George Floyd’s death rattled me to my very core. I feel ashamed to admit that over time, I have grown to be desensitized to the constant slaying of people who look like me or my friends. No one says their names. Their last moments become viral and indecently public. Our brains learn to process the heartbreak faster every time. Soon, we are disappointed by our complacency to view these killings as normal.
To make matters worse, the response of the media and the vague coverage of losses like these make the general public believe that these murders are justified. On many front pages in the past, the victim’s integrity and innocence have been scrutinized to the point where people forget the real crime. Instead of striving for justice, our leaders put on a distracting display of bureaucracy that results in no real change.
This time, there is an air of uncontrollable anger and frustration because George Floyd was murdered in broad daylight. I find myself sitting at home, trying to process how we let the world get this horrific. Personally, this tragedy has uncovered harmful ideologies within my culture. I am Dominican and have spent time discovering my identity and learning about my black ancestry. This, however, is something that many Dominicans refuse to accept about themselves. Due to some of our lighter complexions, many Dominicans are privileged enough to acknowledge this injustice and carry on with their lives as if they are untouchable. Being woefully ignorant is not acceptable; before we can begin to demand for our world to be better, we must acknowledge what is wrong with it. Engaging in these kinds of dialogues with the people I love most has been draining and rewarding. The national outcry of George Floyd’s murder has forced us to confront the monster that has been haunting our country: police brutality.
The reality is that this is something we should all educate ourselves on. The police were founded on the principle to protect and this mission has failed. Although I have never feared for my safety when in close proximity to the police, a world where that is a concern is not a just world in my eyes. COVID-19 has forced me to stay home, even when my mind and soul yearn to march alongside so many other activists and passionate members of our community. Although I feel hopeless at times, social media and the power of our devices have connected me to so many people and causes I can help.
Although our current reality feels disheartening, I am so excited to lead our world into a better place. Being a millennial has been a roller coaster of an experience: I was born in the aftermath of 9/11, a student while school shootings were rampant, and just one of many activists in the making as we worry about the countless social issues our world is plagued by. Above all, we will demand more of our leaders and we know exactly how. To everyone reading this, please understand the weight and value of your vote if you are able to exercise this right. With a vote, you can decide who will advocate for our lives. If voting isn’t possible for you, campaigning and encouraging everyone else around you is just as important. This is not an isolated incident. We will be demanding much more from our politicians and leaders because we know the world cannot continue to be this way.
The brutal murders of innocent souls, George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Tamir Rice, and countless others, prove to show how wrecked “our” America is.
White privilege has always been a tool for white or white passing individuals to get a head start in society, but now it is a matter of life or death. I am disturbed by the videos surfacing on Instagram, but they are necessary to bring awareness; crazy that we need video evidence of murder to join the fight. The fight for equality, for acceptance, for lives is essential now. We live in 2020 in America, a place where third world countries look up to, how do we still treat those who look different than ourselves any different? Black families do not deserve this. America is built on systematic racism: the oppressed do the work, but the oppressors get the credit. Inequality and oppression towards Black individuals have infected every aspect of their lives: healthcare, education, incarceration, and the right to live and feel safe.
From the first day we enter school we are forced to repeat “I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” To this day, I am not sure who “all” is. Does “all” refer to the people wearing MAGA hats? Does “all” refer to the men in blue?
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr said in his Letter from Birmingham Jail, “History is the long and tragic story of the fact that privileged groups seldom give up their privileges voluntarily. We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.” That is why the protests and riots that are occurring right now are important. Enough is enough.
The fight has been left to Black groups, but it should not be solely on them. Even if you think racism does not affect you, you should still join the fight. Solidarity, uniting with other groups for justice, is essential. As an Arab-American, I hope that my fellow brothers and sisters use their Arab privilege to support our Black brothers and sisters. Arab-Americans have appropriated Black vernacular and clothing to fit in, yet they are silent. Silence hurts the fight. Your silence means you support the opposite side. I beg my fellow Arabs, please use your position, your voice, and your power because Black lives matter.
Black people are put into this box when they are born, and they cannot leave the box. Then, they have children that replace them in the box. White people, all American people honestly, help build this box to be thicker and harder to get out of. Saying “not all cops are bad,” “not all white people hate Black people,” “all lives matter,” and “I don’t see color” does not help the situation. Undermining the fight will only further the gap to solidarity, respect, and change. Understand that when someone says “F*ck the police” they are attacking the crooked system that is anti-Black, anti-POC, and anti-poor. I read somewhere that as long as police exist, Black and indigenous groups of people will be continuously targeted.
