode. You may not agree with the fact that they are throwing desks around but urging them to be silent and peaceful at that moment is an insult. Especially if you stood back and watched when they were suffocating in the back of the classroom each and every day. You also can not blame the student for not trusting any staff members after the silence of their own teacher similar to how African Americans don’t trust the police officers today. In a way, people reducing the protesters down to rioters and looters (Which by the way, there is a difference between the protesters and looters. In fact, many rioters come into peaceful protests to enrage the police officers. Let’s not forget that many of the looters and rioters are white Americans that are trying to demean the purpose of the protest. Many white Americans are using these protests as an aesthetic and as a chance to act out their “bad boy” fantasies on TikTok. Yea I’m talking to you, Jake Paul. When speaking on this subject, make sure you understand that there are looters and then there are protesters who are genuinely working for change. There are many videos and personal evidence of people turning peaceful protests violent in order to distract the public and frame black communities.) is like ignoring the struggles of African Americans in America and reinforcing the long-held belief that African Americans are nothing but thugs. It is crazy that when white Americans protest about not being able to get hair cuts, they are still good people but when black people protest about being killed by the hands of the ones sent to protect and serve us, they are violent beasts. This is also funny considering America’s violent past but that’s a conversation for a different day. It is an insult to demand peace when you don’t even know half of African American history due to the poor education system. You may say that burning buildings won’t solve anything and is doing more harm to our communities. This may be a valid point but many African Americans are tired of caring and want others to feel what they have been feeling for years. The current disheveled state of your community is what it has always felt like for African Americans to live in this racist society. Let’s take a look at the small number of things our black ancestors had to go through and why we, black people, are in the current mindset/position we are in now.  

Before I get into this I want to debunk the belief that systemic racism means that everyone is racist. As Radley Balko said in his Washington Post article, “It means that we have systems and institutions that produce racially disparate outcomes, regardless of the intentions of the people who work within them.” 

Slavery

This is one of the only parts of African American history that is taught in our education system today. In the early 17th century, Europeans decided to stop using indentured servants and start using enslaved Africans. These Africans by the way were brought to the new world on cramped boats in iron chains. Slaves had no idea where they were going and faced long periods of starvation and thirst. Many of the slaves actually died before getting to their destination. This shows that Europeans were so focused on pleasing themselves that they didn’t even care that their doings resulted in the death of innocent people. Indentured servants were different from slaves in the aspect that they agreed to work for a certain amount of time in exchange for passage to the New World. Indentured servants chose this lifestyle though good treatment from each master was not guaranteed. After having experiences with African slaves, Europeans decided that slaves were easier and cheaper than their counterparts, indentured servants. Slavery grew so much that the economy could not run without the work of slaves. This is what black people mean when they say that America was built on the backs of our ancestors. Without African Americans, America would not be the America it is today. By the year 1860, the population of slaves had reached a whopping number of 4 million with more than half of the slaves living in the south. The south felt as though they needed slaves to produce tobacco and cotton. I say that the south was just lazy and was more concerned with money than the lives of African Americans but hey I guess we all have different opinions. Though not everyone in the south owned slaves because classism still existed, many of your faves that we were taught made progress for American history actually owned slaves. Examples include George Washington and 11 of the other US presidents. This is an example of the white male hero complex throughout history. Events like the Fugitive Slave Act (made it a crime to assist slaves in escaping) and the Dred Scott Case (said slaves were not citizens and had no legal rights) continued to prove that slaves were not viewed as humans with basic rights. From 1861 to 1865, the American Civil war was present in the United States. I don’t care how many people try to lie and say this war was about something other than slavery. I don’t care how many people try to defend themselves waving the confederate flag around. This war was based on slavery. Period. The south was afraid of losing their slaves and therefore, having its economy crash. They broke away from the north specifically to keep their current slaves. Supporting the confederate flag in today’s society can be seen as the support of the south’s enslavement of black people. I think that people can find another way to be proud of the south other than supporting a pro-slavery flag but that’s just me. The Declaration of Independence is a written piece of evidence that proves that America was built on anti-blackness and racism. It was created in 1776 and basically said that all men are created equal except for black people. Even as the colonies went to war over freedom with Britain, many people still owned slaves. What they don’t stress in school is that these slaves were once free. They were ripped from their families and were forced to work while being tortured with memories of their past life. Schools make it seem as though slavery was a gift to African Americans and as though it gave them an opportunity to leave a country people deem subpar. America stole freedom from these slaves and viewed them as property. Slaves were raped, tortured, killed, and denied the right to be educated. We need to stop trying to spare the feelings of Americans and admit the truth. Though slavery was technically abolished in 1865, African Americans are still not free and we are still suffering from the effects of slavery. Slavery is over but the American system is the same. A false sense of white superiority is intricately woven into different aspects of society. It is disgusting that my ancestors built America from the ground up but in the 21st century, African Americans are being killed in the streets. Many people try to sweep our history of slavery under the rug because they are simply scared to admit that the glorious United States of America has an ugly past. Yeah, maybe it wasn’t you who actually owned the slaves and maybe it was only your ancestors. But by pretending that slavery doesn’t exist and pretending that our American system does not share the same guidelines as slavery did, makes you the one at fault. Not to mention, white people share the same privilege and benefit from the same privilege as their slave-owning ancestors. This past is not only ugly but it is our reality. If we don’t admit to it or work to change it, it will become our future. 

For more information on slavery, you can visit https://www.history.com/topics/black-history/black-history-milestones

The War on Drugs and the Messed Up Prison System

In 1971, Richard Nixon declared drug abuse as the number one public enemy in the United States. He created the Office of Drug Abuse Law Enforcement to enforce this movement. In 1994, Nixon’s counsel revealed that the movement was created to wage war on African Americans and people not in support of the war. This not only made African Americans look like drug addicts to the public but it also made the incarceration rates for African Americans rise through the roof. This broke African American communities and families up. It then led to a new generation of black children being raised by single parents and more generations of black parents following this example. Many of our black leaders were sent to prison while the news made us look like thugs much like it is doing today. The War on Drugs disproportionately affected black and Hispanic communities. Because of the war, the sentences for offenses were much longer even for low-level offenses. Even after they were released from jail, many could no longer vote. The war on drugs also changed the white perception of black people. It made people think that black people on average used more drugs than white people when in reality this is not true. The truth is that many police officers hold racial biases and therefore tend to target more black people when searching for drug use. Many people believe that this was not Nixon’s intent but I don’t think that it is a coincidence that the war on drugs had a negative effect on the black community just like many of America’s actions in the past. Now it is not slavery keeping African Americans bound but it is the prison system. Our criminal justice system today is filled with racial bias and discrimination. There are many examples of this including minorities being pulled over for drugs at a higher rate even though drugs are used quite equally among all races and the whole idea of Stop and Frisk. According to the Washington Post, only about 3% of the Stop and Frisks produce any evidence of crime. This means that the police are pulling minorities over due to their bias. A lot of people argue that minorities commit crimes at a higher rate in order to excuse these actions. My response to that would be one, there is no excuse for these actions, and two, many of the people pulled over are innocent! I don’t think that the police are doing this because of statistics, I think that they are actually the ones manipulating these statistics because their racial biases lead to things like over-policing in black communities and Stop and Frisk. Society has brainwashed many people today into believing that minorities commit more crimes than white people but what society doesn’t like to mention is that these crimes are often provoked by the police. It is proven that police presence can actually increase crime rates. Society also forgets to add that there an excessive number of police officers in white neighborhoods. The police in white neighborhoods tend to have biases that benefit white communities. Therefore, the crimes that are committed in these neighborhoods often go unnoticed. If the police were following statistics they would be finding the actual people who committed crimes instead of killing innocent minorities. Race can literally and does literally affect every aspect of the prison system from being wrongly arrested, to detention, to the amount of bail, and to the length of the sentencing. If you don’t believe me, there are many resources on the internet. Blaming this all on the assumption that minorities commit crimes at a higher rate is you choosing to be ignorant. It is obvious that there is racial bias in our prison system and saying anything else is you excusing this. You also have to realize that a portion of the black community lives in poverty due to racial discrimination and setbacks. Poverty and disadvantages encourage crime. 

