As I walk down the street, I feel on edge, a feeling that I have come to know all too well. I remove my headphones to hear voices in the distance telling me to “go home”. I walk past the men in uniform as they continue their attempt to catch me off guard. The smiles on their faces look as if they had just heard the funniest joke in the world. Knowing there was nothing I could do, I took one last look at their silver badges reflecting in the moonlight and continued my walk of shame.
It’s a cold night in the city. It could be any city. I pull my hood over my head to warm my face from the wind. I remember, I can’t do this, this is America. I remove the hoodie from my head, causing my teeth to chatter instantly. Actions as normal as wearing a hood over my head in the winter to keep myself warm have become dangerous in our world. Why should I have to worry about being labeled as a thug when I walk down the street? Why do parents hold their children closer to them as I walk past them? The answer is simple, we are going back in time.
I continue my walk through the city. As I pass by others, I feel the stares. I keep my head held high. The constant pressure of presenting my best self in public to avoid stereotypes has become exhausting. When will I be able to hold my cell phone and not have it be mistaken for a gun in my country? I wonder how many others feel as I do. I wonder if Trayvon Martin and Breonna Taylor felt the same way before they were murdered.
Racism in our country is alive and well. After this recent presidential election, in which the voting margin was so slim, I realized the importance of voting. Voting has never been something I cared much about. I assumed that the people in our country would choose the correct candidates and everything would eventually fall into place. 2020 has changed my perspective. I not only voted this year to get our current president out of office, I voted because I was tired of having to worry about living in my own skin. I was tired of having to look over my shoulder as I walked down the street. How many more lives will it take to realize that changes must be made? Although I realize that voting our racist in chief out of office is a step in the right direction, I also understand that there is still a lot of work that needs to be done.
For example, social media has allowed many influencers and public figures to use their platforms to show support, raise money and spread awareness for racial inequality. In addition, national sporting teams all over the country have been doing their part to create unity in the sports world. It is more important than ever to voice your opinion and stand up for what you believe in. A single post on Instagram or Snapchat can reach millions of people in a matter of seconds.
Moreover, there should be a serious push to incorporate more people of color in positions of power where important decisions are made. This includes government, universities and nonprofit and for-profit businesses. Another way to combat racism is to train people about their own implicit biases.
Many people feel that because they have yet to experience first-hand racism, that it does not matter or exist. America is not the shiny democratic city on the hill. We cannot push the true history of our country under the rug. Doing so is unhealthy for everyone, people of color or not.
I encourage you to take a step outside of your comfort zone and to think about the everyday experiences your fellow Americans of color face. I also urge everyone, regardless of race, to think about how racism undermines each one of us. If our society fails to rise to this critical challenge, the next walk I go for could be my last.
Keawe Strance is a sports reporter for The Beacon. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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