The Constitution grants us our First Amendment right: free speech, assembly, petition, and press. I urge you, all of you, to use your voice and speak up. The system is f*cked up and has taken away too much from Black Americans. The system needs change, so please educate yourself and those around you, speak up, and join the fight. The future depends on it. Families depend on it.
“I can’t breathe, man.”
At this point, your heart is racing, so many questions running through your head. Wondering:
What the hell is going on??
A 46-year-old African-American man, reported to the cops for buying cigarettes with a counterfeit bill in Minneapolis.
You don’t know who this man is, but you wonder why this has made the headlines—why you are seeing daunting pictures and hashtags erupting on social media platforms around the world.
The video continues to play as we watch the struggle of the African American man in the hands of these cops… watching as they treat George Floyd in the most inhuman degradation possible.
“I can’t breathe.”
Lump starts forming and blood starts to churn to the eyes of the millions of people around the world including you and me. The angles all change, as we are presented with the view from 17-year-old Darnell Fraiser recording the ticking bomb of truth.
“Please, the knee in my neck—I can’t breathe sh*t.”
Vulgar language and the utmost rage erupts, tears start to come down to even the eyes of those who swore to never cry—watching as this white police officer whose name gives the most upmost pain to mention keeps his knee and the weight of his body on George Floyd neck.
George Perry Floyd.
A human being…just like the 7.5 billion people who open their eyes by the grace of God….a man who bleeds cherry-red color blood…the same as you and me.
“I can’t breathe.”
Watching as in 8 minutes and 46 seconds his precious life was stolen from him…to the disbelief of witness to this murder…to the disbelief of the nation…to then the disbelief of the world.
“Police brutality.” This phrase ringing in the ears of many—a phrase that has been echoed around the black community—the pain and emotions screaming and scraping the air. Millions of people who know about these injustices…know about the horror…know how inhuman and how long this has been going.
And then it snaps.
Literally it snaps. The floodgates of Heaven that have been kept quiet—little water currents flowing through the cracks and crevices just erupts, and the world is taken by surprise.
Streams of people fill the pavement within hours of this event—nothing holding anyone back. The whole police force taking by surprise—trying to control the truth but it’s just too much. The truth has overwhelmed them.
The truth has overwhelmed the whole world.
So many people around the world—all different backgrounds—come together. There was no holding back, watching as history was being written with every breath that screamed the pain and injustices of the world.
“NO JUSTICE, NO PEACE.”
“NO JUSTICE, NO PEACE.”
“NO JUSTICE, NO PEACE.”
Cops trying to maintain order knowing this was a truth their “weapons” or “powers” can’t hide any more… streets being filled every inch with people with signs-vocalizing the truth… in the midst of it, there is those select handful…those criminals…secretly enjoying this as they lick their greedy lips and prey there selfish fantasies and desires into these stores and business—among them in which many innocent people have dedicated their lives to.
It’s a nightmare—you keep waving your hand in front of your face but it’s a reality you can’t escape.
But you know what you need to do. They tried hiding the power—the voice that we as a community of young people of color have. You see it around you. You see through the fake media outlets and you know the truth—we all know it.
As I sit behind my computer, writing this at 4:00 am in the morning, I can’t help to look out to the quiet of the sky and smile, just knowing.
Knowing around the world George Floyd’s name is ringing—shaking the world to its core.
Knowing that as long as we continue to fight and contribute to this change, we are ensuring a bright future—a long-needed change that just can’t be kept quiet.
Knowing that George Perry Floyd is looking down on us—breathing and smiling.
We are the future. We are the legacy. We Matter.
Every Latinx person needs to stand in solidarity with the Black community more than ever. Both communities face oppression in the United States since we share some of the same struggles, but it is during these times where we must support our Black neighbors and friends from a system that is supposed to protect them.
To my Latinx community, it is your responsibility to inform and stop the anti-blackness in your family and to take action, because the silence you create feeds the flames to the oppressors.
Black people all over America are tired. Tired of the constant fighting for our lives. Tired of the constant fighting for our rights. The same rights that are given to every American.
George Floyd was a Black man trying to survive in this unjust system. But couldn’t, and lost his life to the same system that oppresses Black and Brown people daily. This system is unjust, the policing system is corrupt and Black people live in constant fear. The police have shown time and time again that the system is inherently racist and America is sick of it. We all demand change and we demand it now.
So, stand in solidarity with black lives matter and the protesters. Continue to push against the system because if we the people don’t reform the system, no one will.
