When I was little I had plenty of fears: monsters under the bed, the dark, spiders, and honestly a lot more. But, one of my biggest fears was history, specifically, the history of Black people in America. My mom and dad often bought children’s books that told stories of civil rights heroes and slavery, but these books terrified me. Bad dreams were expected after reading one. Knowing that the color of my skin, the same color of Harriet Tubman, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Rosa Parks, could one day be my worst enemy, was terrifying for my five-year-old self to understand. Eventually, I got over this rational fear and began to embrace African American History, because unfortunately, our school systems fail to teach us about a lot of that history. Nevertheless, George Floyd’s death sparked a revolution in me.
After I sat down with my family to watch the gut-wrenching 10-minute video, I escaped to my room and cried. As a Black girl who attends a mostly white private school in the heart of the South, I chose my words very carefully: “Don’t speak too black!” “Don’t get into political arguments with people.” “Look the other way when someone says something bigoted and racist.” I constantly remind myself of these rules, in an attempt to make friends, to be uncontroversial, to try to hide and minimize my Blackness. But when I saw that video of George, crying for his mother, pleading for his life, I could be silent no more. Fears for my Black friends, parents, family, and myself rushed through my head. Will I be next? No, because ENOUGH IS ENOUGH.
I immediately took to social media, which I don’t often do, voicing my opinion, spreading information, and making my voice heard. I took to the streets of Atlanta with my dad, my protest partner, to put pres- sure on our local and state government. It is so necessary to be consistent with these marches, to inconvenience the country, to make them listen. Our people have done this countless times before, but this at this moment, with nationwide persistence and devotion, I think we can get real change. I believe that Black Lives Matter, that a revolution is coming, and as a part of Generation Z, it is my responsibility to see it through. We have to educate ourselves and others on all issues of social injustice, which is why I started “When We Are Equal” at my school.
“When We Are Equal” is a social media page and club that I started with my friend in hopes of educating our peers about issues of race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, and more. Like I previously stated, we both attend a mostly white private school, and some of our classmates simply don’t understand certain experiences, because they were never taught. They don’t know why they can’t say the “n-word” or to refer to each other as sexual slurs. Unfortunately, we still deal with a lot of hurtful and offensive behavior, and as Black students, we don’t always feel empowered to speak up. According to an Instagram page where Black students and alumni from my school can anonymously submit testimonials, one student detailed their experience. “In 7th grade I had a [white] friend who asked if he should call me ‘African American, Black or Negro.’ He also told me to “shut up monkey” on another occasion. Crazy thing is, I had friends who defended his behavior.” Like this student, I, and countless other pupils of color have experienced racist behavior by students at our school, and I refuse to bite my tongue anymore. My friend and I have taken it upon ourselves to inform and teach our peers because we simply must make our voices heard. There is no way to make real change if we don’t change the way people in America think. That’s why I protest.