The Onus is On Us
“Actions are born out of Thoughts, Thoughts emanate from Consciousness, Consciousness is rooted in Education, Feelings, Understanding and Lived Experiences”
It’s difficult to put into words my thoughts and feelings that have emanated from the tragic events that have transpired over the past 2 weeks here in America. Anger. Shock. Embarrassment. Shame. Self-introspection. Dismay. Empathy. Disbelief. All come to mind in witnessing the travesty and coming to terms with the amount of work still required to achieve any semblance of racial equality and justice for Blacks living in the United States of America today. It’s been a full 56 years since the passage of the Civil Rights Act but the landscape is anything but equal in our land. The cancer of racism that continues to afflict the soul of our nation has left gaping wounds that should bring every proud American who believes in those immortal words of our forefathers — life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness — nothing but shame and indignation. I am certainly filled with shame and indignation, but also with a sense of purpose and desire for action.
But what now? How do we move forward rectifying our wrongs, ensuring that this overabundance of emotion emanating from the mass humanity protesting in our streets doesn’t just dwindle out like a rapturous campfire being reduced to smoldering embers as other Black Lives Matter movements seem to have puttered without achieving real change. It’s been 6 years since Eric Garner uttered his last words “I Can’t Breathe” only to see George Floyd suffer under the same police brutality despite the use of body cameras on policemen. As an able-bodied, heterosexual, Christian, Swedish-Filipino American man born into a household of 2 educated parents, I couldn’t be farther from the profile of those that suffer under our institutionalized, oppressive racism. Yet, I empathize and feel the same indignation of those that do, knowing that change must happen and it must start within each and every one of us. For while the battle is led by our Black brothers and sisters, theirs is a burden that shouldn’t be carried alone. We — any person of any privilege, especially white privilege — need stand behind our brethren and wage war as a unified nation, not simply stand idly by maintaining the status quo. Silence is Compliance. Some would even go so far as saying “Silence is Violence” as it perpetuates the racist architecture of our laws. Colorblindness does not equate to anti-racist activism. As the late rapper Tupac Shakur was fond of saying, “It’s time for us as a people to start making some changes.”
In order to frame the series of events that have taken the nation and media by storm, it’s important to have context of where we’ve come from, why this is happening, what the grievances are and why citizens are displaying pent-up frustration with a unified voice. Through understanding and empathizing with people of color, it’s clear that this moment in history can rival the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s in terms of sweeping changes. By having discussions and listening to African Americans — be it talking to friends of color, listening to podcasts, or reading articles — and becoming more educated on the centuries of plight blacks have faced, one can gain perspective of the anger and resentment. Apart from experiencing discrimination ourselves, this is the closest that we, persons of privilege especially white privilege, can get to viewing life through the lens of a black person. We need to step into their shoes as much as possible with an open mind, an open heart and eager to listen and learn. Finally, nothing changes without taking action and applying our thoughts to become the change we wish to seek in the world. If you have had similar thoughts as me, you may have wondered to yourself — how can I impart positive change and who am I to make an impact? Start small. Have uncomfortable conversations with both black and white friends. Support local congressmen who are pro-mass incarceration reform. Stop the privatization of prisons. What good would all of this empathy and learned knowledge be if one didn’t apply it to action? The day of reckoning has come to confront our nation’s long history original sin and racial injustice.
Understand and Empathize
Why are the Protests happening Now?
While George Floyd’s vicious and cruel murder was certainly the catalyst, there are a number of reasons why Americans and people all over the world are lining the streets proclaiming “No Justice, No Peace”. A demand for racial justice is certainly the first and foremost reason, but I see a number of factors at play here:
a. Extreme Cruelty and Shock of the Manner of George Floyd’s Death — the absolute atrocity of witnessing nearly 9 minutes of suffocation of a man evokes extreme anguish and empathy for any observer, no matter their race. While others that have suffered a similar fate have also been horrific, Floyd’s death incited a flame of outrage and frustration.
b. Shared Empathy amongst other Minority Groups facing Religious, Sexual or any other forms of persecution — The multi-racial rainbow throngs of crowds coming from all different backgrounds have coalesced behind the most oppressed minority group since the days of slavery. Muslims facing religious persecution, Chinese facing backlash fallout over the coronavirus, Mexicans and Latinos that have been constantly berated by the president and people from all stripes and walks of life have joined the multitude in part because they feel and share the same grievances of a discriminated group. When added altogether, America — a land originally founded on religious freedom — is a nation comprised of minority groups.
