Damn, I didn’t realize it has been a month since I last posted. Sorry, but this time of year is so crazy! There was Thanksgiving, then my birthday (I turned 29…again), and of course Christmas is upon us. “It’s the most wonderful time of the year!” exclaimed no sane person ever.
Anyways, a lot of big news has unfolded lately, and it’s been hard to keep up with it all. If I can’t write a post about something within a few days of it making news, then I feel like I’ve missed the window of relevancy of the story–which just goes to show how fast our world moves now. But there is one big story that has dominated the news over the last month or so. I’m sure you all know what I’m talking about.
I understand why so many people are angry about the Michael Brown/Eric Garner Grand Jury results. Regardless of whether you think the officers in question are guilty of murder or not, one thing is for certain: racism is still a problem in this country. It’s blatantly obvious that it is. The justice system treats whites and minorities (especially blacks) very differently. And if you are a white person (as am I, by the way) who disagrees with this, then you must live in a world where unicorns exist, and where Santa Claus is getting ready to make his once-a-year trek around the world to deliver presents to all the good little boys and little girls, in one night, guided by flying reindeer. How magical that world must be!
White privilege exists, folks. And as a white person, I’m accutely aware that I benefit from it every day. I don’t feel guilty about the color of my skin because I had no hand in deciding what race I would be. But if I choose to ignore the fact that I have certain privileges because of my race, and if I choose to ignore the fact that racism is still pervasive in our society, I would–and should–feel guilty. As uncomfortable as it is to admit these things, I know I must. Remaining silent only makes me part of the problem–and I want to be part of the solution.
Some white people like to believe that because the Civil Rights Act was passed 50 years ago, and because we have a mixed-race president, that means we live in a post-racial society. But that just simply isn’t true. And unless more white people open their eyes and see that racism is still a very big problem in this country, no progress will be made on this issue. And I know that some white people who read this will say, “But I’m not racist at all!” And I believe you. I think the vast majority of white people aren’t racist–especially in the Millennial Generation. But what many white people either refuse to acknowledge or are just plain unaware of is that just because most of us aren’t racist doesn’t change the fact that white privilege does exist in our society. Being white is definitely an advantage. And until the color of our skin has no bearing on the opportunities we have in life, or how we are treated by the police or the justice system, racism will remain a problem.
I fully understand that all races have a role to play in making progress on racism. It isn’t entirely on the shoulders of the white population to address this issue–and any non-white person who thinks that it is, is living in a fantasy world also. But when I see so many of my white friends making comments on Facebook about how the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner had nothing to do with race, and that black people have to stop playing the race card, I shake my head in disbelief. They completely miss the point. It’s so much deeper than the deaths of two unarmed black men at the hands of white police offiers. And it’s so easy to say that these incidences have nothing to do with race when you live in a country whose society favors your race on every level and in every way.
If you’re a white person who disagrees that our country favors the white race, let me ask you this: If you were black, do you think your life would be the same as it is as a white person? Would you still have all the same opportunities and receive the same treatment as a white person would? If you answered yes to both of those questions, you really do live in a fantasy world with unicorns. And that remains our biggest problem regarding racism–white people don’t want to leave this fantasy world. We are comfortable here because we are at the advantage. But here’s the truth, my ignorant white friends: unicorns don’t exist, but racism still very much does. Just because you don’t experience it, and just because you, individually, aren’t racist, and just because you refuse to open your eyes wide enough to see it, doesn’t mean it isn’t real. Racism is real, and your ignorance (whether by choice or not) only exacerbates it.
That being said, I also entirely disagree with how a lot of people have responded to the Grand Jury decisions on the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner. The looting, violent protests/rioting and threats against police are not in any way helpful to this situation. If we want to cultivate change, this isn’t the way to go about doing it. It is entirely counter-productive, not to mention a slap in the face to the families of these victims, whom I’m sure don’t want people to react this way (in fact, Michael Brown’s father made a video appealing to people to not react this way before the Grand Jury decision was announced). This kind of behavior is senseless, hurtful and damaging to the progress that has been made regarding race-relations in this country. On the same token, the reactions that some people have had about the protestors is equally as abhorrent, like saying that the protestors should “get run over” because they are standing in the street (note: we have a First Amendment right to peacefully protest). Also, white people sometimes riot too–and for really stupid reasons, like because their football team lost, or because of something to do with pumpkins (I’m not kidding). Seems like there may be a double-standard in how we perceive black people protesting/rioting, and white people doing the same.
Whenever radical change begins to take fruition, there is a lot of upheavel. To begin, there is a “shit hit the fan” type of moment (a catalyst), followed by extensive unrest, and then eventually people begin to turn to reason and logic (as opposed to their intial emotional response to the catalyst, causing the upheavel) and things start to calm down. Then finally–hopefully–the necessary changes are put into place. We can see this happening right now. The death’s of Michael Brown and Eric Garner (along with other unarmed black men by police officers) and the Grand Jury Results in these cases were the catalyst, and now we are in a period of unrest. But we are already starting to see some reason and logic come into play. Most importantly, people are finally starting to talk about racism as a serious issue that needs to be addressed, instead of pretending it is an issue that was solved decades ago.
