Opinion: Expressing humility while advocating for racial justice is imperative

Opinion: Expressing humility while advocating for racial justice is imperative

Opinion: Expressing humility while advocating for racial justice is imperative

For those of you who know me, or know of me, I likely come off as that “do-it-all, know-it-all” model student.

But, to be honest, I am far from perfect. Amid the senseless killings of Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd, I found myself struggling to put together a coherent response that culminated my support for the movement while acknowledging my imperfections. 

Yes, I was in tears.

Yes, I was shocked. 

Yes, I was outraged. 

However, I found myself asking one question after another.

How do I address the police brutality that Black Americans face everyday, while also acknowledging the deeply rooted racism within my own community: the South Asian community?

How can I use my family’s experiences to self-reflect and amplify the voices of my Black peers whose voices matter now more than ever before?

At the end of the day, how can we all best serve as resources and supporters in this cause while acknowledging our privilege? 

I know I am not alone in asking many of these questions, but sometimes it can feel like if you are not doing enough, you are letting down the movement.

But none of us are perfect. The first step in serving as an effective advocate is acknowledging our privilege and owning up to mistakes that we make along the way. Humility matters more than we know, especially when advocating for issues that don’t impact us on a regular basis. I still make mistakes and am still learning how to properly advocate for change. Owning up to our flaws and admitting to the learning we all have to do, regardless of our race, class, color or creed is incredibly important. 

It is important to realize that none of us non-Black students will ever be able to fully understand our Black peers’ lived realities. Recognizing that makes the next step crucially important.

Educate yourself. 

This means analyzing and dissecting literature written by Black activists from Maya Angelou to W.E.B. Du Bois, to modern day advocates such as Ta-Nehisi Coates and Ibram X. Kendi. My initial response to the issue was far from a fully-informed one. So, I continued to read countless resources, articles and journal articles on how to best ally in this movement as a South Asian American. 

By using resources from the South Asian Student Association, reading multiple journal articles investigating the deeply rooted racism within the South Asian community and understanding professor Kendi’s “How to Be an Antiracist,” I was able to further understand the history and complexities behind racial issues in our communities.

In addition, it’s just as significant to read statements written by our Black peers on campus. Reading The Blackprint, AU NAACP and the Black Student Union’s statements can give us a valuable perspective on what type of change to advocate for on campus. The AU NAACP chapter called on the University to end its partnership with the Metropolitan Police Department. Specifically, the chapter called for the end of MPD presence at large speaking events and during mental health wellness checks. 

AU BSU and The Blackprint echoed similar sentiments of ending ties with MPD and demanded that the University take more comprehensive action in the face of racial incidents on campus. From the hanging of bananas from nooses across campus three years ago, repeated instances of students using racial slurs, to the violence used by police officers against Gianna Wheeler, the University has failed to deliver actionable reform when Black students are targeted on campus. It is essential that we stand by both of these organizations and continue to demand more from ourselves and our campus leadership. 

BSU furthered this sentiment and called on students to live an anti-racist lifestyle by having difficult conversations with friends, family members and classmates. Reading both of these organizations’ calls for urgency enlightened me for how I can better support my Black peers, as well as what actions we should all advocate for. 

As opposed to reading beforehand, many students will rush to post an Instagram story, a Facebook statement or some sort of broad display of support on their social media. I am guilty of this, as are many other students. 

So, how do we prevent this showboat activism? It is essential to read up on the issue and check our individual privileges before taking up space in the discussion. After reading and self-reflecting, I was able to learn more about the racism within my own community. 

Who was I to talk about the racism my family and I endured when our own community continues to stay silent and propagate racism? The racism or xenophobia many non-Black POC face cannot compare to the history of disenfranchisement that the Black community faces. Owning up to the faults within my community made me more cognizant of my place within this movement. Furthermore, educating myself helped in separating productive activism from empty posts and blanket rhetoric.

The third step is taking social media activism further. This means donating, attending a local protest and voting for officials that unconditionally support the movement. After recognizing my privilege, I looked for organizations dedicated to uplifting Black voices such as The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, which fights for racial equality through litigation; The Black Visions Collective, a Black, Trans and Queer led organization dedicated to dismantling systems of oppression; and The Black Emotional and Mental Health Collective, which is devoted to healing and liberating marginalized communities. Regardless of whether it is $2 or $200, your voice matters in helping these organizations advocate for a more equitable society and push forward change in the realities of countless Black Americans in this nation. Beyond donating, understanding and promoting each of these organizations' missions through our platforms is vital. 

Protesting and showing up to vote matter just as much as donating and spreading educational content on social media. Each protest puts additional pressure on public officials to change their behaviors and speak out on critical issues regarding race. Supplementing protests by showing up at the ballot box is critical as states are holding primary contests. In the coming weeks, it is vital to turn out and vote for candidates that will amplify Black, POC, LGBTQ+ and other marginalized voices.

The last step is sharing each of these improvements with your friends, family and those around. None of us are perfect and we will never achieve lasting change in our own social media silos. I do realize that, while I am taking each of these steps, I am still far from perfect and need to continue educating myself. 

On a parting note, I challenge all of us to get more involved and continue our involvement in this movement for the weeks, months and years to come. 

Too often, Black voices and stories fade away with the headlines. It’s incumbent upon each of us to make sure Black voices remain heard and are amplified now more than ever before. 

Adit Roy is a rising junior in the School of Public Affairs. The opinions expressed by the author are theirs alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Eagle and its staff.


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