What I’ve learned strictly from being in a public school system is that physical attributes such as my age, my race, and my gender plays a role in how I am perceived. I’ve always heard the term “racism” thrown around as an annoyance to the majority of people. But to me, it is my life, how I am perceived, and how my voice is heard.
The recent deaths of John Crawford, Renisha McBride, Eric Garner, Michael Brown and many others not publicized have led to increasing mistrust between black Americans in communities and police and the criminal justice system. Blacks, as I, feel as if their voices are consistently muted; when we talk about racism and discrimination, we are told “we are making it about race”, as if our identities and how we are seen in society are just cards we can take out and put away. This was especially made clear to me in the past few months. One of my teachers in high school liked talking about current events in the news every day before class. One day he took the time to inform the class about the Michael Brown shooting for those who weren’t aware or caught up. After summarizing the events of the shooting, he concluded that Michael Brown deserved what he got and the lack of indictment was just. The feeling of disappointment I felt as one of four black students in the room was indescribable. I was not upset that he had a differing opinion from mine; I was upset that he as a figure of authority and a trusted educator presented a one-sided point of view as fact to my classmates, many of whom did not have information on the opposing side.
After class, I went up to him and tried to explain my feelings on the issue. What I discovered was that he actually understood where I was coming from and agreed to limit projecting his opinions. I believe that misunderstandings like this happen because of the lack of communication from both sides of each other’s viewpoints. Since then I’ve taken small steps to address the issue in my community by raising awareness to my friends, classmates and mosque members who otherwise do not think it is “their” issue. It is a national issue. I’ve seen how a simple conversation can influence someone’s perspective. While there is no way of knowing quickly how well my response as well as the response of millions of others will improve the situation, witnessing the willingness of people to learn about the subject shows that change is possible. My hope is that we can all as humans focus on acknowledging and understanding each other’s struggles and perceptions and placing each other in high regard.