Youth voices: Time to speak up for equality and justice

A rising high school senior in Tampa wrote this essay "because of the pain and frustration I felt from watching the excruciating murder of George Floyd. My goal is to spread the message of patience and understanding that all people should have with blacks across America during these times. Empathy is the only way we can move forward.''

Like many passionate writers during this time, I am struggling to find a good way to even begin organizing my thoughts onto paper. To start, I am a privileged white kid born with a silver spoon up my ass. I will never fully understand what a person of color endures in our country, but I am trying to understand different perspectives.

I feel, as best expressed by the words of my teacher Brian Sarkozy, that “as a young, white man that grew up with privileges that were both earned from hard work by my parents and given to me based on the ethnic and cultural structure I was born into, it is my duty as a fellow human to try to truly hear the voices of the oppressed.”

I know I am a guest in this movement. But between the chills from the media coverage to the restless nights at home, I knew it was time to offer my two cents for those willing to listen.
 
I suppose I’ll begin at the controversial core of the problem: protesting/rioting. Protesting is exercising your First Amendment right to assemble and express your views, while rioting is a civil disorder spreading destruction and chaos.

The streets of Minneapolis and other cities around America have been trashed, burned, and looted (ironically resembling the Tulsa Race Massacre of 1921). The riots have torn apart urban neighborhoods. Companies have been destroyed, and domestic entrepreneurial dreams have been crushed. While I personally do not believe violence and rioting is the final resolution to the systemic racism America faces today, I don't entirely condemn it either. I think it is a crucial piece of the puzzle. Although it goes against every ideal of capitalism and is not a long-term solution, these riots have garnered attention from around the world. It will now take a unified peaceful movement to continue the momentum and drive home the message of promoting equality in the face of the law.
 
Riots are symptoms of injustice. If one glances at the past, it can be seen that violent protests have the potential to be more than successful. The Stonewall riots in 1969, involving violent demonstrations by members of the LGBTQ+ community, were effective in attracting attention and ultimately leading to changes that allowed same-sex marriages and admissions to our militaries. Of course, the Gay Pride movement took a combination of peaceful and violent protests to succeed, but the Stonewall riots served as a catalyst in fostering tangible change. Unfortunately, modern leftist and right-wing terrorist groups are diluting the meaning behind the movement by instigating more violence and chaos. By laying piles of bricks around protest locations, they want to tarnish the name of the people who are trying to peacefully protest by tempting a few people to trigger a domino effect resulting in a mob mentality.
 
With this in mind, how can one criticize blacks and all non-violent protestors across America for speaking up and demanding change?

Everyone -- blacks and non-blacks -- should be just as upset to fight for and stand up for human rights. Decades of systemic oppression epitomized by the death of George Floyd were bound to have repercussions. The people are frustrated. Frustrated for seeing their innocent brothers and sisters dying for no reason. It’s more than Floyd; it’s about Ahmad Arbery, Christian Cooper, Anthony Hill, Kevin Davis, Breanna Taylor, Jordan Davis, Renisha McBride, Tamir Rice, Philando Castile, Trayvon Martin, the Charleston 9, Amadou Diallo, and countless more who have been seemingly stripped of basic American rights as a direct result of racial injustice.
 
Mind you, the recent protests have not been the first attempt of spreading the message of Black Lives Matter (BLM). There have been peaceful attempts in recent history. Colin Kaepernick is a perfect example of someone who sought to go the nonviolent route but was punished for it. He used his platform to peacefully take a stand in front of the world. I understand that his gesture to kneel during the anthem made people uncomfortable, but it should.

This topic should put white people out of their comfort zone because it’s something we need to address that many of us have been avoiding for far too long. In truth, his action was inspired by the ex-Green Beret, Nate Boyer. Mr. Kaepernick decided to kneel not to spread animosity toward the military but to raise awareness and attract attention for the BLM movement. To sum it up, a Super Bowl finalist quarterback was denied a new contract because he stood up for what he believed in. This in itself shows the injustice that protestors face.
 
Riots, although illegal and not representing the BLM movement, have been successful in drawing the world’s attention to the cause. They have presented an opportunity to channel that mainstream attentiveness by spreading awareness and uniting peacefully toward racial justice in the United States. The combination of non-violent protests with awareness brought by emphatic demonstrations will be a powerful tool to unite everyone behind the push for legal equality.
 
So stand with those seeking justice and equality. Be open to listening; changing your opinion is not a sign of weakness by any means. Break your silence; show support for your oppressed peers. Promote goals; begin movements angled to pass legislation that encourages reporting racism in the ranks of the police force and holding officers accountable for racial injustices. We are all God’s children, and we should all be treated as such.
 
This opinion column was written by Carson "Cowboy'' Dixon, a rising senior at Tampa Prep.
 
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