c. Massive Wealth Inequality Gap between Have’s and Have Not’s — The Inequality Gap amongst the wealthiest 1% and poorest 40% stands at a historical extreme, just 2 years after the largest tax cuts in history. While the looting of stores should not be condoned as it diminishes the acts of the majority of peaceful protesters, their actions are symbolic of trying to close this gap independently.
d. Unemployment and Frustration with Government’s forced shutdowns — The forced quarantine and Stay-at-Home measures due to COVID-19 fears have been in place for nearly 3 months and led to 20+ million job layoffs with nearly a 20% unemployment rate. As the “Land of the Free” with an independent-minded populace, citizens that have been stuck at home have been getting restless with the government’s lack of preparedness and absence of any kind of plan going forward.
e. Urgency to Act from the Self-Realization of Fragility of Life — The psychology of being fearful of the unknown Coronavirus — deadly droplets that could be delivered via an Amazon package — has likely brought a renewed sense of the fragility of life as it could be cruelly taken from you at any moment. This self-realization has likely created an urgency for the need to act now if one is to live to see racial justice come to fruition.
f. Embarrassment of the current plight and Desire for a Better Country — From my perspective, the last 4 years since the 2016 election has been a series of national embarrassments, but perhaps none as poignant as this time. We live in a social media era wherein everything can be captured on video and shared with the world. I have certainly never been as ashamed and embarrassed of our country, compelling me — and I presume many of the marchers — to take a stance, demanding the urgency to wake up our country with the aspiration of a better tomorrow.
The Multi-Faceted Variables of Discrimination
Each one of us are born into this world with distinct advantages or privileges simply due to the lottery of life. However, the strength of our nation lies in each of our distinct uniqueness and individual qualities. Discrimination is the unjust or prejudicial treatment of different categories of people, especially on the grounds of race, age or sex, usually coming from a majority oppressing a minority group. Discrimination is the enemy we are fighting against and the cancer that prevents us from achieving our nation’s ideals — life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness — on an equal and just playing field. While not an exhaustive list, here are a few of the factors that can lead to discrimination and marginalization against minorities in the United States of America.
a. Race — White is majority; Black is minority
b. Religion — Christianity is dominant; Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism are minority
c. Sex — While the divide is roughly 50–50%, Males are commonly viewed as a superior sex
d. Sexuality — Heterosexual is majority; Homosexual, Bi-Sexual are minority
e. Household (# Parents) — Majority of children grow up in 2-parent household, Minority of children grow up with 1 parent, Grandparent or no parent at all.
f. Income — The real median household income is $60,000 in the United States. Those with more are above-average while those with less struggle.
g. Handicap — Most citizens are able-bodied; minority are handicapped
h. Language — English is dominant language; Spanish is secondary
i. Height — Persons with tall stature commonly viewed as superior to short-statured
j. Immigrant Status — Immigrants comprise 14.4% of America’s population, with nearly 50 million immigrants, yet still represent the minority.
k. Obesity — Although not as pronounced as other forms of discrimination, obesity qualifies as a subtle bias when it comes to employment opportunities among others
Many of these measures of discrimination can be invisible to one’s eye at first glance without knowing more about a person. However, overt discrimination typically entails a perceived act of injustice based on one’s looks alone. Many immigrants would fall back on the fact that they never contributed to the original sin and therefore are exempt from righting the wrongs of history. However social constructs would still perceive immigrants along the same lines with immigrant status only representing one of the many facets of marginalization.
One of the fascinating ways my wife’s social impact organization, Emzingo, brings these privileges and disadvantages to light is to have everyone within a group of 10–20 people line up shoulder-to-shoulder. While reading out each variable one at a time, participants step forward if they fall under the majority (privileged class) and take a step backwards if they are viewed as a minority (marginalized class) for each category. By the end of the session, participants look around the room to see where everybody is standing and it is painfully obvious to see who comes from privilege and which members are underprivileged or marginalized. Nobody starts at the same starting line in life.
