The YPIE QuaranTimes
Racial Injustice: Overcoming the American Epidemic
Special Edition: June 12, 2020
Video created by Sofia Vargas-Arcia, YPIE Scholar 2026
In this Issue
YPIE QuaranTimes Staff
Salamatu Lawal, Editor-in-Chief
Alyssa Lee, Prompt Editor
Catarina Mendes, Arts Editor
Julia Azulay, Feature Editor
Isabella Rendino, General Editor
Welcome to the YPIE QuaranTimes
Produced by YPIE’s Journalism major, the YPIE QuaranTimes is a way for YPIE students to connect and share experiences during these unprecedented times. YPIE Scholars are using this time in so many creative, meaningful ways. As such, the YPIE Journalism major hopes to highlight all of the talent in our community through this publication.
From The Editor
Addressing Educational Disparities Helps to Address Systematic Racism
By Salamatu Lawal, YPIE Scholar 2025
“To know what is right and not to do it is the worst cowardice” are the wise words of the Chinese philosopher, Confucius. May 17, 1954 is when the Supreme Court ruled that segregated schooling was unconstitutional, but the desegregation process did not begin in the city of Yonkers until 1986. In order to diversify Yonkers Public Schools and to aid the lower performing ones, the process of busing students was incorporated. Students from various neighborhoods would now be bused to schools with little regard for the distance students would need to travel every day.
Students now had to wake up earlier to ride the bus and had a tight schedule in order to not miss their only ride home. The large educational gains for low-income students and those of color that were hoped for and expected as a result of busing did not take place in Yonkers. The district’s efforts to diversify schools were futile; furious white families, who did not want their children attending school with people of color, began to send their children to private schools or moved out of Yonkers. Also, the underperforming schools did not improve much as nothing was changed about these schools besides the students attending. Despite this fact, the district continued to bus its students, resulting in today’s Yonkers Public Schools. Although schools are now more diverse, many of Yonkers’ lower-ranking high schools face several issues that could have been fixed if an alternate solution to help the underperforming schools were utilized. These underperforming schools have a majority African American and Hispanic population. This goes to show that systematic racism is not only present in the Police Department but also in our school systems.
One way to aid underperforming schools would be to provide them with more resources, better staffing, after school enrichment activities, etc. These schools do not have enough resources to perform to the best of their abilities. Students who are struggling in certain classes should be able to receive the necessary extra help; however, these supports are not as easy to receive in these schools as they would be in one of Yonkers’ better-performing schools. If the district were to put more attention towards the underperforming schools, their performances would increase immensely and students would be able to reach their full potential. Many individuals are very underprepared to face what comes after high school due to the district’s inability to properly assist these schools. It is blatant that the district’s inability to provide for these schools containing a majority of African American and Hispanic students is a form of oppression that perpetuates the systemic racism that exists in this country.
These suggestions may not fix every issue with Yonkers Public Schools, but they are a start in improving certain aspects of them. As the revolutionary Rosa Parks said “To bring about change you must not be afraid to take the first step. We will fail when we fail to try.” If the district does not do whatever possible to ensure that ALL its students receive the best education that can be offered, what does this entail for the future, for we the students are the future?
When will it end?
By Yismel Castro, YPIE Fellow 2025
The United States of America has an incredible reputation as one of the greatest powers. It is known as “the land of the free” and the place where “all dreams come true”. The U.S. is so prosperous that it is recognized as a highly developed nation that is ahead of other countries in terms of population, geographic size, location on two oceans, economic resources, and military potential. The achievements of this nation have provided an immense reputation abroad. However, many residents will stand up and argue against the prestige that resides within the U.S. because, on its list of achievements, social structure is not one of them. Why is that? Why is it that a nation so advanced still fails to fix the social inequities that reside within itself? Well, the important thing to highlight is that this all-powerful nation was built through a system of oppression and hostility that was somehow molded into success.
