A Call to Action

In the past week, it feels to me as though the world has been flipped on its head. Watching the news almost feels like watching a movie in history class on the Civil Rights Movement. When we rang in the New Year looking forward to the roaring 20s I know this is not what most of us had in mind. In one way or another everyone has been affected by police brutality, lack of presidential leadership, and injustice felt by the black community. However, while this world may not feel real to all, it very much is. The injustices being highlighted right now, the feelings of the black community have been accumulating over years of wrong-doings and hardships that are now coming to head. After watering-down, dancing around, or straight up ignoring America’s dark history society has decided enough is enough. We are forcing not only government leaders but our peers, our colleagues, and our friends to acknowledge, accept, and fight against history that we feel is destined to repeat itself if not forcefully addressed.

The past couple of days, which felt like months to me, have been the busiest I’ve been all of the quarantine. I’ve been having tough conversations, watching painful videos, educating myself, sharing links, signing petitions, donating money, going to protest, and hugging my Dad a little tighter every day before he goes to work. Life has once again gone through an astronomical shift and like the rest of the world, I’ve been struggling to piece together my new reality. The words have been in my heart from the moment I saw George Floyd’s video, however, even as a black American, I knew that I did not know everything and that I needed to take time to calm my emotions and educate myself. I did not want this post to be a personal diary or an accusatory divisive demand for change. I see this as a very serious and important opportunity to educate William & Mary’s alumni, current students, faculty, and staff by explaining and providing resources to help us all take the next step beyond social media to show up for the black community and create change with longevity.

What is happening and why?

In a very over-simplified explanation on May 25th George Perry Floyd, an African American man was murdered in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Floyd was arrested for allegedly using a $20 counterfeit bill at a market, however, after his death, it was confirmed that the bill Floyd used was real. Floyd was handcuffed and lying face down on a city street when former officer Derek Chauvin, a white man, kneeled on Floyd’s neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds. Despite Floyd vocalizing discomfort and stating “I can’t breathe” multiple times, Chauvin continued to kneel on Floyd’s neck and not provide medical aid. He continued to kneel on Floyd’s neck for 2 minutes and 53 seconds after he became non-responsive. Chauvin was aided by fellow officers Kueng, Lane, and Thao. This interaction was recorded by bystanders and posted to social media. The video went viral and lead to peaceful protest and promotion of the Black Lives Matter movement across the U.S. After backlash from citizens and the media, the Minneapolis Police Department arrested Chauvin for the 3rd-degree murder of Floyd. The three officers who aided him in the crime are still employed and free today.

Protesters are also calling for justice for additional racial scandals in the country recently. This includes but is not limited to Amy Cooper a white woman who attempted to weaponize the police against an African American male, Ahmaud Arbery who was shot while jogging in his own neighborhood after being racially profiled by armed white citizens and Breonna Taylor who was shot in her own home after officers broke into the house searching for a suspect they already had in custody. In response to these tragedies, many cities have broken out into protest supporting Black Lives Matter. Protesters are demanding acknowledgment from government officials along with the arrest of officers involved in these murders and immediate active police reform policies.

What is Black Lives Matter and Anti-Racism?

These are both social injustice movements dedicated to identifying prejudice, injustice, and abuse of power in America against people of color. Both movements use petitions, donations, protests, and social media to educate all people regardless of racial background or political party on what they can do to advocate for people of color’s rights and what could break the cycle of taught racism in the United States. For more information and ways to help safely during COVID-19 see blacklivesmatter.com. For additional information on what Anti-Racism is and how you can actively implement it in your life I suggest the following:

  • This Book is Anti-Racist: 20 Lessons on How to Wake Up, Take Action, and Do the Work by Tiffany Jewell (2020)
  • What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Blacker: A Memoir in Essays, Damon Young (2019)
  • Chokehold: Policing Black Men, Paul Butler (2017)
  • An African American and Latinx History of the United States, Paul Ortiz (2018)

What Can I Do to Help?

As individuals, we all have different talents and things that make us shine. All we want is you and your talents. Whatever that means. If that means reaching out and having difficult conversations with your friends. If that means posting on your social media. If that means organizing a protest. If that means gathering your friends and going to protest. If that means donating to foundations and organizations dedicated to these issues. If that means spending your day signing petitions. If that means simply asking your black neighbor if they’re okay or need help with anything today. There is no formulaic way to show individuals that you care about them. It makes a big difference when we as a society show that we are collectively supporting a group of people and demanding change for the better and using our talents to do so.

In closing, I just want to take a moment to acknowledge the history that the American people are making possible today. This time is scary and confusing but it does not have to be divisive! We are all human and we should all take issue with anyone denying individuals de facto humanitarian rights. We have the power to create change and make the United States better for everyone to live in. If equality isn’t a concern to you then you are a part of the problem. I encourage William & Mary as a community of “bold leaders and passionate global citizens” to take this as an opportunity to be on the right side of history and not repeat our past mistakes. Down below are many resources where individuals can focus their talents to help the movement. “Armed with the knowledge of our past, we can with confidence charter a course for our future,” Malcolm X.

Resources for Black Lives Matter Movement:

Donations & Support List:

Resources for Antiracism:

Additional Resources:

This post was last updated on June 2nd before the arrest of the additional three police officers in the George Floyd case. While this is an amazing first step there are still many other people who are in need of justice. William & Mary students have gathered to support the cause through the African Cultural Society. Please see their Instagram page @acs_wm for additional information on how to donate and support those in need.  -Cori R. Ingram

Categories: Arts & Culture, Community Engagement & Service, Diversity, Student Blogs
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