Rosenthal: It's our responsibility to engage for necessary change
As an American Studies major at Kenyon College, I strive to sift through our history, finding patterns and links that explain the way our country functions.
In a town that's racial makeup is 98 percent white, the legacy of systemic racial oppression seems negligible. This is not the case.
It is all of our responsibilities to passionately engage and push ourselves to contribute to necessary change. It is our responsibility to educate ourselves about the issues of racism and police brutality; the burden should not only fall on the shoulders of our Black peers.
I write this with the immense privilege of being a white woman who is lucky enough to attend an elite liberal arts school. With that privilege comes the power to educate and facilitate meaningful conversation to enact change.
I write this not to preach but to stand in solidarity. I too often find myself terribly uncomfortable, without knowing what to say and too afraid to ask and get things wrong.
Here are some important lessons that I have learned on having meaningful and productive discussions:
It is important to understand that Black Lives Matter does not mean that Black Lives Matter more. It means that Black lives Matter too and specifically, that white lives, and the lives of policemen don't matter more than Black lives. All lives can't matter until Black lives do.
Phrases like "All Lives Matter" are racist in the sense that they are colorblind. Colorblind racism is the view that racism is no longer a problem and that every person has equal opportunities. Such a form of racism contributes to the system of covert racism, the "modern-day" form of racism. In using the phrase, "All Lives Matter," you engage in all the anti-Black sentiment that comes with it, whether intended or not.
The Black Lives Matter movement might not directly resonate with you. It doesn't have to resonate with you, but it's something our community needs to hear no matter how
uncomfortable it may make you feel.
The phrase "White Privilege" is not an insult nor is it a choice. As a white person, one cannot be accused of white privilege. If you are white, you are automatically born with privilege. Having white privilege in no way means that you have not endured hardship in other respects. It simply means that your race is not something that has oppressed you or your life.
In Lynn Mie Itagaki's Civil Racism, she explains the clear difference between the word "riot" and the word "rebellion." In her work, Itagaki clarifies that "a riot implies anarchic, disorderly, even random violence against persons and property" while a rebellion indicates organized protest, with potential for violence, and the possible initiation of new political movements by radicals and reactionaries." In other words, there is a purpose to the destruction, and it is organized and an effect of the racial burnout, or exhaustion, that Black people are currently feeling. It is important that we recognize that commodities can be replaced and neighborhoods restored, but lost lives, like George Floyd, are irreplaceable and irreversible. To call destruction caused by these demonstrations and protests acts of senselessness and brutality radically diminishes the importance of the fight against systemic racism and police brutality.
I urge you all to continue to involve yourself in the movement. If you can protest, do protest. If you can donate, do donate. The least you can do is encourage conversation and take this time to become a more informed citizen. Push yourself! Become an active member of this revolution! This time will be written into history, it's up to you to stand on the right side of time.
Sara Rosenthal is a student from Kenyon College. She is from Manchester.
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