To say it in the kindest way I can in a student-run newspaper, 2020 has been a rollercoaster ride from start to finish, and we aren’t even remotely close to said “finish.”
COVID-19 required all of us to adjust to a “new normal,” as clichèd and tiring as those two words sound right now.
However, despite that pandemic-driven halt, social movements have not stopped. Not even for a minute.
Since the senseless murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police in late May, thousands of people have rolled out into the streets, yelling statements such as, “No justice, no peace,” “Silence = violence,” “Trans rights,” and “Black Lives Matter” in an attempt to challenge and criticize the police state in America.
As an Afro-Latino man in America who has a bevy of friends from all races – many of whom are white people – I was afraid that some of my friends would show their true colors, either by praising the police, or by saying something that invalidates my existence outright. That second one can be translated as “being a racist.”
Instead, I was happily surprised by what I saw: people examining their own white privilege and, instead of doing nothing about it, deciding to change their opinions, or their reading preferences, or the organizations they donated to.
I’ve been asking my white friends – many of whom are FSU students and alumni – to tell me how they have been changing their habits to better accommodate Black lives, as well as marginalized lives, in general.
Some of the more common changes that my friends have made are prioritizing reading books by people of color and listening to podcasts about the issues people of color face.
Another step some of my friends have taken is to call racism out, whenever it is presented on a social media service’s news feed, or in their interactions with family.
One friend said, “I’ve unadded/stopped talking to anyone who opposes [Black Lives Matter], and [have] actively been calling people out, both in real life and on social media.”
Another wrote me to say, “I personally have tried very hard to hold my family accountable – specifically, my extended family who are very rooted in their old-fashioned ways and believe that making jokes about minorities is OK.”
Others have also decided to put their money where their proverbial mouths are, so to speak, by donating to bail funds and people-of-color-led organizations.
“I work for a rather large company that offers a matching gift program for donations to various non-profits,” one friend wrote to me. “As I wanted to maximize my contribution to bail funds and other organizations geared toward equity and anti-racism, I collected donations from family and friends before donating in my name.”
Now, these are just examples of the amazing actions taken by some of the whitest people I know, and that doesn’t even begin to include the Instagram stories that friends have reposted regarding topics such as race-based wealth inequality and racial stereotypes pertaining to Black people!
Sure, it might not seem like “much,” but to me – again, as an Afro-Latino man in modern-day America – it makes my heart smile and flutter to see that those with privilege are willing to examine that privilege and weaponize it for the protection of marginalized individuals.
To me, that brings a great deal of hope at a time in history where there is almost none. And, for that, I simply have to say, “Thank you.”
I’m sure that these changes won’t be temporary for my friends and the white people who have made those realizations throughout the year, but I do hope that this energy is maintained for years after this one, for the fight for Black lives is far from over.