ALANA on speaking out against injustice
Have you ever been afraid to walk alone across campus late at night? Have you ever been afraid to walk down the street in your town in the middle of the day? I have, and there are many times I still feel that way. I fear every day that I just might become a victim of a false arrest just because of the color of my skin. This fear, this reality, does not just apply to me.
It applies to my siblings and other black students on campus – as they go about their daily lives in this country. The fear of being racially profiled lives with me every single day, and everywhere I travel. This is not something I can ignore, because I am not allowed to forget that my skin color allows some to view me as inferior. As Americans, we also cannot forget the time when a black man was choked on the streets by an officer while saying “I can’t breathe, I can’t breathe.” We should also not forget how the justice system gave the officers involved in that incident a slap on the wrist, with a paid leave, and where they were back to work within weeks. I fear that the next person to experience this kind of brutality could be a friend, a loved one or me.
As a society, we should not pretend that this fear of being racially discriminated against is something new. It has been a constant fear that has plagued generations of blacks living in this country. My mother introduced me to this reality when she constantly told me at the age of 13 to remember three rules if I ever encountered the police, regardless of the situation. Rule One: Think before you speak. Rule Two: Never make a fast movement. Rule Three: Listen to their instructions and do not act up in any way. The fear my mother had of possibly being racially discriminated against or killed just because she is African American is a fear she carried all throughout her life; and a fear that would soon be a fear of my own. Imagine, for a moment, that there is a situation that requires you to call the police. However, you hesitate because you are scared to call, not knowing how the police might view the situation, not knowing if they might see you as the offender, even if you did nothing wrong. This is one of my biggest fears to this day.
Picture this other scenario. A young African American boy in elementary school takes an etch-a-sketch from his classroom after class to play with while he is at home. The boy does not think the teacher will miss it because the classroom has 20 others, plus he plans to return it the next day. Later that evening, the boy’s mother sees him playing with the etch-a-sketch and asks her son where he got it. The boy replies “I borrowed it from school.” His mother asks, “Does your teacher know that you have it?” The young boy hesitates and says, “No.” The mother sighs and sits down next to her son, explaining that what he did was wrong. She also explains that he must be careful in the future because later in life, the police might not see it as something simple and there might be consequences that may result in him getting badly hurt. The boy asks his mother, “Why do I have to be so careful?” The mother sighs again and says, “Because you are black. People sometimes judge people harshly because of the color of their skin.” The mother starts to cry as she hugged her son because she realized today could have been the day her son may not have come home.
This narrative may sound dramatic, but it is just a possible representation of the concerns African Americans in the United States worry about every day. I have lived my life in the shadow of this fear, creating a limitation on what I might perceive to be possible for me to do with my life, just because of the color of my skin. America has injustices. America has racism. America has a problem. However, it is not enough to merely acknowledge these things. We must unite together, across the boundaries of all ethnic origins to face the problems within our society so that we might create a better world for the next generation. I refuse to let these injustices be perpetuated in the “land of the free and the home of the brave.” I refuse to let the next generation to be taught these horrible values based on racism, discrimination, and inequality.
So I pose the challenge to all of you reading this. Become more active in the communities of which you are a part of to help solve these injustices. If we stay silent and complacent, nothing will change and the next generation will continue to suffer as a result. This change starts now. I refuse to wait for the perfect movement to make changes to the country I call my home even though sometimes some may reject me for my skin color. I refuse to idly sit back while injustices occur. However, the sad reality is that I cannot do this alone. I ask you, my fellow Assumption Students to be part of the change this world needs, and that this college needs. We need to have more conversations about ethnicity, religion, sexuality and much more. We need to have the uncomfortable conversations so that we may work through these difficult issues.
Make a new friend with someone of a different background than you and have that conversation of getting to know one another. If you are unable to do that, come to the ALANA meetings, which are every Thursday at 7pm in the Hagan Hall. We have meetings where all that come can have safe and open discussions about all controversial topics. We as Assumption Students need to be a better example of what American should and needs to look like to all of its citizens. A place where everyone no matter their background has liberty and justice.