OPINION – #BLM

Written by on June 3, 2020

The following is a blog post by Rutgers University Student, Yukta Chand.  Chand has given us permission to post this onto 90.3 WMSC platforms. More can be found on her blog at https://simplyukta.wixsite.com/simplyyukta

 

***This blog post was just something I have personally been feeling. If there are sentiments that offend you or you don’t agree with, that is FINE. Everyone is entitled to what they believe is right and wrong. I do not support changing another person’s opinions or forcing someone into believing in something; however, what I believe you can do is guide someone and educate them, have healthy conversations, and MOST importantly, you MUST educate yourself. Ultimately, I created this platform to express my ideas and opinions so here it goes. ***

#BLM

On May 25th, George Floyd was accused of using a counterfeit $20 bill. He was arrested and within minutes he was pinned down and killed by the hands of the police officers on site. Despite the pleas of Floyd or the people around him, police officer Derek Chauvin kept his knee planted on Floyd’s neck. Till he died… 

Since then I have been feeling a range of emotions. Feelings of helplessness, anger, fear, sadness, unsure, to list a few. The hardest thing for me was to put feelings and emotions into words. Into words which were educated, correct, and powerful. I will admit I was not completely educated about every aspect of the Black Lives Matter movement. I would read headlines on newspaper front pages or watch snippets of the news and claim that I supported this cause. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t like I didn’t support the cause and didn’t care. I did care, but at the time, not enough to read or learn about it. I would mindlessly read things on social media, maybe post a story about it, maybe send it to a few of my friends, but beyond that I did not try to learn more about it myself.

My freshman year in college, I took a Sociology class and I remember one lecture my professor said something that stuck to me, he said that ALWAYS re-search everything. NEVER blatantly believe everything you hear or see, whether it is your parents telling it to you, your professors, your friends, social media. At first glance, this seems super tedious, maybe even something you might roll your eyes at and think “Well yeah obvs that goes unsaid”. But he followed up by clarifying that he doesn’t mean go to the library and take notes on everything you hear about. He meant think about research in a more literal sense: re-search. Search again. Everything you hear or see, search for it again. Look for it again, a simple Google search will suffice. Know the facts and move on with your life. 

I guess what I am trying to get at is that social media, although is a great platform to express yourself, to get current events/ news, and spread awareness, we CANNOT afford to just see a post and believe it MINDLESSLY. If you do not know the facts about something, then do not EVER be afraid to say IDK or ask someone to explain it. It is better to not know than to talk about something you don’t know.

Everyone is feeling the weight of George Floyd whether their opinions align with you or not. Since last week I have had so many conversations and I think one concept that I have stood by from the start is that before any race, religion, or ethnicity that classifies you; the VERY FIRST thing you are categorized by is that you are human. You are a human before anything. George Floyd was a human, Ahmaud Arbery was a human. Breonna Taylor, Michael Brown, Eric Garner. They are all humans. No matter who you are or where you are from it is so important to realize that these humans were killed, someone died. You have to care about that. 

But being human is unfortunately not as picture perfect as I described it. If all people put humanity on a pedestal, then so many of the world’s problems would cease to exist. Wars would end, everyone would be equal, there would be a solution to world hunger and lack of education and homelessness. Race, religion, social class would not have any impact. But unfortunately, that is not the reality. The reality is that race, religion, social class very much matters, everyone has implicit bias whether they want it or not. The only way we can combat this is if we realize that the bias exists and truly make small wins towards ending it. “Small Wins” was a strategy coined by Shelley Correll. It means that HUGE CHANGE does not happen OVERNIGHT, but instead through slow and steady small wins one by one, step by step to combat. 

Secondly as Americans, we must care about our black brothers and sisters. WE MUST CARE. The problem of racial inequality has filtered itself into literally everything since the beginning of America’s history. Starting with slavery, to not having the right to education or to vote, this meant even if they were free there was no way for them to move up. Without education, how could they get good paying occupations to support their families. When they did receive the right to become educated, POC were still held back from the Jim Crow Laws. When they gained the right to vote, they were given voter literacy tests that were confusing, misleading and nearly impossible to pass. There was housing discrimination where POC could not move into suburban neighborhoods just because of the color of their skin. The list goes on. CONSTANTLY, every step of the way, black people have been systematically oppressed by America. Racial inequality in America has been present for OVER 400 years. 

And for what reason? The color of someone’s skin? How can something someone has ABSOLUTELY no control over be such a deciding factor in their life. The color of your skin doesn’t make you any less or any more of a human than anyone else. There is literally no way to measure the melanin in your skin. Melanin is a way just to protect us from UV rays and the reason people have lighter skin is because of human migration patterns. The more north you go the less UV, hence your skin color is light…

So, for people who do not think this associates you, it does. As a human with bias, as a citizen of the country we call home, it does affect you. OBVIOUSLY, every white person DOES NOT support or condone Racial Inequality, but racial inequality is ingrained as a defining factor of America because of our history and race is sadly a determinant for the life a POC will live.

Fortunately, MANY people do care and the protests and social media awareness shows. People are upset and frustrated, we are upset and frustrated, and we WANT change. And with that I come back to my initial sentiment about feeling helpless and upset and wanting to make a difference and support this movement, but you feel like you cannot, especially in the midst of a global pandemic.