For more information visit https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/opinions/wp/2018/09/18/theres-overwhelming-evidence-that-the-criminal-justice-system-is-racist-heres-the-proof/#section9

Redlining

Redlining is a practice that puts services out of reach for certain areas based on race or ethnicity. This created housing segregation and made it harder for African American children to follow the path of the infamous “American Dream”. In an attempt to end the Great Depression, President Franklin D. Roosevelt created a new program called the New Deal. This New Deal consisted of the Public Works Administration and the Federal Housing Administration. The PWA created separate public housing for black and white people. This segregated cities. The FHA helped create what we know today as the suburbs. The FHA refused to guarantee loans for African Americans. The federal government literally created color-coded maps that told banks the areas that they could give out housing loans. Black neighborhoods were denied loans. Even neighborhoods that consisted of black people in the middle class were denied loans. Black people were not only denied financial assistance but they were quite literally blocked out of white neighborhoods by walls built by the government (sounds familiar, sorry I had to). Though redlining “ended” in 1968, to this day, banks have been caught using redlining maps. These areas consist of low-income brown and black communities. To this day, homes in black neighborhoods are valued 25% lower than homes in white neighborhoods even if they are similar. Redline neighborhoods have higher insurance premiums and higher interest rates. Redlining also impacts education. So see, we get most of our funding through local property tax. This means that black cities can not produce as much money as white suburbs. This can tax at a very low rate on high property tax. White schools tend to be funded more than schools that consist of minority students. These poorly funded schools tend to stunt the future of minorities. It is harder to get into college if you live in these redline communities. People in the redline communities are also 3x as likely to be arrested for the same crimes committed in nonredline areas. So basically what you can gain from this is that black people didn’t choose to live in poorer areas with fewer resources. Once again the system designed to fail minorities worked against them and made them suffer for generations upon generations. Before you judge a black person for living in the “hood” make sure you check your history. Of course, it is normal for white people to live in wealthier areas because their grandparents had access to low-interest loans on houses and were accepted into top universities that denied African American students in the past. They were able to pass this down to future generations while it was not the same for many African Americans. The fact that African Americans are still not given the same opportunities as white people to this day is beyond me.   

You can watch this video if you need more explanation: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2o-yD0wGxAc

Honorable Mentions:

  • Job discrimination: Even when a white student and a black student with similar grades fill out a job application, it is more likely that the white student will get the job. Studies show that resumes with “white” sounding names get twice as many callbacks as identical resumes with “black” sounding names. The black unemployment rate is twice the rate of white unemployment even among college graduates. African Americans receive lower pay, poorer benefits, and fewer job opportunities. 
  • Of course, we have to mention the number one reason that black people are protesting: police brutality. I’ve already listed stats on how black people are more likely to be pulled over and mistreated by the police, therefore, I will list the names of a small number of people killed by the police: 

Michael Lorenzo Dean    Roy Lee Richards                Lavall Hall                  Julian Dawkins

Eric Reason                      Alfred Olango                   Natasha McKenna       Terry Laffitte

George Floyd                    Tawon Boyd                          Jeremy Lett               Marlon Brown

Breonna Taylor                 Terrance Crutcher           Philando Castile          Jermaine Darden

Andre Horton                    Tyre King                            Bill Jackson                 Darrell Banks

  • We can not forget the many stereotypes forced upon African Americans in society. These stereotypes are some of the main reasons why the system hasn’t changed in the past years. A few stereotypes: People believe that black women are always angry when in reality society has labeled us as angry. When we stand up for ourselves, we are often labeled as angry. This tactic is called manipulation and urges black women to keep silent out of fear of being labeled. Also, people need to understand that if we are angry, we have a right to be. Many reasons along with all the things I have mentioned above is more than enough evidence on why we deserve to be mad; Many people believe that black people are lazy, loud, and uneducated. If we were so lazy and uneducated, people wouldn’t have to steal our culture in order to create their personalities and fashion trends. I would also argue that half of America is uneducated on the real issues in society faced by minorities. 

Conclusion:

If after all of this, you still do not empathize with the black community and understand their current feelings, then you are being close-minded and ignorant on purpose. You cannot say all lives matter until black lives matter. It kills me how America is known as “the land of the free” and prides itself on democracy but when it comes to black lives all of this is thrown out of the window. So excuse me if I don’t want to stand for the national anthem or shuck and jive for a country that does not care about me. The American flag does not mean to me what it means to white Americans. As an African American woman raised in the suburbs, I can say that even I am privileged when it comes to racism in America. I have mostly had to deal with microaggressions instead of blatant racism. I can not imagine how African Americans in the city feel. I think I am angry now but if I had to deal with the weight of being disproportionately affected by the Coronavirus due to years of discrimination while at the same time seeing my brothers and sisters die by the hands of the police officers, I would be 10x as angry. 

Ending racism is not a one-time thing, it is a lifestyle. It means that white people have to admit that they have been benefiting from it for the last 400 years. We can no longer allow the white savior narratives to be taught in schools and in society. We need to educate our children on the real facts as presented above otherwise, the racism will continue. I am tired of excuses such as being raised in a racist family. We are in the age of technology and we have more access to it than we’ve ever had before. You need to make it your job to educate yourself on black issues. People are old enough to know right from wrong. When it comes to worrying about your white children seeing the events of the world today, realize that it is a privilege to even wonder if you should talk to them about the protests. Black children don’t get a break from racism because they are young. Many black children experience their first act of racism when they are just 6 years old. Black parents have to teach their children how to behave in front of the police in order not to get shot before they can fully form sentences. George Floyd’s daughter, Gianna Floyd, was just six years old when her dad was killed by the police. Atatiana K. Jefferson’s black eight-year-old nephew was playing video games with his aunt (Atatiana) when she was shot by a white male police officer. An African American girl who was only four years old had to calm her handcuffed mother down in the back of a car after realizing that her lover, Philando Castile, was unjustifiably shot by a white police officer. Aiyana Stanley-Jones was seven years old when she was shot and killed by the police during a raid on her family’s home. So for god’s sake please stop saying that you could never be racist or your child could never be racist because you guys are “good people”. In this society, it is not enough to be a good person! You literally have to study how not to be racist due to systemic racism. Racism is drilled into every aspect of society from the education system glossing over slavery and never teaching about the true pain African Americans had to face to doctors allowing black patients to die due to false beliefs of higher pain tolerances. African Americans are automatically exposed to this injustice because of our skin color but white people get to avoid this. In many ways, this is why they are shocked to see the current state of the world and can’t understand it. That is why white people need to work harder to understand and be willing to get uncomfortable. They need to put themselves in the shoes of black people which may mean accepting a pay cut from your job due to you speaking out against injustice, living in a black neighborhood, or joining a club that educates others on systemic racism. Many people are not willing to step down from their lives of privilege in order to do this. If you find yourself being annoyed by the excessive news about the protests, being defensive now that the protests are reaching your beloved suburbs, or are planning to take a vacation in order to get away from the chaos, then you are part of the problem. Realize that black people don’t have that option to just leave racism and after the protests are over, we are still fighting against injustice EVERY SINGLE DAY. Arresting the killers of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor is not, I repeat, is not enough. The American system needs to be reformed and changed to a real system that supports ALL people. 

