Since 1619, Black Americans have been an afterthought while the white appetite rages constantly for more. Black Americans have been left alone to break the perpetual cycle of lack of opportunity that breeds exasperation and impatience. This cycle is a result of fatigue and generations of neglect and violence against people who were stolen and brought to this soil to build this country for free.
Amid a pandemic that has already wreaked disproportionate havoc on Black Americans, another pathogen — systemic racism — is also claiming lives. The murder of George Floyd by ex-police officer Derek Chauvin of Minneapolis is yet another senseless killing of a Black man.
Resulting nationwide protests emphasize that there is still tremendous work to do. Floyd’s death is not the only inexplicable murder since the COVID-19 pandemic hit the United States. Breonna Taylor, in Louisville, Ky., and Ahmaud Arbery, in Glynn County, Ga., were also slaughtered in cold blood.
Black people are worn. It is maddening that white people, who have relentlessly controlled and censored the lives of Black Americans, are yet again trying to regulate how we exercise our First Amendment right. We are speaking up on an issue that continuously tears this country to shreds. It is our modern civil war.
The peaceful protests of Georgetown University’s very own men’s basketball team wearing “I Can’t Breathe” shirts in 2014 or Colin Kaepernick kneeling in 2016 in response to these injustices were even too much for many white people. Calm protests were condemned. White people were annoyed with the tranquil nature in which we interrupted sports, flooded nightly news with activism and forced schools to have diversity and inclusion assemblies. Now, we are yet again marching. Some white people still want to turn a blind eye or criticize.
It is infuriating that at any moment my dad, my brothers, my cousins or my male friends could leave home and be murdered.
My dad should not have to lecture my 10-year-old brother on how to deal with police. My 16-year-old brother should not be afraid of his own God-given body just because he is taller and more athletic than many of his white peers. I should not have to pray for my cousin who is at a protest that his life will not be regarded by an ignorant officer. My male friends should not have to walk in fear of being profiled.
Remember, though: Black women are also being massacred. Do not forget to say our names. Black women play a critical role in shaping civil rights movements. It would be a shame to forget them in death as we sometimes do in life.
One of the things we need is leadership: not only from the president but also from our white allies who can be catalysts for change. White silence is white violence. By staying silent, you are making an active decision to be complicit in the horrific and inhumane ways that Black people are treated. A genuine national conversation has to occur to create change in policy and biases in order to be on the path toward an equitable society. White people can donate, sign petitions and, most importantly, march in solidarity at protests.
For those uncomfortable with these discussions, take the time to educate yourself on the history of the hatred against Black people. There are many readily available resources to enlighten yourself. It is not up to Black people to instruct you. Black-authored books, like Ta-Nehisi Coates’ “We Were Eight Years in Power” and James Baldwin’s “The Fire Next Time,” beautifully describe the Black struggle. Educating yourself is just one of the many steps you can take to learn more about the conflict and make changes to your lifestyle to help.
To those who are angry with these protests and do not understand their important nature, take a minute to read the room and understand that this is an issue that affects every single American. It is no longer a “us” vs. “them” situation; it never should have been. Yes, Black people are being slaughtered like animals, but we need the help of white people to make systematic adjustments to racist ideologies and laws that currently govern our society. No one will be able to rest until equality and justice are the true law of the land.
It does nothing to help the cause to ignore or silently denounce the behavior of racists. As Angela Davis said, “In a racist society, it is not enough to be non-racist, we must be anti-racist.”
Alexis Smith is a junior in the McDonough School of Business.