The nation gained its success through the sacrifice of others who had to suffer while the U.S. gained prosperity. Individuals must never forget the pain and fear that was engendered upon non-Whites in order to make sure that the nation acquired its immense status. Evil was a major tool employed since the beginning, as the nation started to advance and disguise its cruelty by calling it imperialism. One of the many examples would be the participation of the United States in the Scramble for Africa (started in 1884) in which it actively stole resources and oppressed/enslaved Blacks with the excuse that it was to “help and guide their lost souls,” when no one asked to be guided. People can never forget the massacres that the United States committed in order to obtain such territories, and they must also never forget the decades of slavery that were allowed. Oppression, hostility, havoc, and inequity is what the nation is built upon. It was built at the expense of many lives. So, how do we get rid of this terrible foundation?
The truth is the foundation cannot be erased, but the purpose of history was never to hide the truth, it’s always been to learn from it and fix past mistakes. Why does this nation refuse to recognize that these tactics of national achievement are erroneous? Maybe it's because they were able to maintain such a powerful status, but at what cost? Slavery is one of the greatest evils of this nation, yet somehow Blacks are expected to forget the pain that this long chapter in American history created. Concomitantly, Blacks are expected to get over the smarting wounds left after the period of segregation, are expected to sit down and accept the deaths of their own community without intervention, and the most insulting part, they are told that there is a “proper” way to express their anger and frustration when they are not able to recognize the pain.
Police brutality is the most “trending topic” as of right now and the people’s reaction to George Floyd’s death is what made the nation open their eyes once again after having them closed for so long. Many individuals need to understand the fact that these events are simply reflections of history, and we need change. A similar event to this took place in 1989 involving police brutality, in which riots were sparked after "a uniformed police officer fatally shot a black man” whose name was Clement Lloyd. The nation cannot continue to allow such a chain of ghastly events to take place. America needs to wake up once and for all without forgetting about this tremendous pain. Permitting hatred to diffuse will only enlarge the problem when the nation needs laws that will help bring change and will force others to face consequences.
Hate is one of the many resources this nation employed in order to reach its success, however, we cannot allow it to become the force that dictates the future. Times are different and this hostility is only tearing up the nation, no one is benefitting from this. The events that are taking place right now need to be addressed and prevented from ever happening again. No more George Floyds (2020), no more Clement Lloyds (1989), no more repetition.
By Mia Williams, YPIE Scholar 2025
My people are tired
The world is tired
Everyone is tired
We relive the same things over and over again
I’m tired of living in silence
I’m tired of seeing my people killed
Tired of fighting for what is right
Tired of explaining to the privileged why they are lucky
Tired of seeing my people look bad
Tired that we have to continue fighting
I’m tired of the justice system being broken
I’m tired of the government not governing themselves
I’m tired of living in a world that claims to be “free”
I’m tired of the corruption in the government
I’m tired of seeing young kids kill themselves
I’m tired of systematic racism
I’m tired of being judged
I’m tired of people not accepting others
I’m tired of seeing people defend the police
I’m tired of the assumptions of people
I’m tired of stereotypes
When will we see change in this world
When can we go outside and know we will get back safe
When can we all be actually “united as a nation”
When will the world be cleaned of all impurity’s
When will the fighting and
When will people see justice
When will we have peace
Why do we have to keep fighting?
Why doesn’t anyone understand our pain?
Why must we continue to explain?
Why aren’t we all equal?
Why can’t we live in harmony?
Why must we continue to explain?
Why aren’t we all equal?
Why can’t we live in harmony?
Why shouldn’t I give up?
The world needs help
Help from everyone as a unit
We must love each other
We are so quick to bare arms before understanding the problem
Listen to our pain, tears, and heart
As we express to you our heart
by Mina Romanowski, YPIE Scholar 2025
Google defines ignorance as a "lack of knowledge and information." I recall a conversation with a few of my peers where we came to the conclusion we knew about racism, but schools teach it like it’s a thing of the past so why would we think it’s still alive and strong today? Wouldn’t it be fair to say the reason for people being racist is the ignorance that follows having a lack of education? I’m not sure.
I never understood how deep the inequality ran until while quarantined I had to sit in my home, open social media and watch a girl that couldn’t be more than my baby sister’s age crying through explaining that she’s just a person and her dark skin shouldn’t make people be mean to her. In the middle of the girl's talk, she pauses, floored by the painful emotions that she was made to feel. During this pause you can hear an older woman demanding, encouraging the girl, “Don’t stop. You do not stop!” I’d be lying if I said that didn’t send chills through me. There are people saying that the girl shouldn’t have been "made" to do such a video. Well, I strongly disagree. Let them know. Let the racists and the people that believe just because your skin is a certain shade, you don’t count as a human being. Let them know that because of them a child feels the need to stand in front of strangers, adults and let them know that someone who’s only been on this Earth for a short time has a better hold on the world.
