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Roundtable: Racial Injustice

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Black Lives Matter Protests Held In Cities Nationwide Photo by Michael Ciaglo/Getty Images

Baltimore Beatdown, in a joint effort wanted to use their platform to speak about what we know—and don’t know, of racial injustice and oppression. Below, you’ll find authors of Baltimore Beatdown covering the topic.

Vasilis Lericos

The recent tragedies have inspired me to voice support for the Black Lives Matter movement.

Growing up as a Greek-American in a country that afforded my immigrant grandparents upward mobility, I struggled to understand the challenges many Black Americans face every day. I’ve personally experienced fruitful relationships with black schoolteachers, friends, teammates, work colleagues and business partners throughout my life.

Nonetheless, I did not initially see the harm in Drew Brees’ opinion. I was raised to be patriotic and felt a sense of pride when the anthem was sung at the stadium. However, after learning more about the pain implicit bias causes, I now realize we must do more to support minority initiatives.

Racial injustice has plagued America since the beginning. Comprehensive criminal justice reform is mandatory, from the lawmakers and judges down to the prosecutors and police force, in order to provide equal opportunity to every family across the nation. We’ve witnessed horrific scenes of police brutality and killings for decades. Enough is enough, those hired to protect and serve must be held to the absolute highest standard of accountability.

I’m sincerely optimistic that the sustained protests will lead to significant change. Through demonstration and communication, the movement is succeeding in educating fair minded people. Together we have the power to build a society where everyone is judged solely “by the contents of their character.” Our creator made all of us equally and our children deserve better than inherited discrimination.

Evan Burns

It has been uplifting to hear so many white people share in the outrage over the recent killings of unarmed black people. Many have felt like “this time is different” and that this may be a turning point. I truly hope it is, as Americans of color have deserved so much more for so long.

As a white person and an adult, I have occupied space in vastly white social circles my entire life, while working in schools supporting students and communities of color. During this time, I’ve been to fortunate to work in spaces and with white leaders and leaders of color who have helped me understand my own racial identity as well as the systems of power that contribute to vastly inequitable experiences for people of color compared to the experiences of white people in this country. Recently I’ve been reflecting on the readings and experiences I’ve had that have helped me on my journey. I’m sharing just a few of them here, in the event that others find them helpful.

The Opportunity Myth - This s a report written by The New Teacher Project, highlights inequities in public school systems and shares a path forward.

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nahisi Coates - A book written as an extended letter to his son. The author details the dangers and hopes of growing up as a black boy in a white society.

Overt vs. Covert Racism - A simple but stark diagram illustrating the ways racism can appear beyond the obvious.

A People’s History of the United States - Author Howard Zinn details major moments in American history from an inclusive perspective, including massive amounts of information left out by many of our school’s textbooks that highlights buried injustices.

While listening to a recent panel at work, one of the panelists struck a chord when she said, “How do we ensure we are activists beyond this moment, this week, this weekend?” And in another meeting this week, a colleague of color remarked, “These conversations always happen, but the real change never does.”

I hope the resources are of value to anyone who is interested in reading them, and I would appreciate others sharing any resources that were helpful for them. Hopefully, in continuing to learn, we can realize the change that has yet to happen.

Kyle Barber

Racial injustice in America is something I don’t know much of; I am a 26-year-old straight white male who was born and raised in Gillette, Wyoming. I did not experience the racism or wrongdoing so much as I witnessed it unfold day after day. Truthfully, it’s a blessing I don’t have deep-seeded racism from my upbringing. My mother’s likely the only reason I’m not a monster like so many in that town. I know it’s there and I’ve seen it from witnessing my own relatives call rap and hip-hop music, “N***** music.” Of them using racial slurs for black athlete’s on TV. Of calling our Hispanic neighbors racial slurs. The exact neighbors I befriended with friendships lasting 17 years and counting.

That’s not even the iceberg of racial injustice.

When I was last pulled over for speeding, I also had not registered my vehicle from my recent move to Colorado. It’s frightening to know that such a small, absent-minded error could end with a person of color riddled with bullets. My mother could have lost me, her son, because a police officer with fewer training hours as an officer than most hairdresser licenses require can’t shake their racial bias.

Once again, that’s not the iceberg.

The systemic oppression is so deep for communities of color. It is the system by which America was built upon: Slave labor. Then, when the slaves were “free” the entrenched powers used their levers of power to persistently keep the black community beneath them. How on Earth can one expect to become anything when the entire system is truly against you? Equally, how can others not see or turn a blind eye to what the black community and people of color have suffered from?

