I would like to personally thank The Voice Newspaper for featuring my opinion piece on focusing our energy on our youth in the wake of social injustice. The Voice is Britain’s only black national newspaper!
This story originally appeared on The Voice.
We need to focus our energy on our youth
Kenesha Collins shares her experience of being an African American mother living through countless acts of violence against black people – and what we can do in response
MY EMOTIONS have been all over the place since the senseless killings of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor. These tragedies have been within weeks of each other, and it’s very difficult to process.
I am human. I have a young son and daughter that I worry about constantly. I’ve been watching heinous acts of police brutality and violence against African Americans on television since I was a child. The first televised act I saw was the vicious beating of Rodney King by four LAPD officers in 1991. I was 11 years old. I was so confused. I didn’t know how such a thing could happen.
During my short life, there have been countless acts of violence against African Americans, and it’s all been due to one thing – perception. Perception is not reality. The perception of an African boy or man is they are dangerous and a threat to society which is not true. The perception that African Americans are a cultural group of “lesser value” and power has got to stop.
“Young people hold the keys to change, we need to equip them with the right tools”
An innocent African American boy or man can make a grocery run, and suddenly targeted by police because it is perceived he is a menace. There is a perception that because I am an opinionated African American woman that I am “angry”.
I like to wear my favourite black baseball cap on weekends. I wear it because sometimes I don’t feel like taking the time to style my hair. I am dark skinned with a short haircut. I worry when I wear the cap while driving at night in case I am pulled over. I could be perceived as a man.
Since the Civil Rights Movement, we have been fighting the perception of the kind of people we are versus who we really are. We are vital members of our families and communities, and our lives matter. We are educators, caregivers, and business professionals, and we are plain tired of the false narrative that we are anything less.
The conversation and real pressure for change is starting. I’m glad to see it, but there is way more work to be done. I for one, have had enough. I’m tired of shedding tears when I see the faces of slain, innocent African Americans splashed across the television. This is not the America I hoped for my children.
What action can we take?
We need to focus our energy on our youth. They hold the keys to create real change, and we need to equip them with the right tools. We need to educate our youth on their history so they will know and understand their strong heritage. There has to be real discussions with our young boys and men about interactions with police. We need to promote post secondary education, and encourage black people to pursue careers in law enforcement, law, and politics. We need more black and brown faces in these positions. Some people in the highest positions of power are the least culturally aware, and that needs to change. We need to be very vocal to our political groups, and more present when it’s time to vote.
One of the biggest ways to change perception is through financial resources. We need to highlight black venture capital firms – especially those led by women. They provide startup capital for people of colour, women, and the LGBT community. Minority owned businesses tend to receive less financial backing.
As consumers we need to put more money into businesses and non-profits owned and operated by black people. In the UK, The Voice’s Black Business Guides provide a good starting point for discovering black businesses and entrepreneurs. We also need to educate and familiarise ourselves more with programmes for minority owned businesses. For those in the US, the Small Business Association (SBA) is a great resource.
You can also join local community groups and organisations focused on supporting and advocating for black people. In the US, one way African Americans can do this is by joining their local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). The purpose of this organisation is to secure the political, educational, social, and economic equality of rights in order to eliminate race-based discrimination and ensure the health and wellbeing of all persons.
Last, but certainly not least, we need to vote. We need to also demand real plans are put into place for minority groups when it comes to police brutality, education, employment, and healthcare.
For those in communities that are conducting peaceful protests, I’m here with you. I stand with you. I will fight with you, but we need to make sure that our purpose is not lost.
One day my son and daughter are going to be men and women. I need to make sure I am doing everything I possibly can to change the perception of them in the future.
Copyright © 2020 by Kenesha Collins