It’s almost hard to comprehend the horrors that happen around me. I’ve been growing up in a generation where we don’t see color. We embrace our differences. On social media, we type in "yes queen," "beautiful," "king," and "amazing" under one another’s posts. Yes, there are those who sit there and say negative things but my generation is so strong, we’re confident enough to speak out against people. They call us the worst generation, saying that we’re too wild, out of control, etc. Are you kidding? We’re going to be the ones that rebuild America that rebuild each other. I will live to see a day where kids, teens, adults alike won’t have to worry about racism to this extent. I say ‘to this extent’ because there will always be those kinds of people and there will indubitably always be parents who teach their kids that someone isn’t equal for their race and/or gender.
I’ve been told by people closest to me, "You’re getting too upset." Too upset? My friends have voiced the same concern as I’m about to express. The same concern the generation before us had. Why would we want to bring a child into a world where they’d possibly be killed for something so permanent as their skin color.
From the things I’ve seen, I wonder if everyone knows America is behind. This is supposed to be the "land of the free and home of the brave." We are brave but we are not totally free. There’s a video that’s gone a bit viral. It’s a clip from a show called the Newsroom and in this video, a historian played by Jeff Daniels stresses the point that "America is not the greatest country." A college student asks him what makes America the greatest and his peers reply to the girl "freedom and diversity." At first, he gives her some short answer pointing out something good in America then he notices a woman in the crowd holding up a sign which reads ‘It’s not’. After seeing this, he finally gives the crowd a real answer. He points out that the only things percentage-wise that America has over other countries is the following: The most adults who believe angels are real, the number of people incarcerated and defense spending “where we spend more than the next twenty-six countries behind, twenty-five of which are our allies”- Jeff Daniels. Finally, at the end of his speech, he says, “We used to wage wars on poverty, not poor people.”
Another video I’ve seen was made by an African American teenage girl. The last thing she says is, “They tell black girls when you speak, do so gently because God forbid you come across as assertive and then "she’s an angry black woman." As if it wasn’t an assertive black woman that freed the slaves using the underground railroad as if it wasn’t an assertive black woman who refused to give up her seat on the bus. This causes me to revisit the point I made in the third paragraph. There are many more women and men alike from my generation that think like and voice this. This girl gives me hope and reminds me to stay strong and to fight. She reminds me that we, America, as a whole are capable of making America the free, accepting country it is perceived to be.
I constantly think the exchanges that go on between the police force and the American people. At least to me, it’s so jumbled up. What some people don't understand is there are good cops just as there are people who don’t protest peacefully. The same goes for the reverse. As there are bad cops and peaceful protesters.
A friend of mine brought something up to me that I found heartbreakingly evidently true. He said, “I just hope when this all inevitably makes it into the textbooks that they don’t try and make it seem like it's in the past again." It’s really important that we study everything that’s going on now because I promise you when we read reports made about everything going on right now, it’s going to be wrong. They’re going to be like, "They made peaceful protests and got a peaceful response and racism was over." We know Rosa Parks just by her name and what happened on that bus, not by her legacy. This is why I believe we need to give this fight all we’ve got. Our kids and the youth of our country need to know both the good and the bad that has and will happen during our fight for freedom and equality. We need to work hard to make sure the tears, deaths, and struggles of this fight are just as remembered as the laughs, smiles and unity that we will continue to form. For Ms.Parks to have such an impact and become such an inspiration, don’t you think she spoke about what she did? Encouraged people? Fought for her rights? I believe so. We need to make sure that the generations that come after us will be educated on this. This movement will leave a lasting mark on the world. How it will be remembered, I strongly believe, is up to us.
I’d like to finish stressing the fact that our fight has really just begun. We need to make sure people are equally educated and loved. We need to fight for what’s right, no matter how hard it gets.