The recent episode of Last Week Tonight struck me. John Oliver, the host, said he wanted to end the show with a woman’s words that had been ringing in his head. The words came from co-author of I’m not Dying with you Tonight, Kimberly Jones. I urge you to experience the full seven-minute video yourselves.

Dustin Cox

As a young white man living in the United States, I have never once felt the boot of oppression on my back or the fingers of discrimination around my throat. I have never feared for my safety when pulled over by police officers. I have never felt the fear of wondering if a loved one could be slain by an officer of the law. I will never have to worry about my future children facing judgement for the color of their skin.

I’m 23-years old, and for most of my life I was oblivious to the full extent of racism in my country. Living in the south for my entire life, I knew that racism was alive, but I was unaware of just how deeply it was embedded into the fabric of everyday life of not just the United States, but all over the world. I was unaware of how my skin tone gave me an extra layer of armor. I have since seen the horrors of countless black people being killed by law enforcement, whether out of racism or fear stemming from prejudice.

I’ll never be able to walk in the shoes of a minority in this country, but what I can do is walk beside them as we fight for a better world. A world where everyone can live peacefully. Where the color of your skin, gender, sexual orientation, or religion is not used as a basis for discrimination, hatred, and violence. A world where we are judged solely on character and given an equally fair shot in all aspects of life.

Opening your eyes and realizing that there is a problem around us is the first step towards finding a solution. As a white person, I don’t feel guilt for the acts committed by those that came before me, because I have no control over that. I do feel guilt that many of them are still happening today, however, and that is something that I can work to fix. Instead of hiding from the sins of my kind, I will work to make sure that those sins are permanently stuck in the past as we build a better future for the generations to come.

Spencer Schultz

Growing up in a sleepy Carroll County town in Maryland, I had zero black teachers during my time in public school. Zero of my 212 graduating classmates in 2011 were black. During that time, I was strongly influenced by black culture. I love football. 70% of the NFL is black. I love rap music, pop music... many of my favorite musicians are black. I love basketball. 70% of the NBA is black. My interests, personality, career... who I am... have been shaped by black culture. Like so many other white people my age, I love black culture. To stand by and watch black athletes, musicians, actors, scientists, educators and doctors that are idolized by young people ask for help, yet remain silent is lazy and cowardly. Too many of my black friends have cried because they don’t feel good enough. They don’t feel good enough because of a despicable system of oppression that has existed within this society and many others for too long. Black men and women aren’t born violent, aggressive, tough, weak, strong, or any other preconceived notion. They’re forced to be one way or another the same way the rest of the world is.

I’ve learned that the wealthy do what they can to maintain status quo. Systematic oppression is embedded in the core fiber of the United States. Many of those fibers have been destroyed and rewoven. Police brutality, abuse of power and privatized prisons are some of the remaining methods of oppression. They’re upheld stronger by the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to allow corporations to contribute to political campaigns, which only aims to increase the disparity within our great nation.

If there’s anything good to come from the tragic killings of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbury and many others it’s because the oppressed are standing up and making their voices undeniable.

The tragic deaths of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbury and many other tragedies aren’t in vain as long as it encourages the oppressed to stand up and make their voices undeniable. These tragedies also encourage discussion, whether on social media, in person, with family, strangers or friends. My only advice is to listen. Don’t debate. Don’t argue. Don’t seek to win, rather seek to grow. Learn from those who speak out. Swallow your pride and seek to better yourself and those who need help. Be a good person. Protect the weak, broken and damned. It’s the only true purpose of human beings.

Peter Daubert

I distinctly remember learning about the Civil Rights Movement in school and being incredibly inspired by those that fought for basic human rights in the 1950’s and the 1960’s. The more I learned about the treatment of black people back then, the more I admired the strength of those who fought for the rights of not only themselves, but for the generations that would succeed them.

What is happening now is not so different, and it makes me happy that I am alive to be able to support and participate in fighting for what should’ve been solved 60 years ago. The institutional racism has been going on for much, much too long, and it needs to come to an end. A simple apology or conviction will not suffice this time, what the protesters are looking for is real, genuine change that goes all the way to the top.

It is my firm belief that all human beings should condemn the killings of innocent civilians by those who feel they are above the law, and support the fight to change the system, even if it may get ugly at times. My own father tried to teach me racist ideology at a young age, and a lot of my own growth in my late teens was unlearning the things that had been taught to me by him. Education of the black experience for me came late, but empathy can go a long way, and listening to the oppressed and trying to understand their lives can be one of the most powerful things.

Black Lives Matter.