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  • Writer's pictureBenjamin Harvey

Oh, How Things Haven't Changed

Recently, I have been reading the Autobiography of Malcolm X, and I would say that I understand what black people are going through, but to understand something you have to really feel it. I know the color of my skin, and I know that black boys my age turn to different methods of life just to survive due to the circumstances that my ancestors have put them through. To say that I understand what black people are going through would be the biggest lie I have ever told, for I know that I will never have to fear for my life when a cop pulls me over, or when I run in my own neighborhood. Although when one puts it into perspective, not a person should have to feel afraid of their own lawful protectors or next door neighbors. That is why we must stand by our fellow citizens, not because they are black, but because they are people- and they deserve to feel secure and free.

And as a human race and society, we have had opportunities to put these things behind, but my own race has refused to take the side of human decency and instead take the side of immoral cruelty. When the white man could have shed light on the travesties of our past, they covered it up. Not a single time in all of my history classes have the books ever mentioned the atrocities of Emmet Till, a young black boy whose body was mutilated because of the lie of a white women, or the Scottsboro Trials, another instance where white people sought to demolish the well being of several young black men just based on social standings and race. Never does one hear of the Tulsa Massacre or Red Summer, for they were times where the black man was prospering and the white man said in defiance, “No more.” History has always been told by the winners, and I’m sad to say that it is obvious that propriety and cohabitation were the losers. But if oppression is the champion, then progress is the underdog, and education should be one of the frontrunners. Racism is taught and learned, so if parents are demonstrating racist attitudes for their children to copy, the classroom and school system may be able to combat that. To merely offer a course on race and gender studies would not be enough in this case, it must be integrated into the history and english courses of our education system. If we do this from the very beginning, it can then have a more influential effect on the child’s mind and future outlook. But this is a solution that may not even come into effect during this decade, let alone the next several.

So, let us talk about the now. Let us talk about freedom and rebellion.

The first words that came to mind when the cities of this nation began to burn were those that were said of the 1794 Whiskey Rebellions, “a little rebellion now and then is a good thing, and as necessary in the political world as storms in the physical”. The same man who wrote these words once cited John Locke's Social Contract Theory, a theory that stated that if a government was abusing its people, the people had a “natural born right” to rise up and take on that government. That man was Thomas Jefferson, a man of many flaws, one of which being a slave-owner, but a brilliant man nonetheless. Ever since the start of this country, any time that there was a slave rebellion like with Nat Turner or John Brown, our government and the people that descended from our Founding Fathers and Brothers of Liberty identified this as a travesty. How were these rebellions any less moral or justified than our great American Revolution? How are these protests and riots any different than the very ideologies that this country was founded upon?

But just as Thomas Jefferson provided the solution, he also was a culprit of the problem.

A problem that still exists today, and therefore must be reminded.

Slavery is obviously the genesis of it all, followed by the failures of Reconstruction after the Civil War, then the establishment of Jim Crow Laws, the failure of the Supreme Court to act accordingly in the case of Plessy v. Ferguson, the ignoring of lynchings in the early 1900s, to the Civil Rights Movement that ended with all of its leaders being assassinated. After Malcolm X and Martin Luther King were killed, the Black Panthers took it upon themselves to protect and provide for their black communities, yet the American Government just could not allow that- so they completely tore them apart. It is because of the power mongering and systematic subjugation from the dawn of this country's existence that has taken many forms over the years to then cause what we see today.

And that is only a summary, information that came off the top of my head. There is always more. There are stories that have been lost in time because of white man’s sabotage, there are stories that exist but are left out of the textbooks, and there are stories that many will never see the light of day. Even today stories are being misconstrued by the media so our bodies circulate with fear. The focusing upon riots are nothing but a diversion from the peaceful protests that are existent. Not to say that the riots aren’t important, they are, but there is so much nonviolent good going on that is not being covered in general media. Why? Because none of it would serve to their benefits, to the companies that own these news organizations who want only for the events of this world to help them in their greedy pursuits.

Overgeneralization and misrepresentation are the direct enemies of the national population's ability to hear and see the voices that tell the truth. Never blink just twice, blink a thousand times, for that is the only way you can break through the barriers of what the media and people of power want you to see. Realize that there are great injustices at play both from the government and the media, the truth can only come from one place- and that is the people.

But none of this will change, the pain, the violence, the oppression, unless we as a people, especially as a generation, make sure more voices are heard from both the past, present, and future.

So educate yourselves. Read. Listen. Watch. Remember that we are all human beings. We can change the tides if we manipulate the stream.

Other ways you can make a difference is by signing petitions and donating to causes that are part of the Black Lives Matter movement/organization and the prosecution of the cops and citizens who killed George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and too many others.

This is not the end, but this is just the beginning. Our generation is coming to a place wherein we can make change. We can decide who is in power, who represents us, and who will not play just for politics or money but instead play for the people. I know that voting may seem pointless to many, but truthfully it is our only way of having a direct influence on who decides what can and cannot happen in this country.

America has long been a complicated place, and a defiant one at that. It is a living body of contradictions and injustices, but also of good and diverse people. We need to rid of the viruses that course through America and support those who have been sickened by it. The only way that things can be resolved in this country, on any one of the many problems that exist within it, is through those who come next: our generation, and the generations that follow. If you wish to see more on how exactly all of society got to this point, check out my last article.

For now- fight on and keep advocating. Some day we will make this country all that it was supposed to be, and if we can’t- we should die trying.



Black Lives Matter

Black Visions Collective

NAACP Legal Defense Fund

National Police Accountability Project

Official George Floyd Memorial Fund

Books to Educate:

The Autobiography of Malcolm X

The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehesi Coates

The Hate You Give by Angie Thomas

The Case for the Nation by Jill Lepore

Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison

Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurste

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