By Natalie Maldonado, YPIE Scholar 2025
Freedom is it a feeling or is it a stance
Freedom for me is being able to dance
Dance without fear of a predator that’s near
Freedom for me is being able to hear what I want to hear
Freedom for me is being able to be queer
To be different and transparent and not have to hide
To not abide by life’s simple guide
To choose to listen to what is inside
Freedom may be different for you
It may be having a flexible curfew
It may be choosing between chicken and tofu
But what if I told you others don’t have the choice that you do
What if I told you the only choice they had was to stay alive
To continue to strive to survive
Because of this we should be grateful
And in return not make choices that are distasteful
We need to use our freedom in a positive way
Use it to gain opportunities and open doorways
Use it to make the world a better place
A place where we can embrace who we truly are
A place where we can be free
Because it isn’t the land of the free if you’re not free
Embrace your freedom and use it wisely
Speaking up on Social Injustices and What YOU can do to Help
By Katherine Urena, YPIE Scholar 2024
As a woman of color, I have experienced first-hand prejudice and discrimination and that alone was painful, but I will never understand or be able to identify with my brothers and sisters who have been suffering with systematic racism and violence towards them for over 400 years. It pains me to see this going on still in today’s society. I've spent my day reading all the posts and I want all of you to know that I acknowledge you and I stand with you. I am absolutely disgusted by the events that have transpired and all the actions taken AGAINST the beautiful black community.
This has been going on for way too long. Just the other day I realized that the horrific incident with Trayvon Martin happened when I was ten...TEN! I am eighteen years old now; there has been no progress. There has been no change, but I feel that we are the ones that will be making the changes. Each one of us has a duty to show compassion and love for one another and spread this. TEACH LOVE, NOT HATE. If you are not outraged, if you are not angry, if you are not actively trying to advocate for these black men and women who are living beside you and who are in our communities... Please educate yourself and see your faults. Do not stay silent. Do not remain ignorant to the cause, do not ignore the cries of help.
I wish I could be out on the frontlines protesting with many of you, and I know many of us cannot for one reason or another but please take advantage of the resources you are given on social media (from someone who is not even actively involved with social media, it is VERY easy to do your part). Use this link Black Lives Matters to sign petitions, find resources for protests and donate! There is even a way for you to donate without money by watching specific videos that are donating all revenue from the ads to different foundations in support of the cause. (DO NOT SKIP THE ADS).
And for those who may say that these riots and looting are not the way to go: yes, we need to lead with love, but remember this... THEY ARE TIRED. While watching the news, one man said, “If you talk and you are not heard, then you will yell. If you yell and you are not heard, then you will scream. If you scream and you are not heard, you will throw things... it is a reaction to inaction.” This is how the change will be made; we need to be heard and we need to be seen.
This is a time of great change, the power is in our hands! Educate yourself and others around you who may be ignorant to the issues at hand and the problems that have been around for centuries. Here is a link of ways you can get involved and educate yourself and others. I am lucky to have surrounded myself with people who are willing to have these discussions and hear the pain of others and learn from this. With that being said, there are so many more people that need to be educated on these issues that plague our nation and our world daily. It breaks my heart and I am in tears as I write this... If you do not see the problem and if you don’t feel anger for the lack of progress, please inform yourself; there is no excuse for you to be ignorant and turn the other cheek in times like this! People have already spoken about non-black POC and Hispanics and what they need to know. There is so much self-hate in our own community and as my classmate Amy mentioned, many will refuse to accept their roots even if it is written in our history. We need to understand and educate each other on our history, especially the Afro-Latinos and Dominicans. Fight for your brothers and sisters- not just now, but always. Educate your family who tries to deny their ancestry and continue to be prejudiced or discriminatory to those in our OWN culture for being darker-skinned.
As one of my peers said “Nosotros somos una mezcla.” Even if you are white-passing, understand that you can use that privilege and be an advocate for the cause. I know it is so hard to feel accepted when you hear constant insults from your own family members for having curly hair, darker skin, or if the only nicknames they give you are in reference to the color of your skin. Despite that, you are still valid; accept your African American roots and use the power you hold within yourself!
