Nearly 60 years after the passage of The Civil Rights Act of 1964, black Americans are still battling racial injustice. Perhaps it was foolish for people to believe that legislation alone would remedy hundreds of years worth of discrimination, disenfranchisement and abuse. Indeed, more than half a century has done little to educate white Americans regarding our own privilege. But it seems the tide is finally turning. Over the past four months, tragedies such as the ones befalling Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd have stoked anger and resentment at the marginalization and dehumanization of black Americans, rallying white Americans in ways previous examples of oppression never have. Whether due to the time we’ve had to reflect as a result of social distancing protocols following the arrival of COVID-19 or we’re just weary of reading the same headlines over and over, it seems that we are finally ready to acknowledge and combat our own prejudices in an effort to afford true equality for all. Here are three ways we — students in particular — can work to end racism:
Self-awareness is the ability to see ourselves clearly; by thoughtfully exploring our own thoughts and beliefs, we can come to understand our values and biases. Such self-awareness necessarily enables us to see more clearly the values and biases of those around us, as well. Indeed, self awareness is thought to boost our confidence and increase our capacity for empathy, helping us accept and tolerate differences of opinion, circumstance and culture/race. With this in mind, all of us can and should take the time to consider the systems of thought that shape our perspectives so that we are able to label and reject discriminatory attitudes when we encounter them in ourselves and others.
As students, we need to continue to educate ourselves fully on a variety of subjects. We should read books and watch movies and enter discussions that challenge our minds, opening ourselves up to the exploration of topics and positions we might never have otherwise considered. According to the European Commission Against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI), a well-rounded “education is the best tool for tackling racism and discrimination and building inclusive societies.”
Some of us have extra money and can donate to organizations with the capacity to transform race relations policy (such as the BLM movement, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund or the ACLU). Others can sign petitions or write letters to the editor of newspapers to advocate for change. Some can use yards signs like businesses that advertise using vehicle graphics and billboards. We can patronize black-owned businesses; volunteer as tutors and mentors; or join a peaceful protest. The key is to not stay silent, to use our voices in support of racial equality whenever and wherever we can.