Change is never easy, and when it is societal change it is accompanied by a lot of chaos and turmoil as we finally face the realities that we conveniently ignored for so long. Despite this, change is usually a good and necessary thing. Our nation and our world are in a state of crisis right now (something I discuss in the Millennial Crisis section), and as such we are indeed experiencing a lot of chaos and turmoil. But trust me–this is a good thing. We truly are progressing as a nation (and as a world), and in the process we’re experiencing some intense growing pains. I know that’s hard to see because everything is so f-cked up right now, but this crisis is good–and unavoidable. It was going to happen one way or another.
It’s so easy to focus on all the negative, especially when that is essentially the entire focus of the media. But what about all that is good in the world? Even when awful things happen, the silver lining is that we always come together to help those who were affected. For example, remember how the world responded to tragedies like 9/11, Hurricane Katrina, the Asian Tsunami, the Haitian earthquake and Superstorm Sandy? Our compassionate and humanitarian response to these events proves that most of us are good people who genuinely care about others and are willing to do our part to help whenever and wherever we can. And think about all the donations that are collected this time of year as so many people do what they can to help those less fortunate. This is what gives me so much hope for the future.
When we focus on the negative, we attract more negative energy into our lives. I know that sounds like a bunch of BS but it is so, so true. We need to start shifting our focus onto the goodness of humanity. Overall, most of us are kind, compassionate, accepting and generous people. One of our biggest problems is that we oftentimes fail to speak up when we witness injustice. And our silence is more damaging to our progress as a species than any terrible act committed by any terrible person(s). If the number of good people far outweighs the number of bad people (which, as far as I can tell, it absolutely does), then why is there so much pain, suffering, inequality, injustice, violence and hate in the world? In my opinion, it is because most of the good people chose to remain silent when their voices are needed most. But if we can grow some balls and start to stand up for what we believe in; if we dare to speak the truth even though the truth hurts; if we are audacious enough to go through some temporary discomfort while we push for a more tolerant, peaceful, equal, just and loving world, then we will progress further than we could have ever imagined.
The Millennial Generation is the most diverse in history. More than any other generation, race is meaningless to us. We don’t care about the color of someone’s skin because we know that doesn’t matter–that it in no way defines them. Not only are a large chunk of us mixed race, but we also grew up having friends from other races, other ethnicities, other religions, and other sexual orientations. If there is any generation that can lead our country into a true post-racial society, it is our generation. We need to remember that no one’s life is more or less important than any one else’s, and that injustice to one person is an injustice to everyone. And most importantly we need to remember that our nation will be far better off if everyone had the same opportunities for success and happiness in life, regardless of race, gender, ethnicity, religious beliefs or sexual orientation. Isn’t that why we are proud to be American–because our nation stands for equality, liberty and justice for all? It is time we truly start practicing what we preach. It’s almost 2015 for crying out loud!
Before I end, I want to say that I am completely aware that most police officers are good, honorable people who bravely put their lives on the line everyday. They deal with people at their worst, and they otentimes have to put up with more bullshit, more tragedy and more violence in one week than most of us will see in a lifetime. And they sometimes have to make split-second decisions in order to potentially save their own life, or the lives of others. Their job is dangerous, stressful and many times, thankless. I have the utmost respect for what they do. But it is also true that there are some police officers who abuse their power, or they use unjustifiable and excessive force. In these cases, the police officer(s) in question shouldn’t be put above the law. If a police officer is in the wrong, they should be held accountable. I’m not in any way saying that the police officers in question in the Michael Brown and Eric Garner deaths were right or wrong, I’m simply pointing out that sometimes police officers have little to no justifiable reason for their actions, and this problem seems to affect black men more than any other segment of the population. We need to fix that. It may be more convenient to turn a blind eye to this issue, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t real. Ignoring a problem never solves it. That only makes it worse–as we are now witnessing.
So here we sit in the midst of a crisis, worried sick about the future and waiting for change. But as it says at the top of this website site, “Things do not change; We change.” And we are changing, whether we realize it or not. What remains to be seen is if we will ultimately change for the better or for the worse. I believe we will change for the better, because I believe in the goodness of humanity. We have unlimited potential, we just have to stop being afraid to tap into that potential. Our generation has an incredible opportunity to use this crisis to advance our nation and the world in a positive and lasting way. So let’s make sure we do that.
Open your eyes to the world around you, instead of thinking that the world revolves around you. Try to always be thoughtful and kind. Listen to others with compassion and empathy. And when you witness any injustice, or suffering by another, say something. Don’t be afraid to use your voice. Speak up. The absolute worse thing you can do is remain silent. At the very least, your voice will help someone in need, and at the very most your voice could help change the world, just like Malala Yousafzai’s. If you aren’t familiar with her story, she is a Pakistani girl who was shot in the head in 2012 because she believed that girls should have the right to an education, so some people who disagreed with her decided they would silence her for good. Fortunately, she survived the attack, and since then she has worked tirelessly to bring attention to the issue of childhood and female education. Her courageous efforts have rightfully earned her this year’s Nobel Peace Prize. Please, watch her inspiring acceptance speech below. Malala isn’t afraid to be the change she wants to see in the world..and neither should you.
“Education went from being a right to being a crime. But when my world suddenly changed, my priorities changed, too. I had two options: One was to remain silent and wait to be killed. And the second was to speak up and then be killed. I chose the second one. I decided to speak up.”