In 1967, Martin Luther King Jr. delivered a powerful speech at Stanford University that became known as “The Other America.” In it, he supports nonviolent tactics of change and expresses his disdain for “socially destructive” riots.
However, in the same declaration he also acknowledges that the economic and social conditions that Black Americans experience must be condemned as equally as riots. “A riot is the language of the unheard,” he exclaims. “It has failed to hear that the promises of freedom and justice have not been met. And it has failed to hear that large segments of white society are more concerned about tranquility and the status quo than about justice, equality, and humanity.”
Racism is a systemic issue that knows no party lines, no borders, and no net worth. Racism lies within each and every one of us. It’s a sad truth and it is an unfortunate darkness that we must bring to light. We must look deeply into our learned ancestral behavior and question the ways in which the system has been set up. We must do whatever it takes to expose this deep-rooted, inherited illness… no matter how many years — how many decades — we’ve allowed it to go on.
We need change. Rather than sitting back on our privilege while we silently re-share stories from our couches, we must make a conscious decision to learn, to care when other Black and minority lives are lost — not just the ones that make it to the mainstream.
We must know and say the names of Breonna Taylor who was shot eight times in her own home, of Ahmaud Arbery who was shot while out for a run, and of Philando Castile who was shot at a traffic stop while reaching for his wallet. These are just a small handful of our brothers and sisters whose deaths the media did not cover so diligently as George Floyd’s and who lost their lives under the same hatred we are now — collectively — so disgusted with.
This is hatred. This is fear. And Black lives are the ones who are paying for it.
For white people, it needs to become our job to educate ourselves on what it might be like to grow up as a minority in America. What it might be like to grow up differently than your peers in a country that is supposed to provide freedom. What it might be like to not have the same opportunities as someone else because of where you grew up, what you look like, or how society views you from the day you were born.
We must practice anti-racism on a daily basis and we must recognize our fault when we let our privilege show. We must work to change the socioeconomic trap of hate. The best way to take action and change the narrative for future generations is to open your eyes and see what is happening every day, and really, truly let these riots and protests change you. Really, truly try to soak in this unrest, soak in the pain, and look within yourself to see how you may be contributing to the problem.
And then, how you may help the problem.
Start a book club where you read books like: “Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race,” “Me and White Supremacy,” “White Rage,” and “How to Be an Antiracist.” Follow BIPOC changemakers like Ericka Hart, Shaun King, and Elaine Welteroth on social media and interact with and study their content. Donate to organizations that support and give opportunity to minorities. Call your Black friends and listen to their experience, ask how they are, and don’t just ask what you can do, find out on your own… and actually do it.
In his speech, MLK Jr. continued: “In a real sense our nation’s summers of riots are caused by our nation’s winters of delay. And as long as America postpones justice, we stand in the position of having these recurrences of violence and riots over and over again. Social justice and progress are the absolute guarantors of riot prevention.”
While rioting and looting may or may not be the most practical way of dealing with the underlying issues of our nation, it does bring forward the masses. It does raise awareness. It does enact change.
And that’s what we need right now.
It’s frightening how little things have shifted in the last 50 years and at this point it’s clear we need to do much more. Re-sharing isn’t cutting it. Property can be replaced — lives cannot.
The goal is justice.
Lindsay DeLong is the Managing Editor of the fullest and a brand strategist who specializes in web design, blogging, and building brands from the ground up. To work together visit iLikeLindsay.com.