But reality is you can do a lot even beyond posting on social media.

You can donate, here are the organizations that I have been repeatedly seeing, it may be overwhelming to see so many links, I suggest looking through the websites. They all support a good cause and you will not be held against picking one rather than another. 

You can text/ call/ email Mayors and Governors

Here is a link of the phone numbers and emails of government officials in Minnesota who you can reach out too: https://blacklivesmatters.carrd.co/#text

You can sign petitions

You can read, and educate yourself

I have made reading the front page of Wall Street Journal and NY Times a habit I SWEAR BY every single morning. But in general, you should try to read from as many RELIABLE sources as you can, to avoid bias. A friend of mine said that you should go as far as reading from sources where you do not agree with the claims made and the interpretations in that source, this opens your mind to other opinions and allows you to venture outside of your comfort zone. 

On your socials, follow news sources that will keep you up with all current events and trust me you feel so much more well-rounded…

Here are some books you can read to learn more; I know that these are on my list!!

  • White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo
  • Me and White Supremacy by Layla F. Saad
  • Women, Race, & Class by Angela Y. Davis
  • So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo
  • The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander
  • Six Ways Asian-Americans Can Tackle Anti-Blackness in Their Families by Kim Tran (Article)
  • Black Feminist Thought by Patricia Hill Collins
  • Heavy: An American Memoir by Kiese Laymon
  • I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
  • Between the World and Me by Ta’Nehisi Coates
  • Beloved by Toni Morrison
  • Why I Am No Longer Talking to White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge
  • The Color of Law by Richard Rothstein

You can literally talk to your parents/family/ friends/ coworkers.

One of the most courageous things I ever do is be open to my parents about certain things. Especially with brown/ desi parents, anything about government, politics, overseas conflicts… These conversations can be some of the most heated living room discussions that will ever happen. It is VERY VERY important however to be respectful of each person’s opinions. 

Your parents may never see any situation in the light you see it in. No one person feels the same emotion. Coming from a family who immigrated to America, I see it in everything we do. My parents were born and brought up in India, to them America is the country that has sustained them the past 20 years or so, but it will never sit right with them to refer to America as their country. Not out of hate, but just out of love and the patriotism they have for where they grew up. Therefore, the idea of marching or fighting towards this greater purpose will never make sense.

But if it is important to you, your family needs to give you the opportunity and time of day to speak your mind. For us, this is our country. We grew up here, most likely will be raising our own families one day. It is important to bring this up and whether or not you end up on the same page as your family, it is important to recognize what chapter of the book you and your parents are speaking from. Learn about the history to combat anti-blackness, explain that the only reason we’re here is b/c of the civil rights movement, and most importantly let them know that EVERY great movement began uncomfortably.

Friends are the best people to talk to, I feel like there are no hard feelings and even if you disagree it’s easier to hear something you do not agree with from a friend than from family. Something to keep in mind is when talking to friends/ acquaintances who have said/used anti-black vernacular and are beginning to post and protest. Rather than “exposing” them or criticizing, it is important to talk with them. This is ultimately what the whole movement is, educating people and increasing awareness. Spread love, not hate. 

I put in coworkers too because in the midst of everything going on, talking to a coworker goes a HUGE way. So many companies are building a more inclusive workplace by taking time to have their employees have uncomfortable and difficult conversations about race, gender, religion, and pretty much anything. Here is an example of KPMG: (https://info.kpmg.us/news-perspectives/people-culture/building-a-more-inclusive-workplace.html) Something to keep in mind for different orgs you’re in/ as you embark on summer internships/ and with your work groups. 

I took a WHOLE class on this last semester and if there is a SINGLE thing, I learned it is that every workforce in America will benefit from becoming more inclusive and diverse and the only way to attain 50/50 (and more) diversity is accepting that bias exists and how to move forward.

Marching/ Protesting

Like I mentioned before, all of the greatest movements around the world began from a march, a protest. People who are protesting deserve the government’s support and the community’s respect to be able to stand up for what they believe in, without hate and without fear. It is one of our basic rights to speak and express our sentiments. Protestors should not be treated violently. 

On the news, all of us are seeing the violence and current situation. This is a consequence of the frustration and anger that people have. I may never understand the anger and the emotion the same way those protesters do but I know that violence puts everyone at fault. The ones who are affected by it in the communities, and the people conducting it. Violence has the power for someone to lose sight of what it is they are fighting for. 

Barack Obama puts it beautifully in his recent Instagram post, DEFINITELY take a look (https://www.instagram.com/p/CA5X31igzCL/)

AND MOST IMPORTANTLY IF YOU ARE 18 AND OVER, you can vote. 

And what comes to my mind when I hear the word ‘vote’ is only the president. But please do not forget you can ALSO vote at more local levels. These local and state levels are directly going to deal with issues such as injustice in the legal system and police brutality. Here is a website that shows all the NJ voting info: https://ballotpedia.org/New_Jersey_elections,_2020

I know this was a super long post. If you have reached the end, I thank you from the bottom of my heart for listening to me pour out what I have been feeling and what I know so far. There is so much more I have to say and there might have been so much more I could have said better but I feel a lot better writing this and knowing that if I can do this, we all can <33

xx


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