"Beyond the Textbooks" by Emma Landry
As the world protests and riots to call for justice for wrongful Black deaths, there are no riots in Santa Cruz, California. Instead of rioting, people gathered downtown and took a knee together in a moment of protest against police brutality and racism that is, somehow, still a major problem in our country. Among those kneeling were both the Santa Cruz mayor and the police chief. They didn’t come in riot gear with massive amounts of officers trying to break up the protest, they just joined their community in the fight to call attention to the problem. They didn’t fight. They acknowledged a problem and joined the community to demand justice for those that were wrongfully murdered, even if it was by their fellow officers.
Unfortunately, this is not what the rest of the world is experiencing. Protestors are being met with violence and aggression, rubber bullets and teargas. I’m privileged to live in a city that is open-minded, progressive, and where racism exists in much less extreme ways. Racism is everywhere and Santa Cruz is no exception, but the privilege I experienced growing up has made it difficult for me to understand what is really going on in this country right now. I’ve never seen a Black person get attacked by the police for doing little to nothing wrong. I’ve never been in an environment where a Black person is talked down to or seen as less than. I’ve been lucky.
My lack of experience with racism as a white woman living in a progressive town makes all of this very confusing to me. I can’t wrap my head around how we got here. I can’t understand why the color of someone’s skin causes such a violent reaction in some people. I do, however, understand that the way this country handles racism has been ineffective and it is finally coming to a head. It’s unfortunate that violence is being used to handle this issue, but peaceful protest has proved to be ineffective. Activists have been protesting peacefully for decades with almost no change, and more often than not, they are frowned upon for the way they chose to speak out, so we’ve reached a point where many believe violence is the only way we can create the change we need.
Violence is never something I hope for, but we’ve reached a point where it’s not an option. This is long overdue and until changes are made, the protests and riots will continue. My hope is that one day everyone can experience what I have. I hope that one day we live in a country where racism is baffling to everyone. I hope that one day a racist action will be taken as seriously as it should be. Hopefully, we reach that point. It won’t be soon, but maybe we’re finally starting to make a change. Maybe this is the tip of the iceberg. Maybe we’re finally going to start being the America we claim to be: the America that is the land of the free and embraces different cultures, ideas, and opinions. Maybe this violence is just the first step in the right direction.
Racism is not just what we read about in textbooks. Racism is not in the past. Racism is now. We have not overcome it and it will be a long time before we do, so we better start taking strides to end racist behavior in this country, especially racism fueled by those in positions of power, like the president and the police. As a country, we need to decide to combat injustices we see. We need to choose to be anti-racist. A few good ways to start taking a turn in the right direction are: educate yourself by learning more about how racism functions in our society, attend protests to demand justice for racial wrongdoings, donate to organizations that work to fight racism, support Black businesses to help fix the wealth gap, sign petitions to demand that appropriate action be taken by officials, call or email your local officials, and vote! Do your part.
We are living through history. Let’s choose to be on the right side of it.
The Santa Cruz Mayor (red and white bandana) and police chief kneeling at a Santa Cruz protest. (AP Photo/Shmuel Thaler)