The uproar of injustices against black people and protests, unfortunately, does not surprise me. This issue has been ongoing for too long and that angers me. Although it does not bring me joy to see violent protests and individuals angry, I understand that it is necessary especially since rioting is a part of this country’s history. But, I don’t want the purpose of the protests to get miscued by individuals who aren’t actually supporters and using this time as a chance to loot for their own personal gains. I ask everyone to focus on the facts and to use whatever social platform they have to share those facts.
In my opinion, the issues regarding police brutality and the murder of black people partly lie in the leadership of the police department and the police commissioners. The solution to that, I believe, is in voting and for everyone to care more about who is in power within the local elections. On a smaller scheme, I also believe that there are countless ways to show your support: from re-posting informative posts to donating to organizations to signing petitions to physically going out and protesting. Hence, don’t feel guilty for not having the means to do one of those forms of support as long as you feel that you’re helping in some way.
I know that black people are strong and we will continue to fight for what’s right. I appreciate the non-black individuals that are authentically using their platforms to share meaningful support and messages as well. It’s easy to become overwhelmed by everything seen on social media, as I myself have, so don’t be afraid to take mental breaks when necessary. Please remember to stay safe and look out for each other.
Here is a quote by James Baldwin that resonated with me during this time: “We can disagree and still love each other unless your disagreement is rooted in my oppression and denial of my humanity and right to exist.”
I am proud of all I have accomplished; this fall I will be on my way to pursue higher education at an accredited university and I am honored to be recognized as the winner of the Minds Matter Achievement Scholarship for the Class of 2020. But no amount of education, no amount of praise, money, or honor can keep me safe from the harsh reality: I am what America hates. A strong, educated, young Black woman.
And no one can refute this statement. Black people are dying at the hands of racist police officers and white supremacists all the time. And not a single thing has been done about it. There has been no change. So often I am left to wonder, am I next? My family? My friends? Because for a long time now I have known that ‘freedom and justice for all’ does not apply to the Black community.
The recent murders of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor have left me in literal tears as I grieved not only their deaths but countless others including those we don’t know about, but have happened. I am frustrated, sad, scared and confused. But most of all, I am tired. Tired of these murders that could be prevented. Tired of the injustice. Tired of the lack of representation. Tired of the lack of education and the carelessness that comes from so many.
As I write this statement that reaches all of those who support Minds Matter, I want you to know that I am just one of many Black students that you are supporting. I want you to know, especially if you are non-black, that police brutality is real, Black Lives Matter, racism in this country is systematic, and as a result of this, many of you benefit from your own privileges. I want you to know that your silence, neutrality, and indifference will do nothing but allow for these things to continue to take place. I understand that for many of you this is unfamiliar, these are things you never had to think about or talk about, but that in itself is a problem. It is not the job of your Black peers, friends, coworkers, or employers to educate you on racism. There are thousands of resources at your disposal to educate yourselves on these matters whether it be books or movies. There is no excuse to not know and to not share what you know. I have linked here and here documents that list out thousands of resources to check out as well as be shared among friends and family.
As you continue to support Minds Matter and its students, know that we are passionate, goal driven, and ready to conquer whatever the world brings. We are resilient and strong. I ask that you continue to be compassionate and open minded, and that you continue to be supportive especially during these times. Lastly, I ask, to use your privilege to be a supportive ally.
Avaneque was the 2019 Brilliant Minds Benefit student speaker and is a member of Princeton University’s Class of 2024.
Q: What have you learned from your time with Minds Matter?
Avaneque: I have learned the importance of seizing every opportunity. Minds Matter made it possible for me to learn about different industries and take advantage of unique opportunities.
Q: What has been your favorite Minds Matter moment?
Avaneque: In junior year Writing & Critical Thinking, we did a program-wide activity to shoot a commercial. It was helping to build our persuasive-writing skills, but was also so wonderful to participate in something silly and fun with our entire class.
Q: How has the Minds Matter impacted you?
Avaneque: Minds Matter was a space where I felt unconditionally welcomed. I wasn’t expected to be anything other than my authentic self. I’m going to hold that feeling with me in every space I walk into.
Q: Where are you going to college and what are you hoping to study?
Avaneque: I am going to Princeton University to study Political Science. I am working towards becoming a civil rights attorney!
Q: What are you most looking forward to in college?
Avaneque: I’m most looking forward to choosing my classes. I’m excited for the independence to dive into coursework that I’m passionate about, and pass over some subjects that were required in high school.