Youth and the Fight Against Social Injustices
By Darius Fernandez, YPIE Scholar 2025
On February 26, 2012, Trayvon Martin was 17 years old when he was shot by a neighborhood watch coordinator, George Zimmerman. On the evening of the shooting, George had called the Sanford Police Department’s non-emergency line to report a “suspicious male looking at houses,” while also making claims that he has drugs, might break into a home, and “he is up to no good.” After a few minutes, George sees that Trayvon is running, he steps out of his vehicle, and this leads to a violent altercation between the two. Seconds later, George shot Trayvon, and at 7:30 pm Trayvon was pronounced dead. Trayvon lost his life due to suspicion. Due to the color of skin. Due to him wearing a hoodie. He was on his way to visit his father, but he never got the chance. This is the moment that sparked the Black Lives Matter movement.
The Black Lives Matter Movement started to gain more traction in 2014 after the murder of Mike Brown. He was shot by police officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Missouri. This brought more attention to how black lives were being devalued in America. In some ways, it woke the nation up. Today, the Black Lives Matter Movement is a huge organization that has been the focal point of many protests that are occurring in the US.
Most recently, after the murder of George Floyd -- killed via suffocation by Minneapolis Police officer, Derek Chauvin -- protests sprang up across the nation. In fact, there were protests in all fifty states and abroad, being one of the largest protest movements in American history. This also highlighted an issue that has been present within the US for centuries, Systemic Racism.
Systemic Racism is defined as the inequalities rooted in a system-wide operation of a society that excludes substantial numbers of members of particular groups from significant participation in major social institutions. These inequalities greatly affect the outcomes of Black Americans. Systemic Racism has affected systems like education, employment, Justice, and law, etc. The system was built to work for certain individuals. In American’s case, these people are White people. Yet, now that the movement and protests highlight this issue, this has made many White Americans more aware of the situation and recognize the privileges they have in this country. This issue has also caught the attention of many young people who live in America
The youth of America are extremely resilient and are hyper-aware of the problem. They have been leading protests, using platforms, like social media, to help others become aware of the situation, and have been working together to create a change within our government. But, a lot of young Americans are afraid, especially when the president says things like he will send the military, shoot peaceful protesters, and is going to enforce “law and order”. Fortunately, there is great hope and many things that you can do to support the movement.
First, it is crucial to educate yourself on what racism is, how it affects black lives, and how to support the Black Lives Matter organization. A way you can support the movement is by protesting, and if you have a platform, to document the protest. This is a great way to support the movement and it is an exhilarating experience. Especially due to the pandemic, a lot of Americans are unemployed. This means people have much more time on their hands to go out every day and protest for George Floyd and against the system. Please, remember to wear a mask and be safe!
Another major way you can help fight against racism in America is through voting! Below, there are resources to assist you in the voting process and how to get registered. On June 23rd, in New York, you can vote in the Primary for local, state, and Presidential candidates, and of course on November 3rd, 2020 for the Presidential Election. Remember to also vote on the local and state level; these are people who represent your community, city, and state. On the state level, the people you vote for represent you when they go to Capitol Hill. Voting is a great way to change the system from the inside.
Thank you to the people who gave me the resources to be able to allow others to support the movement! (Abby Kamen, Eilis Klein, Felix Urena, Jacob Schofield, and many more!)
“Daddy changed the world.” -Gianna Floyd
Resources to Aid and Educate
The editors of the QuaranTimes have compiled the following resources for readers interested in learning more about and taking action on this topic. The YPIE staff has also compiled a list of resources on our Student Resources page at this link.