With Greater Privilege comes Greater Moral Obligation
Through understanding precisely where one stands across this spectrum of privilege, one can gain perspective on how he or she can play a role to enact change. Sadly, the truth of the matter is that privileged persons either a) don’t realize the extent of their own privilege or b) don’t feel compelled to act, but would rather maintain their cozy, status quo. My viewpoint is the exact opposite — those with the most privilege are in the best position to radicalize change. Not to turn the conversation too religious, but Jesus once said:
“To Whom Much is Given, Much Will Be Required.” (Luke 12:48)
This has stuck with me since a young age and resonates now more than ever. Yes, this struggle belongs to Blacks in America and they have the most to gain, but they cannot do it without help from their anti-racist allies. Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation along with several white congressman. Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act with the support of a majority white government. As an able-bodied, christian, heterosexual, Filipino-American male born in the United States raised in a household by a 2 educated parents with above-average income, I am cognizant and fully aware that it is my moral obligation to help those in positions of need. A unique aspect of my upbringing was that I also happen to have been raised by a black woman, Ruby Bird, for the first 10 years of my life. Right now, and for the long history of this country, blacks need our help and it is in our own interest to take a look in the mirror and uphold our solemn duty to stand by them. As Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “we have to use our own privilege to sow justice.”
Self-Educate and Listen
Why should every Life be treated equal?
Ahmaud Arbery. Michael Brown. Eric Garner. George Floyd. Trayvon Martin. Breonna Taylor. Freddie Gray. Oscar Grant. Tony McDade. Steven Taylor. Erik Salgado. Botham Jean. Read the names, say them out loud.
These martyrs only represent the tip of the iceberg, victims of racism caught on camera and brought to light. However, the list neglects the thousands of others that have met their peril outside of national attention.
Their lives are not too different from yours and mine. In fact, there is only 0.01% difference in genetic DNA between a black and white person. One distinct factor connects them all and has led to their victimization under a system of inequality of opportunity under the law. Tabula Rasa is the theory that individuals are born without innate, built-in mental content and, therefore, all knowledge comes from experience or perception. In layman’s terms, each person’s mind is a blank slate that can be filled with knowledge learned in the classroom and through experience. The Persian philosopher Avicenna argued that “human intellect at birth resembled a tabula rasa, a pure potentiality that is actualized through education and comes to attain knowledge.” Each person — each and every one of us — is born with equal mental capabilities and possesses the possibility of greatness. While his own personal life as a slaveowner may label him a hypocrite, Thomas Jefferson’s words in the Declaration of Independence represent an ideal that America as a nation is still striving to achieve — a long-time goal that has yet to be conquered:
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness”
As a co-founder of an education organization providing a platform for students in Cameroon to access college scholarships and education, I’m often asked by students why I’ve specifically chosen to help them. The simple answer is that, in my eyes, their future is just as valuable and important as any neighbor or family member. While it’s impossible to provide education for all children globally, Tabula Rasa provides the justification that each person’s mind and life are special and should be held with the highest respect. Ahmaud and Trayvon aren’t just names. They represent youth with a bright future — a leading cancer researcher, an engineer, a social justice lawyer, a cardiologist, an author. This is why it especially pains me to the core to see youth have their lives stripped beneath them — a dishonor to the society we live in. Each life is sacred and each person is worthy. Each life matters.
Colorblindness does not equal Anti-Racism, Silence is Compliance
“My parents always taught me to see no color, to treat every person as equal.” This all-too-often-used, feel-good phrase from whites overlooks the fact that our social construct — the architecture of the system we live in — necessitates the need to be conscious of blackness in order to fight racism. It ignores the history from which every black in America — and even blacks that immigrate from other countries — battles with simply due to the color of their skin. Blacks comprise just 12.6% of the population in the US, a significant minority that has been consistently persecuted. Theirs is the dog in the fight but they need significant support from all races, creeds and ethnicities.
We need to listen. We need to hear the grievances, pain and suffering. The simplest form is by having a conversation, talk to your black neighbors, friends, co-workers. Understand their perspective, what they’re going through and have a difficult conversation. Share ideas on how you can help, participate and partake in this historic movement on the right side of moral justice. If this may have seemed hard in the past, the barriers are lower now more than ever. People are talking on the streets, in the corporate workspace, over Zoom calls. The other day, I was talking to my friend, who’s been a victim of police abuse in the past, about his perspective and whether he’s hopeful. While acknowledging the positive sentiment, he also mentioned that he’s now more cognizant of his blackness and whether he’s safe simply biking down the road, fearful of an attack. So while it’s a positive to see so many whites on the streets protesting, there still exists the silent minority of whites that don’t look favorably on the movement and perhaps could be more vengeful. While he was in prison, Martin Luther King was known to have warned Americans not about the white supremacists that stoked hatred and vitriol but of the silent white majority who are well-intentioned and well-meaning, yet sit back and don’t act to stop injustice.
