Do Not Let Ignorance Prevail

By high school senior, Little Brother, and BBBS Board Member, Eric Lewis

Every time this happens, I feel as if the percentage of this happening to me rises. No matter how many times I’ve been invited to the Tobin Center, or how many board meetings I attend, I STILL feel like my life is in danger. What’s even more frightening is the feeling that my white counterparts can’t and will never accept how hard it is to be black. I’m not sure why there’s so much controversy on a crystal clear issue. I’ve been tasked with writing this essay for a week, and I’m still unsure of what to say. I believe these unfortunate events happen out of ignorance and are often swept under the rug and forgotten by the rest of America except for the black community. I’m really, really angry that this is once again happening, and people attempt to give an excuse for such a horrific occurrence. I’m surprised and thankful that the whole world is watching and even protesting with us. I’m disappointed with the government, for not condemning police brutality, but instead condemning protesters who have every right to do what they are doing now. This country was founded on revolting and fighting for what you feel passionate about and believe in. I also feel like it’s truly the time for a change. That gets said so much, it’s probably a cliché now, but paradigms genuinely need to be shifted. To do that, a conversation needs to happen in every American citizen’s homes with their families. Racism is such a funny thing because it can come in so many ways, big or small. You may have experienced racism, or taken part in it without even knowing. You can start to notice these things when you are conscious of your actions and the actions of others, and you have to be open to looking in the mirror, spotting your faults and accepting that you need to make a change. As Americans, we are so lazy and procrastinate so much that we keep putting things off until it comes up again. Don’t throw this into the back of the to-do pile. Some things I want to leave the readers with before I close this essay:

To my Black Brothers, Sisters, Mothers, and Fathers:

 Always hold yourself to a higher standard. Don’t stoop down to anyone else’s level to try to get your point across. When an officer stops you, record the interaction. Notify them whenever you’re reaching into your glove compartment for your I.D. or grabbing your wallet. Do not resist. Talk with each other about the correct ways to conduct yourselves in public, and how to act when y’all are around each other. Always fight for the cause. There’s nothing more important than the empowerment of your fellow black brothers and sisters. Invest in black businesses and work on keeping the dollar in our community longer. Learn about our history and accept the greatness that we all possess. We can be more than football players and basketball stars, and there’s more in store for us than a number one single on the radio or a diamond chain. We have to WANT more for ourselves, and that starts with getting out of our comfort zone. Try different things. Go somewhere new and create a unique experience for yourself. Always walk into a room with your head held high. Educate yourselves and sow into each other love, kindness, respect, gratitude. Stay close-knit and stick together. There’s nothing more valuable than family.

 To my White counterparts:

 There are times where ignorance prevails among you, and you make it uncomfortable to be around. You can sometimes make us feel like aliens, and you often rob us of our own culture. It’s ok to be appreciative. And it’s more than ok to interact with us. But PLEASE refrain from using our language, whether in public or amongst yourselves and educate YOURSELF! It is not our responsibility to educate you or give you a history lesson. And yes, education on black history is the only way to make progress in this situation. Snap whatever paradigm you have of me in half and accept me with an open mind, no matter how nappy our hair is, or if our jeans are a bit baggier than yours.

On that note, you should respect the positions we hold, whether in public administration, health care, or anywhere, for that matter. Don’t look past us, like we have the lesser title because of our color. Your doctors can be black. Your financial advisers can be black. The valedictorian of your high school or your child’s school can be black. Now and then, I will walk into an important event somewhere and meet new people. And on some of these occasions, a white person will tell me “wow, I didn’t expect that! You spoke so well” or “you’re a very well dressed young man.” It’s as if you didn’t expect me to dress well, or speak well because of my skin color, and the stereotypes associated with it. Black people are some of the most beautiful, intelligent people in the world. The rest of the world has slowly opened up to that idea. It’s time for you guys to do the same.

 In conclusion, be open to change. Talk with your family and have the hard conversation on ways to change and support people of color. It’s going to be difficult if you’ve grown up thinking a certain way or hearing certain things that may be culturally insensitive or incorrect about the black community. The wrongful killings of black people and other instances of racism happen because of ignorance. Whether you are black or white, or of any other race in the world, educate yourself. DO NOT LET IGNORANCE PREVAIL.