So please stop referencing Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (This is no disrespect towards MLK or other African American leaders. They are an important part of African American history and without them, I would not be where I am today. I just feel as though many people are using them for the wrong reasons) or other people in the past that have advocated for peace in order to silence the protesters. Especially if you don’t know the history of the violence that occurred after those peaceful protests. You can not shout about peace and search for an MLK quote on Wikipedia if you are sitting at home watching the news ma’am. Understand the anger and instead of finding ways to bash the actions of our people, maybe get up off your butt and find your own lane of fighting for justice. Whether it’s protesting, writing about injustices like I am doing now, or donating, action is the only way we can defeat racism. Quit with this “iF i WaS iN tHe CiViL rIgHtS mOvEmEnT” or this “hE/sHe WoUlD’vE dOnE tHiS…”. The time is now. If you are silent about the injustices of the American system then I don’t want to hear you nagging about when people finally stop sitting down and accepting racism. You got a problem with how people are fighting, then I want to hear an idea about how you think it should be done and don’t say “peacefully”. I’m going to need real examples if you disagree and it can not include simply posting a black square on your Instagram. “If you are not working for justice, stop calling for peace”- Dr. Bernice King. 

P.S. During these hard times do not forget to check on the mental health of your African American friends and loved ones. For all my amazing black kings and queens please make sure to take care of your mental health despite the current state of the world. It is okay to take a break from ignorant people on social media. It is okay to celebrate milestones in your life. You can not fight for the future if you don’t take care of your current self. You matter! BLACK LIVES MATTER! Today. Tomorrow. Forever. ❤🖤

 

Rioters make their way to Riverside-Brookfield area

Monday June 1st, rioters and looters were seen damaging stores and businesses amidst the recent outrage of the death of George Floyd.

North Riverside, Riverside, Brookfield, and many of the other surrounding towns issued a curfew when rioters began to loot the local stores.

The most prominent areas the looters were seen at were in the Cermak Plaza, North Riverside Mall, and Target in Broadview.

Junior, Angelo Hernandez, witnessed the looting happening as he drove by the areas.

“I witnessed a guy come out of Best Buy. He came out with a drone,” said Hernandez, “I then saw him get chased by 3 cops with assault rifles and he got tased.”

The looting did not stop there though.

“People were trying to break into the Gamestop and loot the places but the cops were there before it could escalate,” Hernandez said.

The cops began to close down streets and heavily watch over the areas before any of it could escalate further, they continued for the next two days to be careful.

Now, cops are beginning to act more vigilant and observant in order to prevent another looting outbreak.

The criminal justice system is broken beyond repair

The recent events surrounding the #BlackLivesMatter movement including the protests going on around the country have forced people to wake up and smell the wilting roses. This time, the life taken which was the spark for it all belonged to George Floyd, may he rest in peace. For me, one of the biggest takeaways from all of this is how broken America’s criminal justice system is. Now yes, I’ll admit the words “beyond repair” are extreme and dramatic but honestly the amount of problems within our current system is astounding and therefore a “restart button” would seem most ideal. 

There are three main divisions of the criminal justice system: law enforcement A.K.A. the police, the courts, and correction/rehabilitation. Though I will mention issues rooted in all three parts, I will mainly focus on the history of the police and the hundred years of corruption and racially charged actions of the departments. 

Believe it or not, policing is considered a modern aspect of American society. Volunteer officers called “night watchers” originated in Boston in 1636. According to Time.com, they mainly monitored gambling and prostitution. Night watch groups then either turned into slave patrols or formed collaborations with them, both designed to control the behaviors of minorities … Slave patrols helped to maintain the economic order and to assist the wealthy landowners in recovering and punishing slaves who essentially were considered property.” After the abolition of slavery, the rise of the newly formed KKK incited a series of night patrols which was basically a fear-based tactic that kept black people off of the streets and often led to attacks at their homes and lynching. With a growing population there was a need for a more organized force with officers working full time, so in 1838 Boston created the first publicly funded police force. However, the reality is that most state departments, especially those in the south, didn’t focus on protecting shipping centers, businesses, or solving social conflicttheir supposed original purposebut instead continued to try to preserve slavery and racist ideals. 

During Reconstruction, police departments and their leaders did everything in their power to legally restrict the economic and political freedom of black people without exactly calling it slavery, Jim Crow laws being the most prominent example which basically replaced the outlawed Black Codes that came before them. They were oddly specific laws that implicitly targeted African Americans and anything related to them i.e. The Grandfather Clause and the “Separate But Equal” Doctrine. 

Jumping all the way to the 1920s, during the second wave of the KKK Klan members served in all levels of American government.” It goes without saying, the hate group helped get those who supported their agenda elected into government positions of power, including the criminal justice system.  

Even after the Civil Rights Act was passed and African Americans gained a few protections under the law, they were still harassed by cops. The War on Drugs, a campaign led by the U.S. government with the goal of reducing the illegal drug trade, just encouraged racially driven police actions and led to overpoliced black neighborhoods. The selling of crack cocaine provided a sense of independent economic power within these neighborhoods that was new to impoverished minorities but it also led to increases in crime and violence. “The War on Drugs resulted in immense growth in court caseloads and the prison population. The War on Drugs focused on small-time drug dealers, who were generally poor young black males from the inner city. Ultimately, the prison population doubled due to the arrest of drug dealers and their customers.” So, instead of helping reform these black and brown neighborhoods, law enforcement took the easy way out and exploited a weakness in the community to disproportionately arrest and mass incarcerate black people for the same, if not less serious, drug-related crimes as white people. According to drugpolicy.org, nearly 80 percent of people in federal prison and almost 60 percent of people in state prison for drug offenses are Black or Latino.

And the most talked-about injustices done by the police as of late are the repeated incidents of police brutality. Though police brutality has been happening in the U.S. and has taken on many forms since the creation of the police force, modern technology has highlighted the use of excessive force and the impulsivity of officers’ actions specifically when they encounter black civilians. In 2013, following the murder of Trayvon Martin, the #BlackLivesMatter movement was created by Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, and Opal Tometi in order to campaign against violence and systemic racism towards black people. Though Martin’s wasn’t the first, his death sparked a national outrage towards the years of systemic oppression the black community has been subjected to since the establishment of America as an independent country. Unfortunately today, this movement is still relevant as we saw history repeat itself with George Floyd’s murder. 

So, with all of that being said, you might ask “what is your point Shalah?” My point is this: If policing was never created or designed to serve and protect black people in the first place but to actually keep them controlled and silenced, then why do we expect this outdated system of enforcing the laws to still be respected? Let’s be honest, it was designed to benefit one specific group of peoplerich white men. With little to no reform over the years how could you possibly expect fed-up citizens to sit here and allow a system as corrupt as this to continue to hold authority over us? The roots of policing are too discriminatory to ignore. In some way or another, though not as “loud” these days, the original racist ideals of this system are being upheld and passed down through generations. 

