My brother and I went to a protest in Dallas last Friday night to demand that the police and agents of white supremacy be held accountable for the murders of George Floyd and countless other Black lives. While we were on the streets, clamoring for justice, I realized that we weren’t yearning for a utopia but rather a more sustainable society. We were advocating for the enactment of a new social contract, which incorporates the interests of Black people and other minorities, as well as the tenets of the Freedom Dream by which ALL people are entitled to “Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.” Here are some steps that need to be taken in order to achieve the Dream:
- End unwarranted killings of Black people
- Implement laws that are premised on and contribute to the equitable treatment of every member of society
- Dismantle institutionalized white supremacy
- Abolish the myth of meritocracy
- End the white-washing of U.S. history
- Appreciate and celebrate our differences
I have no idea how many people were there marching along with us — screaming the same chants, sharing the same sentiments — but the energy was so palpable. We weren’t just marching for George Floyd or Breonna Taylor or the countless others who have been victims of police brutality. We were marching for a society where we no longer witness laws being selectively upheld based on race. A society where we don’t witness the cumulative disadvantage within minority communities. A society where the ideological construct of whiteness isn’t so pervasive in our lived experiences.
It is not enough to support the marginalized only after people have lost their lives. You should always be conscientious of the racial inequities that exist within the job market, healthcare, education, housing etc. Of course, these conditions are hard to recognize because white supremacy is so firmly embedded in this society. It obliges us to accept the status quo, to not question anything, to keep our heads down and carry on.
But what hurts me most is that despite this so-called “awakening,” many people are still so blinded to overt and covert injustices. Neither chain messages on social media nor reposting images of the man that was murdered can cure racism in America. I get it. You feel attacked when your peers say that staying silent means you have taken the side of the oppressor, so you post a supportive message in order to feel like you’ve done your part. However, sheltering yourself behind the pretense of advocacy is just another form of silence.
So how do you make an actual difference? First, advocacy requires introspection. That means doing some self-reflection and examining your visceral reactions after first learning about the killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. It means noticing and asking why the murders of Black people are not isolated incidents. It’s recognizing how your everyday actions and conversations might be reaffirming white supremacy, which is a social institution grounded in the dehumanization of Black bodies. Find people in and around your community that you can talk to. Have these conversations with your friends and families, including extended relatives. If you still don’t know where to start, then start with reading. Here are some books that I’ve read that have offered me a more nuanced perspective on the plight facing Black people in America.
- White fragility - Robin Diangelo
- Between the World and Me - Ta-Nehisi Coates
- Killing Rage - bell hooks
I promise these works are worth your time because this is not simply white vs. Black. It is about our shared humanity. This is a reality we are all experiencing.
Audre Lorde said “for it is not difference which immobilizes us, but silence.” So today I’m asking you, what’s in your Freedom Dream?
Zeinab Kante '21 can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please send responses to this opinion to email@example.com and op-eds to firstname.lastname@example.org.