We Are America

Voices of the Nation's Future

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Photo ofAudrey Stamper
When I first heard about the Black Lives Matter protests happening in late May, I had just woken up and was scrolling through Tiktok. I then checked my Instagram and everyone’s stories were filled with a cartoon picture of this man with flowers around his head and with the words “Justice for George Floyd” above it. I later learned that the man in the cartoon, George Floyd, had been killed by police officers because he was a black man. 

Since I am white, I had never experienced discrimination like that. Watching the video of Floyd be circulated around the internet and realizing that he actually is murdered during it set off a burning anger in me that I had never felt before. I saw that I have this privilege that not everyone in America has, and the only reason they are without it is the color of their skin. If you really think about it, it kind of sounds stupid, right? That the only difference between me and a black person is that their skin is a different color, yet that difference could cost a black person their whole life. And it’s not even something anyone can control. It’s a terrifying and sad thought to realize that my black friends can be victims of violence and hatred strictly because of their skin color. I think that’s why it makes me so angry and just baffles my mind that extreme racism still is very much present in the US. 

It was a sunny day last summer when I really started to understand what it’s like for black people, especially in the South. I remember driving down around Main Street with a friend and her mom when there was a protest going on here in Salem. We approached a red light and in the distance, we could see protesters lining the street in front of our local police station. There were a lot of protesters and most of them had signs. As I started to read the signs, I could hear words coming out of my friend and her mother’s mouth that I would have never expected. They were joking about all of it. I never thought that in a million years that people would joke about other people being murdered. I started getting super uncomfortable and quiet, and I think that they noticed that I felt that way, and they quickly changed the subject. At that moment, I realized that not every white person understands the significance of the movement and how not every white person, no matter how much they claim to, understands the privilege they possess. As a matter of fact, white people never have nor will ever have to experience the kind of discrimination that people of color experience. Some people just do not have the sympathy in them to realize that they have to stand up for people of color and educate themselves about BLM before jumping to conclusions strictly based on what politicians and news channels tell them. 

Police brutality and racism never crossed my mind before the BLM movement really got going. I just had never thought of it before, and I now realize that I 100% should have, and that I was totally blind to what was happening to the black community. I realize that I should have just listened a bit more.

© Audrey Stamper. All rights reserved. If you are interested in quoting this story, contact the national team through this website and we can put you in touch with the young person's teacher.