During the last few weeks, we have gone through some truly dark days for our country. The horrific death of George Floyd at the hands of four Minneapolis police officers, and the ensuing increased attention to the equally horrific deaths of Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery, has exposed tremendous feelings of grief and outrage across the United States. We have seen massive protests calling for reforms, transparency and accountability in law enforcement, as well as opposing the wider scourge of racism toward African Americans and people of color within our nation.
Although with my background I will never be truly able to understand what many are feeling right now, I hope I can do my part to call for real change and increased awareness in our society. I know that I honestly don’t feel the most qualified to talk about this. But I do know that our country must and can do much better than this.
In times as critical as these, it is imperative that something is done. Too often, it can be easy to ignore or miss the plight of African Americans as they struggle to deal with institutions and laws biased against them. It is too easy for many of us to assure ourselves that everyone is treated fairly and that America has moved past the days of slavery and segregation. However, as can be clearly seen from terrible stories in the news, as well as the stories our fellow Americans bravely share themselves, we still have a long way to go to live up to the ideals that our own founding documents, from hundreds of years ago, profess.
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal,” the Declaration of Independence, published in 1776, reads. After 244 years, we still haven’t lived up to those words. Using their First Amendment rights to speak and organize, millions of Americans across the country have spoken up over the last few weeks to demand their voices be heard and support family, friends and colleagues who are directly affected by injustices every day.
That is the American spirit at work, and I hope we will listen to the many Americans who have emerged as leaders through these traumatic times and support them in their campaigns to bring about a more fair and just America.
The first step in facing a problem though is admitting it exists. It is high past time we recognize the issues that are faced by millions of Americans everyday because of their race and background. This is especially important for us living in areas where people of color are vastly outnumbered by and often unheard by white majorities. We need to take a step back and let our fellow Americans outline what they are facing and what needs to be done to combat discrimination and oppression against them. This is not a time for political leaders to propose quick, easy “solutions” and then move on to other issues. They should not take anyone’s support or votes for granted. The hardships and disadvantages many Americans live with have been built up and sustained throughout centuries. Even attempting to rectify them will require a long, arduous and committed process.
I hope by using my voice and platform here I can show my support toward those who have been denied a voice and a platform for so long. I know I can’t begin to even come close to understanding what so many have experienced unheard and unrecognized.
The worst thing that can be done now though is to stay silent. We cannot afford to let these calls for true change and reform be pushed aside in favor of the next news cycle and once again ignored. That has happened already for far too long, and we owe it to our fellow Americans to take steps now to never let ignorance of their struggles be the norm ever again. We owe it to them to hear their voices and work toward the changes needed to create an America where everyone is safe, valued, respected and heard.
Connor Kockler is a student at St. John’s University. He enjoys writing, politics and news, among other interests.