North Texas Daily

Education, compassion is key to combating systemic racism

Education, compassion is key to combating systemic racism

Education, compassion is key to combating systemic racism
February 16
12:00 2023

Content warning: this story contains language and content related to police brutality and racial violence, reader discretion is advised. 

More than two years ago, the country rose to protest against George Floyd’s senseless murder at the hands of the Minneapolis Police. The protests were a part of the largest mass mobilization event in American history, yet here we are today, still grieving a similar loss. As the years go on and more violent deaths occur at the hands of police officers, it becomes increasingly undeniable to the general public that our justice system disproportionately oppresses people of color. 

Seeing the headlines, articles and videos about the Memphis police murdering Tyre Nichols at a traffic stop, it’s easy to believe trying for change is pointless. There are fewer protests, fewer outcries and less conversation now than we had two years ago. Change is a long and grueling process that requires sacrifice and effort. At the very least, we should be able to have hard conversations and educate ourselves, even if it makes us uncomfortable. Losing hope in change is something America can’t afford. 

This comes just before Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis announced a ban on AP African American History in Florida high schools because it “lacked educational value.” In reality, education about our country’s minorities is precisely what this country needs. 

America’s founding fathers built this country on the land of displaced natives and the work of enslaved African Americans stolen from an ocean away. The United States has a 400-year-long history of violence, exploitation and segregation. It forced a schism between the races and ethnic groups that live there, which can’t be remedied by erasure. In 2016, America elected a president who built a campaign based on fearmongering and appealing to ignorance-fueled hatred. Prioritizing white history and glorifying our past to breed patriotism within future generations only furthers the schism. Americans of all ages must educate themselves about every aspect of America’s past, including the racial violence that supports the status quo. In doing so, they will understand the modern consequences of racial injustice, including police violence.  It will be uncomfortable, exhausting and frightening, but it is necessary to build a better future. Otherwise, Americans risk accepting unjust treatment as a norm. 

Though our government hasn’t made significant concessions to protestors’ demands, we’ve still made progress as a culture. For the first time in our lifetimes, Americans from all backgrounds found the motivation to have in-depth conversations about oppressive systems, even though they aren’t as transparent to those that aren’t directly affected by them. Unfortunately, the American approach to ending systemic racism is hindered by our sensitivity to the word “privilege.” Though most Americans have a degree of privilege, they typically feel uncomfortable having unfiltered conversations about it. Regardless, Americans should afford their fellow citizens more compassion, even if it means confronting hard truths.

Despite what some Republican officials say about initiating discussions about systemic oppression, conversations about privilege don’t create division. What does sow division is constantly having to deal with microaggressions from peers who don’t know better. What incites hatred is thinking your neighbors are too sensitive when you say racial slurs you thought lost their meaning long ago. If more governors require schools to continue teaching a heavily censored version of our history, it will create a generation of adults ill-equipped to create a better world but perfect candidates for maintaining this divided country’s legacy of oppression. 

Avoiding conversations about injustice doesn’t change the amount of police violence cases, but it does normalize it. If Americans become desensitized to police brutality, we accept the monopoly on violence that our over militarized police have on the rest of the population. During the George Floyd Protests, protesters pressured their local governments to tear down statues and educational programs like critical race theory became popular, but our federal government barely budged. In a bizarre display, former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other congress members had a moment of silence wearing kente cloth to honor Floyd. Since then, members of Congress either rejected or stalled policies that would hold police officers accountable for their actions. A few months ago, a $10 million lawsuit against the Denton Police Department for the killing of UNT student Darius Tarver last January fell through. The police officers responsible never faced charges for the death. The systemic problem is as pressing as it was two years ago, only further proving there is still work to be done. 

This country has spent two centuries avoiding accountability for past wrongdoings. As Americans, we must address our past head-on by educating ourselves. We can continue a legacy of injustice or work toward peace and compassion. We must choose the latter, no matter the cost. There’s nothing more patriotic.

Featured Illustration by Jazmine Garcia

About Author

North Texas Daily

North Texas Daily

The North Texas Daily is the official student newspaper of the University of North Texas, proudly serving UNT and the Denton community since 1916.

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