Now, I wouldn’t just dump all of this heavy information on you without listing some possible solutions for not just reforming law enforcement but also completely uprooting its racist undertones. 

Hold cops accountable for their actions. 

I feel like a first easy step that would involve the least amount of effort is making sure the officers that have already unjustly killed someone due to police brutality get punished. We have seen too many officers get no more than a slap on the wrist for killing innocent unarmed black people. This needs to stop, the departments are protecting these murderers which then sends the message to their colleagues that behavior like this is okay. Start charging these criminals and sentencing them. 

Increase the level of education and modify the type of training required to become a cop.

As of now the only requirements to become a police officer are acquiring a GED and completing a police academy program which averages 21 weeks. I’d argue that police officers need to obtain at least a bachelor’s degree from college. Policing is so much more than making arrests just for the sake of putting people in jail; There are so many emotional and psychological aspects of it that I don’t believe this country’s departments take into consideration. I believe all officers should have mandatory implicit bias training weekly. Implicit bias training programs are designed to expose people to their unconscious biases, provide tools to adjust automatic patterns of thinking, and ultimately eliminate discriminatory behaviors. This would provide them with cultural background information and make them more prone to “think through” confrontations with minority civilians rather than act on biased impulse. Racism/prejudice has to be actively unlearned. Furthermore, they need to study psychology and sociology; Policing should be about more than brute force. 

Make community leaders the main face of first respondent law enforcers.

I honestly think people who have lived in their community for a while and therefore know it best and have a respectable relationship with it should be leaders in a sense where they have the authority to oversee issues in which they can solve easily. I really don’t see why intimidating officers in full gear have to be the first responders for smaller types of incidents. Things like the city council should have more authority and should be better funded so community-based problem solving is promoted more. 

Piggy-backing off of my last idea, the police department should be broken down into many more subsets with specialized professionals in each area. 

In my opinion, the people who handle break-ins and robberies should not be the same people leading the handling of situations like domestic violence or truancy. The department should have qualified psychologists and social workers that are dispatched just like cops and given the same authority. Not only would this personalize the department’s responses to issues but it would also alleviate pressure on officers that currently are in charge of responding to a wide variety of situations.  

We are tired of innocent black people dying because of an inefficient, outdated system. It doesn’t take much to take the first step. Our governments and our leaders need to wake up. The people are no longer willing to wait for them to make change happen. We need it now and recent events have shown the world that we’re willing to do what it takes to get it.

This was the breaking point

Over the past couple of weeks, our country has certainly changed. While many states in America were beginning to re-open following the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, a video surfaced of an unarmed black man named George Floyd being suffocated to death by a white police officer. Almost immediately, protests have emerged across the country, with some turning into violent riots involving the looting and vandalism of businesses. 

First off, let me say that I do not support the lootings that have occurred during these protests whatsoever. My parents are the owners of a small business, so I can only imagine the heartbreak that some owners must have felt seeing their livelihoods destroyed before their eyes.

What I will say, however, is that I’m not surprised. In my view, George Floyd’s death was the breaking point for so many members of the black community. Not only was his death heinous and disgusting, but it also came shortly after the shocking viral video of Ahmaud Arbery’s murder. Just when we thought things couldn’t get any worse, we turn on our TV to watch a grown man be humiliated and killed, all while crying for mercy.

Collectively, this was the last straw, and many people took it upon themselves to act because they were outraged. The purpose of these protests is to bring to light the inherent flaw in our society, and that no matter how one may try to spin it, not everyone is treated equally in the United States. Whether intentional or not, everyone has their own prejudices towards certain groups, especially minorities, and these recent events have put the racist truth about the country in the spotlight.

Sure, in every organization, there will be people that take advantage of the situation. Some “protestors” simply see this as an opportunity to cause anarchy and steal things, but it’s saddening to see people categorize all protestors as looters, and think that everyone who supports the Black Lives Matter movement also supports the people that destroy simply because they can. I also fear that those that try to generalize all protestors are also trying to detract from the situation and message at hand.

These riots, for the most part, have turned violent because people are just tired. As a black man, I’ve experienced firsthand the racial prejudice that exists in the U.S. However, my experiences pale in comparison to the struggles that other black people around the country face every single day. Time after time events like these occur, and time after time nothing changes. When we try to protest peacefully, we are often criticized for “complaining” or “making a big deal about nothing,” when in fact, it is an extremely big deal, and a real problem. To get people to finally pay attention, some have taken drastic measures to jolt action because nothing else has worked in the past.

Hypocrisy is another thing that I’ve seen quite often, and it too is disheartening. Many people have used various arguments to oppose the growing sentiment, stating, “not all cops are killers,” or “why is no one addressing black on black violence?” or “all lives matter.” 

First, I obviously do not believe that all cops are killers, and I have a great deal of respect for those who don’t abuse their power and put their lives on the line to protect others. However, I do not think that being a cop excuses you from perpetuating America’s inherently racist criminal justice system. Police officers, for whatever reason, are more prone to police brutality when it comes to African Americans, and are generally more suspicious of black people when compared to whites, and that needs to change. Those who claim that the number of white police brutality incidents is greater than the number of black ones fail to realize that there are about 200 million more white people than black people in the country. While the raw number of cases might be greater, the percentage of each population that this problem affects is incomparable in any sense. Instances of police brutality have become too frequent for these stories to be a coincidence, so our entire justice system needs to be reformed so that everyone can get equal protection of the law and actually feel safe when an officer approaches them. 

I’ve literally had to be taught how to act in front of an officer, because I know that because of my skin color, one false move or word from me and it could all be over. 

I can remember an incident that occurred two years ago when I was going door to door selling coupon cards for my football team. I came across a house where I could see people inside and they could see me, so I rang the doorbell and knocked on the door multiple times since there wasn’t a “no solicitors” sign in sight, trying to get their attention. After realizing they weren’t going to open the door, I walked away and carried on. Shortly after, I heard a voice yell, “Hey you!” I looked around and continued walking, assuming that it wasn’t to me. I then heard an officer say, “Hey you! I said stop!” I turned to see a police car, and I pointed to myself because I was still confused as to whether or not he was talking to me. He yelled, “Yeah, I mean you!” and two white police officers stepped out to talk to me. I was confused because in my mind, I had done nothing wrong. The officer who was yelling at me from his car was extremely aggressive with me, got my information, interrogated me, and asked what I was doing. He asked if I was with anybody else, so I pointed to one of my friends, who wasn’t black, and he joined me in talking to the officer. After I explained that I was selling cards, he explained that they received a call that I was bothering a family in the neighborhood and was being invasive.

I was dumbfounded. Although I could see why the family may have been bothered by me, I certainly didn’t expect that they would call the cops on me for trying to get them to open the door. The police officer said that he knew my coach and threatened to “tell him what I was doing” and he was even about to write me a ticket. He eventually decided against it because he was “feeling nice.” He then gave me a warning, and drove off with his fellow officer. 

The entire time I felt disrespected, and the officer talked to me like I was some child who had just gotten in trouble at school. I didn’t appreciate being patronized, and that whole experience really opened my eyes. I always felt like I would never get in trouble with the police if I was just compliant and respectful, but even when I was in this instance, the officer still talked down to me in a hostile way, and it was only by chance that I got off with “just a warning.”

