More Than a Hashtag
I live in Ohio just outside the city of Cleveland, one of the most heavily poverty-stricken cities in the country. Most of them are African American.
Throughout these last few weeks since the death of George Floyd, race conversations have been prompted all across the nation. Amongst all the sadness, anger, frustration, and hopelessness, many are becoming more aware of what’s happening to black people in this country. The racism, the systemic oppression, the outright hatred—it’s a lot. Media coverage has been at an all-time high. Everyone is posting pics on social media supporting the black lives matter movement and petitions are being passed left and right demanding change. As much as it’s been to digest, I love seeing the majority of our country band together for a common goal.
But there’s a side of systemic oppression that we never see on our televisions or cell phones. We can turn the noise off and continue living our daily lives, but not everyone has that luxury.
I was driving yesterday and my destination required me to drive through a heavily impoverished area of Cleveland. As I drove the streets, everything around me seemed dark and gloomy. Where I live you’ll see families walking their dogs, children outside playing in their front yards, couples out for an afternoon jog—everyone is smiling enjoying the freedoms of a stress-free environment. You rarely hear the police in my neighborhood and if you do, it’s because a neighbor is a cop.
Not in East Cleveland, which was once home to "Millionaire's Row," a place where the wealthiest persons in the city resided.
There’s trash littered across the streets. Babies are playing on the road without parental supervision. They don’t have a front yard to play in. Drug addicts roam the blocks even in the daytime talking aimlessly to themselves, sometimes venturing into traffic with no regard for anything or anyone. Police sirens are trumped only by ambulance sirens and gunfire. Crime rates are extremely high. Many don’t have vehicles so they’re forced to take public transportation, but without money for bus tickets, most have to walk to their destinations.
As I continued to drive, comfortable in my car, I passed a family of 7. This family looked incredibly different than the ones I described above. There was a mother, with 6 kids walking down the street. She looked overwhelmed in every sense of the word. The look on her face told all. Tired. Defeated. Struggling. She had two babies in her arms, with 4 more young children following behind. It broke my heart to see. We don’t hear about her on Fox News or Instagram tv. Her story is untold.
I felt sorrow in my heart. At that moment, I realized that as a black man, even I enjoy a certain level of privilege. My fears couldn’t possibly match up to what hers may be. God reminded me: ‘that’s who this fight, this push for change is for.”
In this fight for African Americans to really live free in this country, it’s important to remember those that have been killed unjustly, they are the face of the movement. But, I want everyone to realize that action needs to be taken for POC that are still living in actual nightmares. These beautiful people live just a few miles from many of us in neighborhoods that are broken, not because the residents don’t give a damn about their livelihoods, but because many have no other option. This is what systemic oppression looks like. We fight for them.
There are tangible things each of us can do.
Go volunteer at a local recreational center, NOT IN YOUR OWN NEIGHBORHOOD
Make it a priority to vote for your local government. Councilmen, lower-level city mayors, aldermen. These guys are who have input and power on what’s happening in your cul-de-sac’s.
Make sure your “support” isn’t just a hashtag and social media post. Get out and do something for someone NOT in your position.
As the fire that is protests, rioting, and looting flicker out, remember that racism and system oppression doesn’t end because no one is talking about it anymore. It’s still happening every single day. We have the power to do something about it.
RAISE YOUR VOICE. PUT YOUR HAND TO THE PLOW.