It has been a difficult 2020. What began with a single confirmed case has grown to a startling 1.85 million individuals infected with the novel coronavirus. Tragically, more than 107,000 Americans have died as the result of COVID-19. As data begins to emerge, we are discovering that African Americans have a higher death rate than other groups across the country.
And now, as if the health crisis wasn’t enough, our country has been cast in darkness once again over the death of an unarmed black man. Americans watched in horror as George Floyd took his last breath as his neck and back were compressed by negligent law enforcement. Over the course of the past few weeks, communities across the country have mourned the loss of loved ones whose lives were tragically taken. The murder of George Floyd has sparked outrage over the wrongful deaths of black Americans – Eric Garner, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and countless others – and citizens are standing in solidarity to fight for justice and to bring about the lasting change that America so desperately needs.
Desmond Tutu said “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.” Do not stay silent, friends. Just as it took a united front to overcome the spread of the virus, we must stand together to bring about justice for lives lost and to create a future that is tolerant, peaceful, safe and full of opportunity for all human races.
But the response must not be one of violence. Those who are setting America on fire, destroying the businesses of their fellow Americans and creating unsafe situations for neighborhoods are not part of the solution, they are part of the problem. As business leaders, we must address the inequities by providing greater economic investment and stimulators in the communities that are disproportionately affected. As community leaders, we must fight for greater accountability for police. As youth leaders, we must be the examples of tolerance that will create a unified future for America. And as Americans, we must protect one another.
To our young people who want to join the movement, we encourage you to do so through peaceful and safe means. This does not mean there will be no anger, passion or protest. But oftentimes, it is not the loudest in the group who is the most remembered. Here are a few ways you can join those who fight for LASTING change in America that can help bring about justice, remembrance and peace.
Explore what organizations are doing to stop violence inflicted on Black communities, like the Let Us Breathe Fund or #BlackLivesMatter.
Get the facts. Take some time to research the history of racism in the United States and don’t fight simply because of the color of your skin, but react because of the inequities faced by minority groups across America throughout history.
Learn about your ancestry.
Really let this statement from Nelson Mandela sink in and use it to create your reaction to the current situation: “No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”
Use social media as your platform to make your voice heard. Join others in creating a “black out,” express your thoughts and feelings, and offer something for others to consider.
Join protests that you know for sure will remain peaceful and inclusive, but understand that some protestors are fueled by overwhelming anger and possibly depression (remember the COVID-19 quarantine?) Be prepared.
Make your education a top priority so that you can become the best version of yourself. Prove them wrong.
Reach out to a trusted adult or community leader who can help connect you to local resources and groups that may be looking for volunteers or young people who are interested in becoming a part of the movement.
Reach out to a school counselor teacher to see how your school can become involved in a peaceful approach to justice.