Talking to some of our students who come from Cameroon to attend university in the United States, the abrupt manner by which they must confront racism can be jarring. Some have even mentioned, “I didn’t know that I was black until I came to the US”. They are becoming victims to institutionalized racism for absolutely no fault of their own, but on top of that, dealing with it at 18, 19, 20 years old for the very first time. How do I provide any semblance of an adequate answer when one asks, how can I deal with this racism? Who am I to know how that feels? I can’t. I’ve never walked in their shoes. But I can listen and learn from those who have, hold candid conversations and open dialogue so that, while America traverses along the moral arch to equality, future cohorts may be better prepared to face these challenges.
A Prison System Wrought in Perverse Monied Interests
The sad truth is that we’re coming from a starting point where blacks were treated as Property in America just 155 years ago. Slavery has been perhaps the gravest stain in the history of our nation and has transmuted in various ways — indentured servitude, Jim Crow Laws, discrimination amongst drug laws, and the current format — mass incarceration and for-profit prisons. There are roughly 10 million prisoners behind bars around the world and 25% of them reside in United States prisons, an overwhelming number of those black. Within the prison population, 37% of inmates are black males while only 6% of the US population are black males. Black males are 7x times more likely to be locked up than white males — by the time he reaches the age of 40, a black man will have had 28.5% probability of having been locked behind prison bars while a white man would incur 4.4% probability. The average prisoner costs US taxpayers roughly $35,000 per year, but in some states may cost up to $60,000. These are unproductive dollars squandered down the drain on top of removing the productive capacity a prisoner would have by working a full-time job.
On top of these shameful statistics, nearly 10% of all prisons are run as a for-profit private corporation. Take a minute to think about that. There are companies in this country turning a profit with a business model whose “sales figures” are determined by the number of orange jump suits entering a prison cell. This perverse incentive system has uniquely aligned corporate greed with the incarceration of black males, profiting at the suffering of mankind. The Corrections Corporation of America, one of the largest ‘private correction facilities’ has seen its profits soar by more than 500% over the past 2 decades on revenues of $160 million, touting efficient savings of private prisons versus government-run facilities. In the process, these for-profit prison companies compete for government contracts, undoubtedly slipping lobbyist dollars into the pockets of politicians. The economics of the American prison system are schemed in such a way that place precious few resources on actually re-skilling inmates to prepare them for life out of prison, perhaps entering the workforce, and instead stuffs those dollars as profit margins on the bottom line.
Beyond these heinous crimes that only perpetuate the injustice the system delivers to blacks, 97% of arrested black youth never see a day in court, opting instead to take plea bargain deals for reduced sentences — even if they did not commit a crime in the first place. Remarkably, many are co-opted into take something like a defined 2-year sentence rather than risk the possibility of standing trial and receiving, say, a 10-year sentence. Even when they are released from prison, their names and reputations are tainted and have significant trouble re-integrating with society and, most importantly, obtaining a job. Furthermore, laws have been passed that overtly discriminate against the black community such as the massive disparity between crack usage — more frequently used by blacks given cheaper cost — and cocaine which is more prevalent in white communities. While there may be many good cops in the police force, the architecture of oppression under which they operate is treacherously skewed against blacks — the first time a black man steps foot into a prison cell, the mountain they have to climb becomes all the more arduous. The War on Drugs mantra popularly espoused by Republican presidents, and eventually even Bill Clinton, is another form of Dog Whistle Politics — the silent rallying cries of white supremacists who continue to suppress blacks under water.
Question, Engage, Discuss and Participate
“What now? What’s my role in this fraught system that has historically been cruelly devised to suppress the black community? I empathize with their plight, but it’s not my community so I can’t do anything about it. Who am I to enact change?”
