Ninth Edition: May 30 – June 5
Anthony Clark Jr.
If I could sum up the events that have transpired since the murder of George Floyd in one word, it would be ridiculous. It is ridiculous in the year 2020 that racism is still flowing through people’s bloodline. It is ridiculous that it has been over 400 years since the first slaves set foot onto America’s soil and the oppression and discrimination is still as prevalent as it has since slavery was abolished in the 1860’s. It is ridiculous that I am half black and half white yet my entire life I am viewed as one side – take a guess what side that is. It is ridiculous that those who I believed were supportive of myself and those of African descent have so much to say about the “riots and looting” but not a whisper of the systematic racism that still hasn’t been dealt with. It is ridiculous that my own blood relatives, friends, etc., have no shame or guilt in allowing themselves or their acquaintances to think, act, and speak about people of color in egregious and ignorant ways. I have been called the “n-word” by those who know only that I am a being on this earth to those who are part of my “family,” I’ve been followed by police simply for driving while being a person of color, and have seen hate since I was a child. It doesn’t matter if those of color are in Grand Rapids, Minneapolis, Alabama, Europe, wherever, racism is alive. It remains alive because those with power in America turn a blind eye each and every time an injustice occurs. Civilians see the outcry from people of color on media outlets for typically a week or so, then radio silence on the issue/case/crime occurs. Funerals are held, tears are shed, and the case seems to always be swept under the rug while those affected never receive the justice they deserve.
People continue to tell themselves “there’s always going to be a bad apple in the bunch,” but history shows that if there’s one there is plenty more. If you don’t find this to be true, look at the 57 officers who resigned over fellow officers receiving punishment for assaulting a 75-year-old man that was peacefully protesting in New York. The same cycle continues (injustice occurs, people speak up but aren’t heard, society waits for the next person of color to fall victim) to ensue because nobody of power stands up to make the changes, which is why the Black Lives Matters organization and its allies are standing up and speaking out to America in ways that not everyone will agree upon. People of color have been conditioned to be submissive to Europeans for over four centuries, this shift in society is long overdue.
Well, life just got worse ehh? We go from coronavirus to a “revolution,” from pandemic to protests, from disease to destruction. And the sad part, this was not sudden. My friends, this was years upon years in the making. And as a result, right now my routine seems a bit inconsequential, don’t you think? But I’ll talk about it anyways m’kay? I am doing well, meh. I’m not doing poorly, let’s get that straight. Compared to others, my life is pretty good. I’ve got food on my table, I always have a can of Dr Pepper on my desk (and if you read my Night Light column you should get that reference), and more ice cream and snack cakes then I know what to do with. And yet, whenever I see what’s going on with the African American community I feel empty. The fact that this happens to my fellow Americans, no my fellow humans, makes me sad. This should not happen, especially not here, not in America which is supposed to be the land of the free. So to those reading, please, don’t sit idly by and say, “This isn’t my problem, this will go away.” This is not going away. Until African Americans are free to live truly free… none of us will be.
I grew up in a small, rural town south of Grand Rapids, and for a good portion of my life have been even more isolated than many of my peers. Probably 95% of my classmates, from preschool through graduation, were white like me, so I didn’t exactly get a good sense of what racism looked like in the real world. Attending Grand Rapids Community College, and now covering the recent protests for our college newspaper, I have developed a much, much deeper understanding of the daily struggle faced by black people and the pain and suffering that go along with it. I do not understand completely. I will never understand completely. That being said, I want to understand the best I can. I’m responsible for that understanding: it’s also my responsibility to try to assist the understanding of those around me as much as possible. I now hear my loved ones expressing the same questions I myself have been trying to figure out, so I find myself repeatedly exploring misconceptions surrounding the recent protests and what it means for everyone. I never want to drown out the voice of someone who understands the topic better than I do, but I do want to help my friends and family – who haven’t been to the protests and don’t have a comprehensive personal understanding of what is happening there and why – understand it all just a little bit better. To that end I have spent a large portion of my time attending protests, listening to speakers at protests, talking to protestors, writing about protests, talking about protests, and discussing and analyzing racism with my loved ones. They have expressed confusion about the reason for the riots. That one is the big topic that’s been tripping them up. They also are afraid of the protests, because despite the explicitly peaceful nature, they are afraid the situation could turn dangerous in an instant. I think they imagine me getting caught between protestors-turned-rioters and police officers. They eagerly advise me to take safety precautions- don’t carry a bag, carry a container of milk for tear gas, stay on the edge of the crowd, carry pepper spray, wear sneakers, stay with the people I came with… the list goes on. They have a lot of worry, but I think they might have some skewed perceptions of the situation. All in all, there’s just been a lot of dialogue. I really, really hope that dialogue doesn’t stop anytime soon, because no one should have to endure the things that black people experience every day.
Tensions are high. People are exasperated, hurt, angry, enraged; all rightfully so. For so long, people and their actions have gone unchecked. This is unacceptable. I believe there is, and hope there to be, a change. As a white person, I sometimes feel caught in the middle. If I don’t say anything, my silence is deemed unsatisfactory. If I say something, people question what authority I can speak from because I’m not black. I want to help. I want to do something. I just question what posting a black square on my Instagram will actually do. What will it accomplish? As much as I like to believe I can influence others, I am solely responsible for myself and my actions. The conversations I have with others are changing, they’re more substantive. We are more vulnerable with each other. Expressing one’s own opinions is critical; but so, too, is listening to the opinions of others. It is imperative that I continue to check myself, evaluate my decisions and adjust course if need be. It is not on me, nor should be on anyone else, to shame people. Again, what will this accomplish? It saddens and confuses me that there are such inequities. It is on all of us, at the individual level, to address racism, to actively work on combating it.
A lot of people in my immediate circle have been very vocal about the injustices that are occurring at the hands of the police. This isn’t something that’s new to our society, which saddens me. As a white person, I don’t know what it feels like to be black in America, that’s why I believe it’s so important to have discussions with people who are different from yourself. This allows us to educate ourselves on the different viewpoints people have in our own country. As someone who is privileged by the color of my skin, I need to use that privilege to speak out, taking the knowledge that I’m learning and passing it on to others. Unarmed black people shouldn’t be shot in their own homes, Breonna Taylor. Unarmed black people should be shot for walking in a neighborhood at night, Trayvon Martin. Unarmed black people shouldn’t be shot for jogging, Ahmaud Arbery. How is it that George Floyd is murdered by an officer over an alleged counterfeit $20 bill, but police bought Dylann Roof Burger King after he murdered nine people? It shouldn’t take people protesting to arrest bad cops. The system is flawed and filled with systematic racism, we need change.