Growing up in a predominantly white community, that was one of my first real personal encounters with the police. No matter what they assumed I did, they had no right to speak to me in a way that didn’t make me feel safe. They caused me to doubt myself and question whether or not I actually did something wrong, but in reality, I did nothing to make that family feel like their security was actually threatened in the first place. I wonder: if I was white, would that family have even called the cops on me in the first place? The very fact that I have to ask this question is what makes it wrong.

The majority of white people have not had to deal with circumstances like these, so when someone tries to argue that this problem doesn’t exist, it baffles me. With any group, there will be bad people who have no regard for others, but with police officers, there’s too many of them for it to be excusable.

It also frustrates me when people use black on black violence to minimize our message, especially when it comes from someone who has not been concerned by it before this incident. The reason black on black violence and gang violence in general is so prominent is because many African Americans feel as if they don’t have a choice. Because of the way our country is structured, they have been dealt bad hands from the start, so many turn to violence as a way of surviving. We need to first fix our country’s flaws in order to provide an equal opportunity to succeed for all races. Maybe then will certain groups understand that there’s a way out besides just killing one another. 

Finally, using All Lives Matter to respond to someone who supports Black Lives Matters fails as a counterpoint. Obviously, all lives matter, and no one is saying that one group’s lives matter more than another. It amazes me how many people get so offended and defensive to the point where they feel the need to counter a movement supporting a particular race with one of their own. What they must realize is that BLM is used to show that black lives matter too, nowhere implying that blacks are superior to any other race. It was created in the first place because it seems as if some people have lost sight of that, so more effort is needed to elevate African Americans and provide them with the same opportunities and advantages that whites have enjoyed since the country’s inception.

Racism still exists in America. It may not be as overt as it was in the past, but it still exists nonetheless. Sure, those alive now are not the ones that enslaved my people all those years ago, but that doesn’t mean we can just forget about it. We are still feeling the effects that those times have had on our society today, and we must recognize it and actually push to make substantial changes.

People were violent last week because they were angry, and they feel like there’s nothing left for them to do but be violent. Again, I am not saying this is the correct way of going about things, nor am I defending those that used this opportunity to commit crimes, but when you push a group of people to a wall, they can only fight their way out. What we must do as a country is fight this the right way, and we have already seen more and more peaceful protests spawn as time goes on.

I also acknowledge that racism isn’t the sole reason for all of our problems and that we can’t just blame everything on racism, nor are black people the only minority group that must deal with systematic prejudice. Racism is just an issue that we must deal with as soon as we can, because it’s tearing our country apart at the seams. Once that is dealt with, we as a country can move forward into making the world a better place for all, regardless of everyone’s differences.

So please, stop generalizing things. Not all protestors are looters, not all black people are criminals, and not all white people are racist. It certainly won’t be easy, but let’s use this opportunity to actually spark change, because we’ve surely waited long enough. We should not be on different sides, and we must all come together and understand what we’re fighting against. The first step is admitting that racism exists, and that things can’t continue on the way they have for generations.

For a country that’s based on freedom and equality, it’s time for us to actually start acting like one.

Are riots an effective tool for change?

Among many other things, the past two weeks have been filled with conversations either criticizing the Black Lives Matter protests (turned riots in some cases) following George Floyd’s death or praising them. The critics claim that “violence is never the answer”. They swear passive attempts to “inspire” policymakers and those in power to finally do their job properlywhich is to protect and serve ALL citizens, not just those with privilegewill be effective. They refuse to admit that the black community and its allies HAVE been peacefully asking for change since the abolition of slavery. I’d even go as far as to say that historically, visible/measurable change has only happened through protests and riots. 

Now with all of that being said, I know there is a difference between peaceful protests and riots, plus looting has made its way into the equation. I think it’s safe to say no one likes violence. In an ideal world, it wouldn’t happen. But all I’m saying is there are instances where it isn’t necessarily deemed justifiable but the reasons for it happening can be universally understood. In other words, I think a lot of people empathize with the boiling frustration African Americans across the nation have for the injustices created by the criminal justice system. 

I also find it funny how some riots in the past have even been idolized or commonly respected. But now since black and brown people are the faces of the current ones, they’re being demonized and labeled as “thugs” and “terrorists”, President Donald Trump’s words exactly. Let’s not even get into the President’s hypocritical stance back in 2019 during the ongoing riots in Hong Kong. He publicly backed pro-democracy demonstrators and even criticized China’s leadership for not “meeting directly” with protesters to solve the issue, something he has failed to do himself and has instead opted for sending in the National Guard to relatively peaceful events and encouraging vigilantes to help keep the order. Not to mention the countless officers caught on camera being the instigators of violence at protests and therefore converting them into riots. I’m not saying all civilians involved are innocent but I think it would be unfair to ignore how the news is only telling one side of the story and quickly blaming protests gone awry completely on the civilians. 

But, pointing fingers and trying to pinpoint the exact moments when protests turn violent is not the purpose of me writing this. I want to debunk the concept of “violence is never the answer”. NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick tried to do it peacefully, but even peaceful kneeling was immediately penalized. What more can people do? There have been numerous accounts in history where tired, hopeless marginalized groups of people felt like physical opposition was the only way to make change. “Riots are often the desperate response of people who feel they have no other recourse. We can reduce rioting by providing better access to justice for everyone,” said TIME. While you might think differently or believe there’s always “another way”, there is proof of some aggressive protests being effective and therefore worth it. 

The Boston Tea Party (1773)

The one we all know and are taught to love. In an attempt to show resistance towards Britain enforcing the Tea Act, American colonists took over three British tea ships and dumped tea into the harbor.  History.com says, “The event was the first major act of defiance to British rule over the colonists. It showed Great Britain that Americans wouldn’t take taxation and tyranny sitting down, and rallied American patriots across the 13 colonies to fight for independence.” 

The French Revolution (1789-1799)

No, not American but still proves my point. The French Revolution, a series of riots, is seen as the standard, “let’s riot like the French” they say. I mean, I think it’s safe to say the revolution was effective seeing as the civilians overthrew the monarchy and established a democracy. Unfortunately there was bloodshed, and some heads were lost on the way (almost 2700 people were beheaded by guillotine and as many as 50,000 were shot or died of sickness in prison) but some would just call it a necessary evil. 

The Stonewall Riots (1969)

During this time it was still illegal in all states except Illinois to be gay. In response to a police raid, members of the LGBTQ community had violent confrontations with the police outside of the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar that was located in Greenwich Village in New York City. “As the riots progressed, an international gay rights movement was born,” states Britannica.com. At the end of the riots, 21 people were arrested and both rioters and police officers were injured, but it also ignited a very crucial spark for the community’s movement. Previous pleas for discrimination to stop turned into prideful, unashamed declarations of identity and self-expression. 

Once again I want to reiterate, I don’t approve of violence and I wish there was a better way for the protesters’ message to get across. But it seems like this recent turmoil has actually begun to wake those up who have been turning a blind eye towards the racial injustice in America. So, would I say there are some riots in the past that have been successful? Yes. But, would I say rioting is the best method to incite change? No, I don’t think the potential casualties are worth it. However I don’t blame people for feeling hopeless, and I think we all should shift our focus from the mere fact that the riots happened, and onto the reason(s) why they happened. And that will bring us back to the whole purpose behind the BLM movement. If the voices of the public were heard in the first place, we wouldn’t be in this predicament. If we tackled the problem at its root then we wouldn’t even have to worry about protests turning violent or protesting at all for that matter. Undeniably, our systems and institutions have failed too many times and desperately need reform, starting there would be a great first step for providing justice and therefore creating peace among our nation. 

