Maddy Whitman (’22)
The murder of George Floyd was a wake-up call. It shouldn’t have been, but it was.
His death was a personal reminder that I should be doing more. I realized, much too late, that I’ve been staying quiet on an issue that shouldn’t even be prevalent in the 21st century. While I’ve spoken with family members and have personally reflected on my own privilege, I recognize that I need to do more. Why, in our day and age, is racial discrimination still occurring?
The answer to that question comes back to myself. I need to act upon injustices. As a white woman, I sit in a position of power in society.
Around three weeks ago, I watched a video where Amy Cooper, a white woman, threatened to call the police on Christian Cooper, a black man, who politely asked her to put her dog on a leash in Central Park.
In response, she uttered the words, “I’m going to tell them there’s an African American man threatening my life.”
At that moment, Cooper acknowledged her privilege and used it at his expense. She knew the discrimination he faced in the police system for being black, and she also knew that making that call could threaten his life.
This is one of the countless instances in which white people have wielded their inherent privilege and ill-perceived sense of superiority over individuals of color.
It is my responsibility to use my voice and privilege to induce change. The Black Lives Matter movement should be fought by everyone. Every racial group needs to come together to highlight and abolish the inequality and injustice faced by black people all over the world.
It is extremely problematic that white people fail to acknowledge and act upon the discrimination a marginalized group has faced. People of color shouldn’t have to protest to demonstrate their frustration and inability to be granted the same opportunities in the first place, so it’s my responsibility as a white person to use my voice to make change.
Alongside the death of George Floyd, the recent cases of Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor have shed light on this movement. While the recent elevation and change that has come in recent days are indeed encouraging, it shouldn’t have come down to people losing their lives for this realization to occur.
Over the past three weeks, I’ve realized how powerful social media can be, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, where not everyone is able to leave their houses and protest. Many white people, who never experience discrimination because of their skin color, are now paying attention to what people of color are subjected to.
I’ve seen the effects of Floyd’s murder on my social media feed. It now consists of numerous educational resources, petitions, lists of organizations that need donations and more to help address the racial inequality that plagues the world.
Many of my friends have used their platforms to spread awareness and bring forward ways in which everyone can inspire change.
However, action needs to take place beyond social media. To truly be involved in ending the systemic oppression people of color experience, we need to actively stand up against prejudice and discrimination. We must have the difficult but necessary conversations with our families and friends to discuss what we can do to address this pressing issue. It can be uncomfortable to have these discussions, but they are crucial to raising awareness and destroying racial bias.
In the ASL community, we must hold each other accountable. It is our responsibility to call each other out on micro-aggressions or other racist and discriminatory beliefs. We must start with our inner circles to incite change. The fight for change is more effective and powerful when everyone in the community acknowledges and acts upon injustices.
In light of the conversations recent events have spurred, the Social Justice Council hosted a race discussion June 2, in which students and faculty had a space to share their thoughts, feelings and reactions to the protests happening in the U.S. and around the world. Over 100 people attended, to either share their thoughts or simply listen. To make change, we must continue to examine racism through forums akin to this, and the personal roles we may play in its existence.
If we all come together, we can address issues from the bottom-up. It’s much easier to make progress on these issues when we all acknowledge why something’s happening and what we can all personally do.