The current times can make one feel like the weight of the world is on their shoulders. Just when you think you see some light at the end of the tunnel it seems like something else comes up. It’s as though there is no escape from the current events and on some levels there shouldn’t be. These protests are necessary and change, real change, is needed. It may seem challenging to cope with but for those of you who are experiencing challenges and feel like it is too much you can take solace in knowing that this is not the first time that the world appears to be in turmoil. You can remain hopeful that better days are coming but in order for these changes to occur we must all do our part. I remain optimistic that we will.
See, I know that better days are coming because this weekend I had the opportunity to attend several protests and talk with many people, many of whom were young and instilled with passion for creating change. You could see it in their eyes; you could hear it in their words. They were not out there to make trouble; they are not Rebel Rousers. They were out there because they are not willing to allow the adults in the room to leave them with a world that is unlivable, or filled with hate and systems that work against them. A system that will only let a select few of them in if they don’t fight for the others.
Do you know how you can tell that their passion is real and they mean business? They aren’t just talking; they come armed with information and statistics to back up their concerns. They come armed with knowledge about the institutional racism that they have experienced well before even graduating from high school. Some of them just graduated last week. But even as young as they are they feel the pain of the person who went to jail for 18 months because he was stealing to keep food on the table and a roof over his head. They cannot condone a system that paid almost $500,000 to keep that person in jail as opposed to utilizing that money to create a better opportunity or provide them with the resources they need. They came armed with stamped addressed postcards to send to the Governor in opposition of the state holding 97 percent of inmates in jail without a trial.
The reality is that all of the problems created by the implementation of institutional and systemic racism occurred under adult supervision. I want to say that we did the best we could with the information we had but I know that wouldn’t be correct. The reality is that most likely either we were living in struggle mode and did not have time to address it or, because it didn’t affect us personally, we didn’t feel a need to get involved or speak up. Better yet, perhaps we were benefiting from the struggles of others or we allowed the perception of losing something to keep us in the fear of saying or doing anything. Regardless of the excuse, the youth of this generation are here to tell us that they will not accept the current systems and that our ways of doing things are about to be the ways of the past.
It’s not that they don’t have anything to lose. There may be scholarships on the line or sports opportunities or many of the other things we hold over people’s heads to silence them, so it’s not that. It’s that they understand that sacrifices have to be made to create change. See at some point things became a bit comfortable and we stopped sacrificing or thinking about the next person. We looked at those who were not doing as well as we were and we blamed them. Heck, we even shamed them. They are not trying hard enough; they should have gone to school and obtained an education. We did this to appease ourselves knowing full well that it was not the full picture. The system is broken! But as we look at the full picture now, people are expressing all of the frustrations they have felt for years and are finally speaking out against things that they have been holding in. I have to applaud the youth because they could be doing anything else right now but they know the significance of this moment and the power of their voice. They are taking back their power in a positive way to ensure that the world they inherit will be one they can live in. Let’s support them in their efforts and do our part.
In closing I want to leave you with a Facebook post that came up on my timeline this weekend as a memory from three years ago. It reads:
Being a woman in this world isn’t easy, being a black woman in this world isn’t easy! Some of you will never know the things that I have gone through as both! Some of you will never know the feelings it stirs up in you when you know that you are being treated differently! Unfortunately, it’s real! My hope and prayer is that in my lifetime we learn to do better and treat each other better!
In the meantime, Still I Rise!