If You’re Tired of All of This…

It’s been a long week. It’s been an even longer 400 years.

Powerful+sign+being+held+up+at+a+protest+for+George+Floyd.

Powerful sign being held up at a protest for George Floyd.

I’m sure at this point, you may be exhausted from what you’ve been seeing everywhere these past few days. Social media serves as an escape for many people, and now your feed is flooded with videos, hashtags, calls to action, and infographics that all seem to blend together. I scroll through Tik Tok hour after hour to see protest tips, explanations of the Black Lives Matter Movement, videos taken during protests, criticism of the president, personal stories, and ways to help the cause. It can feel unpleasant, overwhelming, like an inconvenience as you wonder when things will “get back to normal.” I understand that. But to that, I say this with tough love: check your privilege.

It is no secret that North Allegheny does not have the best diversity. 85% of students are white, and many of us come from financially secure families. We see police brutality on screens, which is nothing like experiencing it firsthand. White people do not know the feeling of discrimination in all of its forms–cultural appropriation, lack of BIPOC representation, racial profiling, condescending attitudes, “jokes” that are just veiled bigotry, anti-immigration sentiments and policies, mass incarceration, medical racism, a pressure to conform to Eurocentric beauty standards, stereotypes, hate crimes, and housing discrimination, to name just a few. We have the privilege of being shielded from the experiences of people who do not look like us, and it has made us indifferent. I already sense that people are getting tired of this as I watch the same 20 people post on their Instagram stories over and over, while others haven’t said a word. I would like to give those who have chosen to stay silent the benefit of the doubt, and I hope that they are at home doing all they can to fight for equality without social media knowing. 

Yesterday was #blackouttuesday, which means a lot of black screens filled your Instagram feed. It has unfortunately been the first and only action taken by many people, and by itself, it is not activism. It is a good way to show solidarity, but there are many more steps to be taken. I am terrified of the day when I will see people start to remove their blackout posts, maybe weeks or months from now. It needs to stay, it needs to be a reminder every time you look at your feed that this was a time during which change has never been more possible, and if you treat it like a trend, you will have lost your opportunity to take part in that change.

The most terrifying thing that can happen is everything going “back to normal.” Normal does not mean everything is fine, it means we are just blind to it again.”

The most terrifying thing that can happen is everything going “back to normal.” Normal does not mean everything is fine, it means we are just blind to it again. When the protests die down, after the Instagram stories return to “like my recent!” and “happy birthday to my best friend!”, the outrage and the activism cannot stop. Real, sustainable change does not come in a week; we will only see legitimate reforms and legislative changes happening when we keep pushing, when we do all we can for as long as we can. 

“Change will come in time” means nothing to the black men and women getting brutalized by police, to the Native Americans who lack supplies and adequate healthcare during the COVID-19 pandemic, to the Asian Americans who face racism and stereotypes that often go overlooked, to the Muslims being targeted by hate crimes, to the LGBTQ+ youth who are thrown out onto the streets by their families, to the Hispanics being targeted by ICE just for their background. Our legislative system works slowly by nature, but we, as citizens, cannot let our only action be voting (and because the majority of people reading this will be high schoolers, we do not have that power yet). There are countless ways to help, to use your voice. Silence is complacency. At the end of this article, I’ve compiled a document full of resources that you can use to begin making a difference.

But we cannot delay equality for your comfort. We cannot wait for you to be ready. You have to be ready now.”

Find out what works best for you. I am saying all of this gently because I know activism can be intimidating, but it comes in many forms. Activism is calling out your family and friends for racist jokes and statements, it is educating yourself, it is confronting yourself about your own internalized racism. And before that, you must first acknowledge that the world needs fixing, and that you are capable of fixing it. If you have been staying silent on social media, I can understand why. It feels messy, uncomfortable, “too political.” But we cannot delay equality for your comfort. We cannot wait for you to be ready. You have to be ready now. 

I’ll admit that I have been too complacent in the past. I ignored the struggles that I did not have to experience, I made excuses, I avoided taking action, I defended this country when it was clearly in the wrong, I hurt people with my ignorance. And it is just a further display of my privilege that it took an innocent man being killed by police in broad daylight and protests across the nation to finally spur me into action, that I was able to stay silent for so long. But now, I am making the choice to be an ally, to fight for causes that do not directly affect me. And you can too. It is never too late to find your voice. My intention is not to guilt anyone into being an activist because guilt is not productive. Guilt over your privilege, over inaction, will only hold you in place, paralyzing you while you can be changing for the better. Your fight should be driven by what is right, not by fear of doing the wrong thing. 

In the future, when your children ask about this tumultuous time and your actions during it, what will you say?”

In the future, when your children ask about this tumultuous time and your actions during it, what will you say? Will you say that you didn’t want to get political? That you ignored racism within your own community? That you didn’t sign petitions because you didn’t want to get unnecessary emails, or that calling lawmakers was too much of a hassle? That the extent of your activism was an Instagram post of a black screen? Hindsight is 20/20, and I can guarantee that one day we will look back on these issues and see that the fact they were allowed to continue for so long is disgusting. Whether they are still occurring 50 years from now is up to you. We all agree that slavery was a terrifying example of how much evil humans can commit, yet our Founding Fathers were slaveowners. People agreed with slavery, they stayed silent when they saw injustice. And now, when we are witnesses to all of this injustice, what will we do? Will we take the role of abolitionists and civil rights protestors, or will we be bystanders? Doing nothing is oppression. Choosing to ignore the fights of your brothers and sisters–and they are your brothers and sisters, despite differences in appearance, background, belief, or struggle–is a betrayal to your own humanity. Your voice is powerful. Use it.

Click here for resources.