 

Rioting for the wrong reasons

While many rioters seek to further the Black Lives Matter movement, a good amount simply seek personal gain.

As you have seen in the above articles, our country is currently facing much turmoil in light of the murder of George Floyd, an unarmed black man, by Minneapolis police on Monday, May 25th. After a video of Floyd’s death went viral, people across the country expressed outrage at law enforcement, as peaceful protests started across the country. While many sought to peacefully express their outrage, many protests turned into riots across the nation, many stores, including some in the North Riverside Mall, were looted, or otherwise damaged.

As a white man, growing up in a majority white neighborhood, and attending majority white schools for my whole life, I won’t pretend to understand what African Americans are going through right now, and I can’t pass full judgement on anyone who is rioting during this time. I am always against violence, and abhor the damage being done to small businesses and people’s livelihoods across America. I also believe that this country’s law enforcement system needs drastic changes, and I do truly believe that the best way to make that change is by protesting peacefully, however, I do believe that the ends justify the means in this situation, and although I am against this rioting now, if it really does result in change, the United States will be better for it. On the flip side, I can’t wrap my brain around how looting a suburban Target is going to lead to any change, so while I can understand that some rioting may help get these people’s point across, looting seems to do much more harm than good.

Again, I do not condone any rioting, and I hope that change can eventually be brought about peacefully, but I understand that some of these people are rioting for a very serious cause; however, there are people out there who are rioting just for money, the thrill, or maybe even just to see the world burn. Those who are rioting for any reason other than to bring about change in the wake of George Floyd’s murder, are the epitome of selfishness, and have no business saying that they are fighting for a good cause.

In the days following Floyd’s murder, while I was very upset at another incidence where our country’s law enforcement had failed the black community, I saw one bright spot, I thought real change may actually be achieved. However, during the last day or so my optimism has dwindled, as I saw people going to malls, stores and other businesses, simply to loot them and riot, I realized that those who would fight change are only being given more ammunition to do so.

I really do hope that after this is all said and done our country will be a better place where all races are truly seen as equals. Maybe this will be achieved by rioting, but right now, in this moment, I have to say what I’m seeing, and that is a small group of people who really do believe that this change cannot be brought about peacefully, being overshadowed by a much larger group of people who are simply selfish people who seek nothing other than personal gain. It is not the government, not police, but these people who riot not for a cause, but for themselves who truly are the biggest obstacle to change.

Racism in mainstream news media and censorship

I turn on my television for the news and watch footage of looting, interviews with policemen, and hear about the violence of riots.

I turn on my phone and look on social media for news and watch footage of policemen arresting people for exercising their first amendment right, driving into crowds of people, using weapons on protestors who were begging for their lives, their safety, and their freedom. 

As journalists and reporters, news networks have the responsibility to broadcast the news to millions of Americans on a daily basis. Many mainstream companies are corrupt, however, and their flaws cannot be overlooked.

The majority of televised news companies are part of an industry that prioritize money and are built on institutional racism. Several news networks are owned by the same company, so news anchors will sometimes have the exact same script as they report stories. That was the first red flag I noticed when watching the report of George Floyd’s death on television. Almost every script read that he “died in police custody.” This seems like an overwhelming understatement, when in reality George Floyd was murdered by a policeman, with intention and brutality.

To name a few corporations specifically, Fox News, NBC, and even local news channels such as WGN are all guilty of censoring crucial parts of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) protests and using heavy bias in their reports to sway the opinion of their viewers. 

Censorship is a huge issue in mainstream media today and has been within the realm of racism in society for hundreds of years. Deaths due to police brutality and racially-motivated crimes are often ‘swept under the rug’ due to the unwillingness to acknowledge the prevalent issue of racism in America. 

It is easy for people in my generation to know more about what is happening currently because of social media. However, there’s a significantly high population of people whose only news source is from televised news networks for a variety of reasons: preference, lack of access to social media, etc.

On social media, anyone can post photos and videos from protests and that content can be accessed simply by typing in a hashtag. These videos are unedited, there is no commentary, and it is straight footage from the BLM protests all over America. 

Getting news regarding the protests and the BLM movement can be somewhat difficult because social media and televised news show two very different sides of the story. I realized how detrimental it could be to not receive the information shown on social media that is censored from news networks. I have analyzed the content from two of the networks I mentioned prior and contrasted it to the news I receive from social media. 

WGN: 

WGN interviewed a policeman during their news segment about the protests and seemed to be sympathizing with police officers rather than the protestors who are fighting for rights. They also heavily focused on looting and car fires rather than covering the actual protests. WGN is one of many news networks that have contributed to a key issue during the coverage of the current BLM protests: confusing looters with protestors. Blurring the lines between them not only distorts the perceived goal of the protest but also paints the protestors in a negative light. Protestors are standing up for black rights and speaking out against police brutality. Looters are people who are taking advantage of the situation and do not represent the BLM movement in any way. 

Additionally, WGN broadcasted a compilation of videos pulled from various social media platforms that showed police officers showing kindness to protestors. If their news team went out of their way to find videos of police getting along with protestors, they also should have compiled videos of the extreme measures of police brutality at these BLM protests as well, like arresting peaceful protestors with force and using various weapons. Only showing positive footage of police officers misguides the viewers and completely ignores the fact that black people are still being directly targeted and protestors are being harassed, injured, and arrested for peacefully protesting.

WGN used interviews from Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Superintendent of Chicago’s Police Department David Brown to shame protestors and speak negatively about the violence of riots. 

Riots have broken out during protests because the policemen present at these protests instigated the violence. No one wants to resort to violence, but peaceful protests in the past have proven to fall on deaf ears and no action has been taken by government leaders. People have the right to defend themselves against the police in these cases and rioting may be the only way for people in positions of governmental power to pay attention to the BLM movement and make the necessary and significant changes within the law enforcement system.

NBC: 

During their news segments regarding the protests, NBC often mentions how there were hundreds of arrests made by police officers. They also list how many officers were injured in this process, but they do not mention the number of injuries protestors received as they were attacked with tear gas, pepper spray, rubber bullets, and the outright unjustifiable and horrific acts of violence the police showed to BLM protestors. Again, I believe that specifically leaving out information manipulates the audience and shows a clear bias towards law enforcement. 

NBC had several hours of video shown under the title of “Protests over George Floyd.” This edited footage included peaceful protests, but also included images of stores being broken into and looted. Looters are not protesting for George Floyd. It directly disrespects a man killed by the police and looting should not be broadcasted in his name. 

News anchors also claim that violence is planned by the protestors and call them ‘extremists.’ NBC has conducted live interviews with BLM activists, but that is not enough. They continue to push their own agenda and use their platform for harm.

Institutional racism within popular news media outlets is not a new discovery, however. There have been several instances of news stories being influenced by racism, like when a reporter will refer to a white criminal by name but not a black criminal. Institutional racism is just more noticeable during this time because the BLM movement is focused on racial equality. 