Systemic racism and its effects on black children
Black Lives Matter Organization
Defunding the Police
A Pandemic of Injustice
By Yisel Flores, YPIE Fellow 2025
George Floyd was a 46 year-old Black American. On May 25, he was killed by Derek Chauvin, a white Minnesotan cop. Chauvin knelt on Floyd’s neck while he was handcuffed face down and was begging for air. But most of you know that. Most of you know that America's battle with racism is not over. When black Americans see George Floyd, they see their fathers, cousins, nieces; they see their family and everyone else who died at the hands of police brutality and who never got the justice they deserve. As of the publication of this article, all the cops who participated in George Floyd’s murder were arrested and charged. It was only after days of protests and outrage that the black community was heard. And that's exactly the problem with America. It took millions of people to begin to bring George Floyd and his loved ones the justice they deserve. Even after the blatant racism and solid evidence of wrongdoing on the part of the police officers, the Minneapolis police department charged the police 4 police officers only after intense public pressure. All 50 states and big foreign cities have had some form of protest despite the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
But with these protests comes tension between police and protesters. Many peaceful protests have been met with a hostile police force. Rubber bullets and tear gas have been used against peaceful civilians. A lot of protests are being labeled as riots and violent by the police, government officials, and some of the media. Some argue that the violence does in fact help the cause, whereas many others choose to disagree.. Peaceful protests bring awareness to a problem but violent protests bring gravity and priority to a problem. On the other hand, others might disagree that riots bring nothing to the table. Some have argued that the after-effects of the violence and looting will only result in damage to poor People of Color (POC) communities. Whatever you believe, it has been widely reported that many of the peaceful Black Lives Matter (BLM) protests for George Floyd resulted in unnecessary violence from the police. It's becoming a common pattern for the police to escalate a violent response at these peaceful protests. There have been many accounts of serious injury from rubber bullets and tear gas.
BLM protests have risen in opposition to the corrupt system that oppresses black Americans. For many years, the BLM movement has fought against systemic racism, police brutality, and violence against the black community. The recent deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd and the blatant injustices that led to these deaths have forced people of all races to finally recognize the struggles of POC against the systemic racism that exists in this country. Not only is BLM and other organizations bringing light to these deaths but they are also trying to uplift the black community economically, because not only is there racial inequality in this country but there is also an economic inequality. With the coronavirus pandemic, the black community is facing higher rates of infection, deaths, and unemployment. BLM is currently seeking for a better quality of life, housing, education, and healthcare for all Black Americans.
The BlackLivesMatter movement is a team effort. There are so many ways you can help. You can sign petitions. Petitions bring awareness and are a representation of public opinion. You might think they are trivial but many successful petitions have influenced decisions of those in power. Next, is protesting. But keep in mind protesting is risky because of the uncertainty of the police’s actions. Also, be mindful of the coronavirus and wear a mask. If a protest begins to escalate, it is best to leave. Text “Floyd” to 55156 in support of BlackLivesMatter. Donate to organizations that support African Americans. Help with the restoration of small black-owned businesses. And the simplest one would be to speak up! This move takes a conscious effort from everyone and YOU. So, please join me in bringing justice to all the black lives lost to racism.
I Can't Breathe
by Nathania Hoilett, YPIE Scholar 2025
Can't you see the beauty that lies behind his eyes?
Can't you see the spark of soul that we dehumanize?
Can't you see a man that had a mother and a life?
How do you think our God feels watching us snuff out his light?
Can't you see his blackness is the world's amazing way
To boast how many colors that a rainbow can display?
Would you want to go and murder the blueness in the sky?
Perhaps the greenest grass should all be left to die?
Or many yellow hair no longer seems to fit
Within our painter's palette
So let's get rid of it!
You see, they made the choice to label blackness as a sin
To use our every weapon to make this lie sink in
To let the stink of history build up and sit in rot
Until our nose went blind to all the crimes that we forgot.
And every day that we refuse to recognize these wrongs
We choke another bird and we silence sacred songs.
For if we preach that every life was sewn by holy twine,
How can it be that this man's voice matters less than theirs?
How can we be a moral country and laud our bill of rights
If rights only mean something for those born white?
Oh, as I watched him dying, I couldn't help but see
The future of our nation screams, "Help me! I can't breathe!"
When Your Existence Becomes Survival, Something Has to Give
By Jordan Brannan, YPIE Scholar 2024
You see there isn’t one definitive word to describe what I’m feeling or how I feel about the killing of George Floyd by the hands of a Minneapolis police officer or the subsequent worldwide Black Lives Matter protests that have been taking place beside a multitude of words: angry, infuriated, empowered, fearful. I feel anger because members of my community are being killed simply for having my pigmentation-more melanin in their skin. Surprise! Race is a social construct and what divides us as humans are social and cultural divisions implemented by humans throughout history. The fact that we’re getting killed for having more pigmentation, the fact that we’re getting our rights denied because we have more melanin on our skin, it’s truly unacceptable.
