A Millennial Civil Revolution

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Sharon Mwale, BHA Healthcare Analyst

#BlackLivesMatter

For so long I have stayed silent on the issues that surround me, my family, my friends, and the black community of which I am a part. For so long I have scrolled down my timeline, silently reading and agreeing (sometimes disagreeing) with those whom have posted an article, made a comment, taken a stance. For so long I’ve lived in a country where the color of my skin—not my personality, intelligence, or deeds—has been the dictator of first impressions and my potential as a woman. For so long…

But not today. Today, I speak my piece to the world and say that I am tired. WE are tired. Tired of being told that Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Kalief Browder, are isolated incidents. Tired of being accused of pulling the “race card.” Tired of being victimized, blamed for reacting to the injustices that we face each day. But, most of all, tired of a system that was built to escape persecution, but only to persecuted those that did not fit within a strict construct. 

#BlackLivesMatter is not a movement that contends other lives don’t matter. In the wake of the shooting in South Carolina, if you would dare make the claim that this has “nothing to do with race,” do not pretend to be an associate of mine. Do not pretend to care about my life if you are not enraged that I could lose it because of the color of my skin. Do not mistake yourself as my ally if you refuse to acknowledge the battle I face, the battle my family, my friends, my community faces!

Photo: Columbia Journalism Review

I wrote #BlackLivesMatter after the South Carolina massacre of nine church members in their bible study meeting. It was the result of accumulated frustration I felt with myself for never speaking up, and with the increasing videos of shootings targeting boys and men who could be my brother, and subsequent dismissal of criminal charges against perpetrators. As a black woman growing up in the United States, I’ve always been acutely aware of my status as a double minority citizen, but with the ever-growing presence of the internet in my everyday, it has become a glaring truth of my existence.

Black Americans have made great strides since Jim Crow laws were officially voided in the 1960’s. The greatest example is the ascent of a Barack Obama, a black man to the most powerful position in the world, President of the United States. And in many other regards, black Americans continue to make great strides, graduating, teaching, and leading at top-tier universities, serving as executives at Fortune 500 companies. There is, however, no denying that there are still many firsts yet to be achieved by black Americans.

Disadvantages work against black Americans at every step in our lives, and we continuously feel the need to prove our worth and competency—a challenge our white counterparts do not face, are not asked to prove. The U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights released data in 2014 that showed 25% of schools with the highest percentage of black and Latino students did not offer Algebra II, and 33% of these schools did not offer different levels of chemistry. Education is the foundation of all children, and is only one marker that shows the stark difference in opportunity students of color are afforded compared to their white peers.

In the past six months, I’ve witnessed and been a part of two activist movements at two institutions in two cities that I call home; Yale University in New Haven and the University of Illinois in Chicago. My generation is taking up arms. We are speaking out against decades of micro-aggressions and biases imposed on the black community. Transparency via the internet has awoken many leaders to the issues facing black Americans, but the time has come for a second Civil Rights movement lead millenials to fight for equal and equitable treatment of black Americans.

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