The answer to that is, why not me to help enact change? To whom much is given, much will be required. If all of the privileged, silent, well-meaning empathizers were to stand by and let history run its course, nothing will change in our lifetimes. I believe in the spirit of this nation and even though it was born out of original sin, progress has been painfully slow and incremental. The Constitution has been amended 27 times. Change can happen. If you’re like me, you may have observed this Black Lives Matter movement, been captured by empathy and yet, wondered to yourself what you can do about it. We must partake in this and uphold our moral duty. The simple answer is, I must take action now. These are some concrete thoughts and actions I’m taking right now:
1) Have difficult conversations on race and discrimination with friends, family, co-workers — Now, more than ever, people are very open to having constructive dialogue on racism, even in place like the office where it can seem uncomfortable. Ask your black friends and colleagues how you can be a better anti-racist ally and perhaps ways that you’ve transgressed in the past. If I can’t talk about it now, how can we ever do anything to change it?
2) Be cognizant of your own actions and statements — By understanding my place in the societal construct, I gain deeper understanding of how my words and actions can be perceived by others. I’m taking a hard look in the mirror and asking myself how can I be a better ally and not simply a performative activist, performing actions without meaning.
3) Understand your own privilege — Be honest with yourself and understand how your own privilege, especially white privilege, plays a role in your life — the school you attend, community you grow up in, job you receive, networks you’re associated with. All of these parlay into the social constructs that interweave the very fabric of society. If we want real change, we’ll work towards more integrated schools, diverse workforce and interracial networks that will not only bring out the best in ourselves but also the best in society.
4) Join a Protest March — Peaceful protests have always been a core tenet of American democracy and is a way to express frustration to leaders and elected officials. They are a symbol of unity, strength, determination and passion for a cause people believe in and it’s been marvelous to see the multi-colored rainbow of people standing behind the most significant civil rights cause of our time. Don’t let this energy and frustration go to waste — get involved by exercising your political freedom of speech, something not to be taken for granted as many countries live under regimes where even protests are disallowed. In the spring of 1963, John F Kennedy was moved to action to draft the Civil Rights Act following the elevated racial tensions and black riots, fearing another civil war if he failed to act then and there.
5) Vote. Exercise your Political Rights — As Obama has underscored, it’s one thing to rally but it’ll be all for naught if it’s not accompanied by real political activism at the national, state, but more importantly, local level. Prisoners behind bars don’t have the right to vote in most states, but those decisions are made on a local level. Most Americans can’t even name the last time they voted in a local election that wasn’t tied to a presidential election year. The opposite of action is apathy. It would be helpful and convenient to have a website as simple as Google to research all of your local political leaders, contact information and political stances all from one, centralized website. By dammit, vote.
6) Educate yourself on the history of black oppression — Without being able to have the lived experience of being a person of color, education enables whites to better understand the history of overt and subtle racism they’ve suffered under the white-majority regime. The lobbying group American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC for short, has historically helped pass legislation advancing incentives towards mass incarceration and for-profit prisons, much of the repercussions going unnoticed by the general public. I consider myself to be a fairly educated person, but am still learning the full history from articles, books, movies and having candid discussions. And I have still much more to uncover.
7) Use your privilege to give back to the community — Get involved with organizations like Big Brothers Big Sisters of America which connects mentors, many from privileged backgrounds, with marginalized youth, most of whom grow up without one or both parents. Some may have lost a father to the mass incarceration programs in this country. These youth, as young as 6 years old, need guidance, support and mentorship that they would normally receive from a parent. Your time spent with a child can change a life forever — I’ve seen it firsthand.
8) Support Black-owned businesses — Especially during this time of double-crisis, an epidemic and civil crisis in America, Black-owned businesses need our dollars.
9) Donate to organizations working to advance civil rights and equal justice of blacks — There are an abundance of organizations working tirelessly to promote civil rights, fight for equal justice, change oppressive laws and defend the freedom and truths we hold to be self-evident that all men are created equal. Self-evident. That every man should is created equal should be commonsense as much as the sky is blue. Organizations like the Equal Justice Initiative, Center for Policing Equity, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, American Civil Liberties Union, National Urban League and several others are fighting to reverse the injustices of history in our nation.
Still so much yet to achieve
After the election of Barack Obama, many were quick to erroneously conclude that America had finally overcome its original sin and racism was a thing of the past. That assumption couldn’t be farther from the truth.