I look at the lives taken away by police officers, a list that continues to grow. Every time I see on the news, or on Twitter, or Instagram that another individual in my community had their life taken away at the hands of law enforcement, and their last words were “I can’t breathe," “why are you shooting” or the many other last statements that were uttered by these individuals showing the fear that was within them as they took their final breaths, it infuriates me; it makes me sick to my stomach. As an African American male in the United States, when I look at George Floyd, I see in him my dad, my uncle, my older cousins, half brothers; it could have been any one of them on the ground that day begging for the right to breath and then for his mother when that simple ask for breath was ignored. Heck, I could’ve been in his shoes if I was in the latter part of my life. My mom said something that really stuck with me recently while she was on the phone with my godmother, “I just wanna live, I just wanna survive.” When your existence becomes survival, you know it’s time to rise and protest and something has to give.
These protests and the wider movement against systemic racism and oppression couldn’t be more interesting & ironic for me. Being a senior at Yonkers High School and having my school year canceled three months in advance was pretty traumatic. During this time, I was also finalizing my second sociology study that assesses the correlation between discrimination experienced by black men and anxiety. George Floyd’s murder happened, which has highlighted the importance of this type of research and why more research around race and it’s negatives effects on communities of color needs to take place. From my research, I understand now more than ever that Black people experience anxiety in the workplace and school environments as a result of subtle forms of racism. Specifically, I looked at how Racial Microaggressions--a form of racism--induce anxiety among young men of color. Racial Microaggressions are subtle statements and behaviors that communicate malicious messages and values to people of color. Below is a chart of the themes showing the types of attitudes and behaviors of racial discrimination that can be categorized as a racial microaggression.
As I end my opinionated piece, I hope for a better future as it relates to social equality. My experiences in high school have differed than most, but even in the most diverse communities, there are still slight forms of racism, such as Microaggressions. I have reason to believe that the global wide human rights movement known as BlackLivesMatter will set forth steps for my children to have a better world. As I type this, there’s already talks of a legislative enactment to prevent law enforcement from using tactic methods of force and to help alleviate law enforcement to not deal with 911 calls they have no training in handling. But changes can’t stop there. We have to fight to stamp out racism in all its forms.
My Dear Reader
By Benedeth Uduba, YPIE Scholar 2027
“I can’t breathe, officer please I can’t breathe! Free me, for your knee is on my neck. I’m handcuffed, unarmed, and innocent. I haven’t spat at you nor have I tried to run. What was my crime?” I say.
“Being black in America.” the corrupt officer says as my soul leaves my body and my eyes have closed.
I gasp as I awake, terrified of this nightmare that I just can’t shake.
My dear reader, there should be no crime in being black. My black is beautiful to me, it oozes the culture so many struggle to keep. It sets me apart from the rest because my hair defies gravity itself, my skin glows with gold when the sun touches my body, and the way I speak has meaning. What I have just said is all true, but this is when I have to ask you “why”.
My dear reader, why is it that I should leave my house knowing I may not come back home alive because for some reason the color of my skin is something some people choose to fear?
My dear reader, tell me why is it that when I speak with passion I’m told that I’m aggressive? Why is it that when my hair is being taken care of, is neat, is nice, and is healthy I am told it is unprofessional? Why must I press my hair with heat and destroy part of my beauty to be taken seriously? Why is it that when I’mi’m angry they call me “ghetto”? Why is it that I have to work twice as hard only to get half of what people get in return?
Why is it that people get mad when I “make it about race”? It has ALWAYS been about race! Tell me, reader, why is it that when I open my mouth to speak so many refuse to listen? Why do I have to live a life where I am forced to accept that I am seen as less important for being born as me? For having this dark brown skin? For having my 4c hair? For having my beautiful big lips? For having a wide nose? Why am I forced to be strong because it has become a normality to degrade me and people like me? Why did I have to be called a “monkey”? Why do I have to be worried when an alarm beeps knowing I did nothing? Why must slurs be forced on me?
My dear reader, why is it that because some of my peers were never taught to not say racist things to me that I have to take it? Why must I wait for them to unlearn their racism as they add on to my trauma?
My dear reader, is that fair or even close to fair? Why does it seem like the world around me was made to put me down? Why do I have to accept it as “just the world we live in”? How much longer do I have to live in a world like this?
My dear reader, I ask these questions because I can not answer a single one of them myself.