I’m not implying that all news stories reported by these companies are untrue or that their journalism is not valuable in some minor respects, but racism should not be tolerated under any circumstance, and especially not from companies who have such a strong influence and large platform. 

These news networks are not unbiased. They are using their power to manipulate their viewers and by implementing racism within their content. It doesn’t matter if police officers don’t want video evidence of their actions broadcasted on the news. It doesn’t matter if some of that evidence is gruesome and may be uncomfortable to watch. What matters is the unbiased representation of the events in America released to the public for knowledge and awareness of the events happening in the country. News networks disrespect the very principles of journalism in this way and need to make major changes in the way they report to be qualified in my eyes as a true news platform. 

Hopefully because of this obvious censorship and spread of harmful misinformation, people will be more careful whilst consuming news media and get their news from multiple sources in order to have a clearer understanding of the world around them. 

Social media’s role in the black lives matter movement

There is an enormous difference in posting something on social media and actually standing by what you are advocating for. Are you spending the time to educate yourself on the cause, or are you simply reposting a trend? The black lives matter movement is something that needs to be talked about on social media. It is also something that people need to research and spend the time learning about the history of the movement. Reposting something on your story is not enough. It’s easy to post #blacklivesmatter on your social accounts, but it’s more important to truly understand why and what you are posting. 

On a positive note, social media allows easy access to live media, tweets from representatives, and raw footage of what is occurring at the protests. It also makes it easier for different petitions, fundraising, and updates to spread to the public. At this time all of my social media accounts are being flooded with many different videos and posts involving the movement. It can be extremely overwhelming at times, but it is something of such major importance that deserves to control the internet until changes are made. Social media is hopefully an eye opener for people who are/were ignorant about all of the fear black Americans live in. On social media viewers can see all of the peaceful protest, rioting and looting, usage of tear gas, rubber bullets, and graphic brutality. Whatever perspective you might have, it is undeniable that social media has made a huge impact on informing the public.

On Tuesday, June 2nd many of my fellow peers participated in black out Tuesday. I also participated in the day by posting a black screen on Instagram and commenting #blackouttuesday to represent solidarity. However, there were many issues that came that day. Many people did not use the correct hashtag and instead used #blacklivesmatter or #blm which caused the hashtags to be flooded with black squares that were not informational. The black live matter hashtags are commonly used for people to stay updated on what is occurring with the movement, so when people used the incorrect hashtag it only made it harder to find information through Instagram. 

Another problem with that “trend” on social media is that people saw it as an opportunity to stay silent. The purpose of the day was to bring more attention to the movement. Instead of posting valuable resources and continuing to research, many posted the black square and did not bother to stay active on Instagram. When only posting a black square on your Instagram, it does not help to inform anyone, so in order to correctly participate you had to do more than just that. Black out Tuesday could have been a great way to come together as one, but there were many people who did not fully understand the purpose of that day in order to actually make a difference.  

I have also noticed that there is a drastic change in how many people view my Instagram stories. Since this is such a huge point in history, I feel like more people would be active on social media, but that does not seem like the case. My views have decreased by an insane amount which makes me wonder why. Are the people who typically view my stories uninterested in the lives of black people, are they using different platforms to educate themselves, are they overwhelmed, or are they racist. It really makes me question the people that follow me and who they are as people.

I have always been very supportive of other people’s opinions, but when people outwardly do not stand for BLM I completely change my view on them. With that being said, I have unfollowed a few people within these last few days because of their views. This should not be a controversial topic, but it has been. When someone outwardly posts on social media something that infers that they are racist or not for BLM, I immediately unfollow. I do not want to associate myself with anyone who does not advocate for the lives of others. 

Social media has also been a great way for me to have open conversations with other people about the subject. I have talked to a few people that I do not typically talk to and have discussed where we stand. Even though opinions may differ on the way things should be handled, everyone I have talked to has shown their support. Social media was constructed to communicate with others, and I feel that during this time it has been a great outlet to discuss with others about what is going on. 

Why are journalists becoming victims of brutality?

In regards to all the things that have been happening the past week or so, there has been a ton of violence captured in videos, photos, and articles for the world to see. However, for people to even see half of what is going on there needs to be journalists and photographers at the scene to get the true stories out to the public, so why are so many of them being harassed for just doing their job? 

Considering that more than half of our news resources are filled with fake news reports, writers already have a hard time trying to get their audience to trust the documentation and resources used in their work. The effects of harassment against journalists have been interfering and making it even harder to get solid reports out to the public. Unexpectedly, there hasn’t been this much of an increase in harassment towards journalists since the 1960’s during the Civil Rights Movement, which is ironically similar to what is transpiring today. 

After seeing what some of these journalists have gone through to get evidence for a simple report, I became furious with the law enforcement that has decided to think that it was okay to remove people from the protest and riots they have a right to be at and report by. Although rioting and looting isn’t always the first solution to change things, I don’t think that these journalists at the protest should be getting shot at or sprayed with mace. 

I would like to point out that rioting has been one of the most powerful ways to push a movement forward in history. It is one of the reasons why women have their rights, why gay people have their rights, and why black people have their rights. I can understand why things have gotten to this point of protest, which I would also like to point out that rioting is in fact a form of protesting.

Being a journalist myself, we want to experience or have a sense of what it is we are writing about to give the true feel of a story, but when we are being shot at with rubber bullets or sprayed with tear gas and mace, it leaves people blinded or terribly injured which only takes away the ability to have the physical experience in it’s true form. 

You could say that some of these attacks were accidents, but the majority of the press make it obvious who they are and why they are there, which makes it seem like they are being attacked intentionally. 

Reporters like Tom Aviles, a photographer from CBS Minnesota, yelled out, “I’M NOT FIGHTING” while he was shot with a rubber bullet at a protest he was covering in Minneapolis, and was also arrested by law enforcement. And for what? All because he was at the wrong place, at the right time. 

There is a lot of attention being brought to journalists that even now the smallest writers are given awareness for how they have been treated. Some people on Twitter have been giving their piece of mind on how they feel about the deliberate targeting of journalists. 

A tweet made by Jim Nelson read “Message from Cleveland police tonight: ‘No media is allowed downtown unless they are inside their place of business. Period.’ @CLEpolice”. Wesley Lowery, a journalist for The Washington Post, replied to the tweet saying, “…This is the action where the police are crossing the line in terms of press freedom that they hadn’t routinely cross before at 2014-2019 protest…”. 

It isn’t new that police officers have arrested and attacked journalists at protests in the past, and they were usually non- famous journalists from ‘non-corporate’ outlets so there was never a lot of attention brought to it. But now that they are attacking corporate journalists, you can see that they are deliberately attacking journalists. And these attacks just keep piling up. 

A white ally’s guide to action

A White Ally’s Guide to Action

The Black community needs our help more than ever and this goes deeper than just the general statements of support. We need to actively donate our money and time, educate ourselves on the struggles Black people face and our role in them, and do some real introspection about our sometimes unknowing participation in racist acts or sentiments. 