In 1865, Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation into law, changing the legal status of 3.5 million enslaved African Americans from property to free persons. A full 100 years later, Lyndon Johnson ushered in the Civil Rights Act of 1965, ending the segregated division of Jim Crow laws. It was also in 1965 that black women were granted the right to vote for the first time with the passage of the Voting Rights Act, yet many prisoners still cannot vote in any election — a seeming nod to society’s view of prisoners as less than full citizens. These were landmark pieces of legislation that have turned the tide towards a better future, but not yet equal and just for African Americans. If we’re looking for other areas of progress and pieces of legislation, here are changes that we can make happen in the next few years:
· Reform the Systemic Injustice in Law Enforcement
· Eradicate Racial Injustice of Mass Incarceration
· Eliminate For-Profit Prison Corporations
· Oversight of Police Commissions & Enforce Diversity Training for officers
· Eliminate Voter Suppression of Blacks, especially prisoners, and Gerrymandering of districts
· Reduce funding for police departments, encourage ‘guardian’ mentality over ‘warrior’
· Reduce Recidivism Rates through Job training programs
· Abandon the Scarlet Letter of having a Criminal History
· Establish Lynching as a Federal Crime
If you’re wondering about that last bullet point, that’s not a typo. Yes, lynching is still legal in the United States, nearly 100 years after the Dyer Anti-Lynching Bill was first introduced and passed by the House of Representatives in 1922 only to be blocked in the Senate. This time around, just last week in a 99-to-1 vote, Rand Paul single-handedly vetoed the same Anti-Lynching Bill in the Senate after it had already passed the House. We can’t get a commonsense, 100-year old bill passed that has to do with Lynching. It’s terribly sad. As you can see, we have much more work to do on all of these issues and the momentum and sentiment is on the side of change.
Organize a Peaceful, Civil Disobedience Protest
And here’s my most radical thought yet, Gandhi style. White and privileged anti-racist allies should all organize a peaceful, pre-meditated civil disobedience protest at the exact same time, committing a minor crime that typically lands a black youth behind bars. We, as anti-racist allies, need to ensure there is fair treatment of our laws no matter one’s race. The reasoning is simple — if blacks are persecuted for petty crimes that may jeopardize their lives and livelihood, the only way to change this is by committing the act ourselves, overwhelming the prison system to the point that laws will have to be re-written. Think about this — 10 million people across the United States getting arrested at the exact same time with no prison space to accommodate this amount of bodies. There are over 3,200 people serving life in prison without parole for committing non-violent crimes including:
· Possessing a crack pipe
· Selling a single crack rock
· Acting as a go-between in the sale of $10 worth of marijuana to an undercover cop
· Attempting to cash a stolen check
· Siphoning gasoline from a truck
· Shoplifting three belts from a department store
· Stealing 2 jerseys from an athletic store
· Shoplifting 2 digital cameras
Imagine that. Life in prison for stealing 3 belts? How do you overturn that sentence or at least make sure the severity of that crime will never be anything close to life in prison? Have 10 million people do it at the same time. Coordinate and have an agreement with the store owner beforehand to let them know you’re doing this for social justice. Can this justice system really prosecute millions for this petty crime? Or will they have to re-write the legal books? My guess is the latter. This will showcase the solidarity and energy effervescing from the protests to proactively change the law. Can it work? Who knows, but it takes radical measures to overturn an unjust system.
I am outraged by the travesty that blacks have had to endure in this country now and over the past 300 years. It’s beyond time for a change and we, the white majority race of the United States, need to uphold our part and stand behind the Black Lives Matter movement. Our voices and faces may relate more to our own friends, family and colleagues and we need to use our individual platforms to raise awareness, voice our displeasure, partake in this movement and catalyze change. It’s one thing to watch history being made and seeing it on the news, but it’s another to listen to your relative speaking to you about the issues around the dinner table.
The police brutality and racism embedded into our legal and justice system certainly does not reflect well on our country and it’s a struggle that blacks have been fighting for centuries. There are major reforms needed at the institutional level starting with police reform and repeal of mass incarceration, but that’s only a start. I have been approaching this with an open heart and open mind, listening, learning and understanding. Yet, I still have my own blind spots. I’m taking a look in the mirror and asking myself, what can I do better?
The Onus is on us. It’s time for us, White America, to take a larger role as this isn’t just a burden that blacks in America should carry but rather every citizen that believes in equality and the ideals of this country. In fact, it’s only a burden due to the unjust actions white men have committed in the past and present. It’s time to right our wrongs. The future of our country is at stake. But more importantly, the future of human lives — our brothers and sisters — is at stake. That’s a fight worth fighting for.
Written by Hans Kullberg, Co-founder of Open Dreams, helping high-achieving, low-income students in Cameroon gain access to college scholarships. A proud father of three and family-man.