Donations:

A key way to start supporting the Black Lives Matter movement is by donating some money, even if it is only $1. There are three different areas you could target your money towards. The first is to support the family of George Floyd and the Black community of Minneapolis in the wake of his murder. I have included more victim memorials as well. You can also support bail funds to help release protestors from jail and others who cannot afford it. Finally, there are many organizations you can donate to that are organizing many meaningful long-term solutions and reform. If you have multiple causes you’re interested in supporting, you can select a megafund that will divide your donation among multiple funds or organizations (you can customize this to a degree). To make your donation count even further, the blog Cup of Jo is matching donations to organizations supporting Black causes if you forward your receipt, with subject line “donation” to h[email protected]

If you don’t have any money to donate, you can watch this YouTube video and playlist, designed to raise money for BLM causes using Adsense. You can even play it in the background of whatever you’re doing and if you don’t skip ads, it will donate money for you.

 

The Family of George Floyd & Minneapolis Support:

Official George Floyd Memorial Fund

Official Gianna Floyd Fund 

Black Visions Collective

Minnesota Voice

Reclaim the Block

Pimento Relief Fund

Unicorn Riot

Mobile Outreach and Outdoor Drop-In (MOODI)

Minnesota Rapid Response Coalition

West Broadway Business & Area Coalition

The Lake Street Council

Twin Cities Recovery Project

Victim Memorials

 

Bail Funds:

Chicago Community Bond Fund

The Bail Project

National Bail Out

LGBTQ Freedom Fund

 

Reform:

Black Lives Matter

Campaign Zero

National Police Accountability Project

Communities United for Police Reform

Communities United Against Police Brutality

Equality for FlatBush

American Civil Liberties Union

Equal Justice Initiative

Dignity and Power Now

Color of Change

Advancement Project

Moms Demand Action

Black Voters Matter Fund

Woke Vote

Higher Heights for America

The Collective PAC

Fair Fight

Dream Defenders

Release Aging People in Prison

 

Community Enrichment:

Assata’s Daughters

Black and Brown Founders

BlackTableArts

EmbraceRace

HEARD

GirlTrek

Black Girls Code

Colin Kaepernick Know Your Rights Camp

The Conscious Kid

Gyrl Wonder

Pretty Brown Girl

The Loveland Foundation

The Okra Project

Prison Book Program

 

Megafund:

Act Blue Bail, Mutual Aid, and Racial Justice Organization Funds

Act Blue Racism and Police Brutality Funds

 

Here are some more organizations to donate to, including Black LGBTQ funds, mental health organizations, and healthcare funds.

 

Education:

Unfortunately, most schools do not teach much about Black history, culture, and experiences. Almost no schools teach about white privilege and working to be anti-racist. However, it is absolutely essential for all white allies to put in the effort and time to educate yourself on these topics, especially if you consider yourself to be an activist. Racism is all around us; we internalize these prejudices and biases from our environment without even realizing. We must actively fight against this learned racism every day, making it a habit. There are countless resources available so you can learn about these crucial issues from a multitude of mediums.

Here is a list that RB’s Librarian, Ms. Phillips, and I have compiled of books about Black experiences, culture, and fight for equal rights, as well as books about white privilege and anti-racism: Recommended Reading List

 

Podcasts

 

Movies/TV shows

  • 13th (Netflix)
  • Malcolm X (Netflix)
  • Who Killed Malcolm X? (Netflix)
  • Explained: Season 1, episode entitled, “The Racial Wealth Gap” (Netflix)
  • Time: the Kalief Browder Story (Netflix)
  • Hello, Privilege. It’s Me, Chelsea (Netflix)
  • Moonlight (Netflix)
  • When They See Us (Netflix)
  • Dear White People (Netflix)
  • The Hate U Give (Hulu)
  • American Son (Netflix)
  • Selma (Various streaming services for $2.99)
  • Queen and Slim (Various streaming services for $5.99)
  • LA 92 (Netflix)
  • Maya Angelou: And Still I Rise (Various streaming services for $3.99)
  • More Than A Month (iTunes for $4.99)
  • Slavery By Another Name (PBS)
  • I Am Not Your Negro (Various streaming services from $0.99)
  • Fruitvale Station (Various streaming services from $3.99)
  • Black Britain on Film
  • Just Mercy (Free on Amazon Prime now)
  • 12 Years A Slave (Various streaming services from $3.99)
  • Strong Island (Netflix)
  • Blindspotting (Hulu)
  • Brian Banks (Hulu)
  • Hidden Figures (Hulu)

 

Activism

Finally, you can get even more involved with constructive activism. Before posting something online or doing something publicly in support of the Black Lives Matter movement and Black community, you should check if you are only doing performative activism. This is when you are only engaging in activism to bolster your own reputation, instead of posting to share information or learn about the cause you are devoted to. This has become “trendy,” with the Black squares being posted or the “tag 10 friends” challenges. Here is a post of questions you can and should ask yourself before you decide to post. 

It is common to feel unsure of what you should post and how you should express your feelings about these situations without accidentally saying something insensitive or wrong. The truth that we have to accept in order to understand complex issues about racism and the Black experience is that we are constantly going to be making mistakes. That is completely fine. However, when we do make mistakes, we can’t be defensive or get offended when one of our Black friends or even a fellow ally calls us out on it. We just need to listen and get educated again. It is not shameful to change your mind or delete something after learning new information. 

It is easy to distance yourself from racism because you consider yourself to be “a nice person” etc etc. However, you don’t necessarily have to be an overt racist to say racist things sometimes or have microaggressions against people of color. Don’t excuse yourself from any conversations about that. I struggle with understanding this and I have said things before that I now recognize are wrong. I’m sure almost all of us have in the past. We need to apologize for our actions, think about what led us to say or do harmful things, and do better in the future. We have to have a level of self-awareness that can be hurtful and difficult to understand in order to fight against internalized racism.

Regardless of how you choose to be active, always remember that your role as a white ally is not to be a leader. As white allies, we can best use our white privilege to amplify the voices of Black leaders and engage in sometimes uncomfortable conversations with our own friends and family about race and anti-racism. There are so many ways that we can help this movement constructively and positively so let’s not shy away from taking action and making this a part of our daily lives. 

This resource made by Black Lives Matter has a map of protests, petitions to sign, and places to call/text to ask for justice and equality.

1 Comment

One Response to “We can’t breathe”

  1. Unfortunately Anonymous on June 10th, 2020 9:03 am

    These are well-written and thoughtful opinion essays , and represent our RB student population well. Unfortunately, they are all Leftist opinions and dialogue, and disseminate Leftist resources. Conservatives understand that the entire education system leans left, and young people especially lean Left, and the entire state of Illinois leans Left, but these kids would do well to expose themselves to some conservative thought. Because of the strong passion and emotions coming from the Left these days, I have to remain anonymous to protect my children from Leftist/fascist backlash that does not allow debate or alternative thought (see “No Safe Spaces”)…but I know there are conservative students at RB that remain silent. Silence is NOT Violence, silence is due to the one-sided education system and “lash-out” culture that screams to silence honest debate. As a white male, I understand my opinions have been successfully marginalized, and now my opinions carry no weight because I am “systemically racist” without even knowing it. I encourage students to expose themselves to conservative thought to challenge these ideas, and if they must be from black conservatives there are plenty to follow (see Bob Woodson and 1776Unites.com, Shelby Steel, Thomas Sowell, Candace Owens, and find many others). If you have already bought the “systemically racist” theory of this country, know that it is more about pushing Leftist/socialist politics than resolving racism, conservatism has its own solutions to continue to improve our country for ALL people. Everyone agrees that racism exists and that the murder of George Floyd was a heinous crime that deserves swift justice, but the idea of dismantling our institutions is more about Leftist politics than it is about eliminating racism and police brutality.

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