Students weigh in on racial injustice

Summer deaths inspire students to speak out

The call for racial justice and reform was intense earlier this year. Ahmaud Arbery, a young black man, was killed in February by two white men, sparking outrage. Protests intensified across the country in May with the death of George Floyd at the hands of police officers. Sacramento, like many other cities across the country, experienced mass protests amid stay-at-home orders and looting in the downtown area.

According to the New York Times, Ahmaud Arbery was killed in Georgia while he was on a jog. Two white men, Gregory McMichael and Travis McMichael, pursued Arbery and shot him, unprovoked. Arbery’s death was recorded by William Bryan, and the video went public, causing mass outrage across the country.

The New York times also reported that George Floyd was killed at the hands of police officers after a convenience store called 911 on Floyd after suspecting he used a counterfeit $20 bill. A police officer, Derek Chauvin, held his knee to Floyd’s neck for somewhere between 7-8 minutes, causing Floyd’s death Despite bystanders’ objections and Floyd’s protests saying he couldn’t breathe, Chauvin did not release Floyd

Sacramento students were motivated by the two killings to speak out. McClatchy High School senior Eden Getahun said, “Ahmaud Arbery’s death was scary because they weren’t police officers, just white men. George Floyd was also terrifying because it was the police. The video made it ‘popular.’ I felt numb rather than upset. I felt like ‘what is the point of protest?’”

The videos that were released were very graphic and did not leave anything to the imagination. These videos were reposted across social media and shown on many news channels. They captured the last moments of Arbery and Floyd’s lives and often had no trigger warning.

“I think that an important case to talk about is Breonna Taylor’s,” added Getahun, “Breonna Taylor was a black woman and they went into her home.”

Breonna Taylor was shot and killed in her home by police officers when they went into her home in the middle of the night on a raid in an attempt to catch a man whom Taylor had been connected to who was alleged to be involved in selling drugs.

“The deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor had me absolutely devastated, especially because two out of the three were caught on videotape. Their deaths were completely avoidable and completely unnecessary in every way possible,” said senior Maddison Brodeur.

When asked if there was justice for these individuals, Brodeur said, “No, these people need the justice that they deserve and there’s nothing that you could do that could take back a life. The grand jury decision only indicted one of the three officers in Breonna Taylor’s case for the shots that he missed in the apartment.”

McClatchy freshman Arianne McCoullough agreed, “None of these people have ever gotten the justice they deserved. In Breonna’s case they paid her family $12 million dollars. That’s great, but that’s not going to get them their daughter back. Even if they did charge those officers with murder, which they should be charged with, what really would be justice is to take their jobs, sentence them to prison, and to take this as an example to begin working on the system.”

Social media blew up these cases and spread awareness about issues of systemic racism and racial injustice. Social media allowed everyone to have a platform and express their opinion.

“People who posted, I appreciated it. There’s the group who didn’t post at all. It’s frustrating when people don’t use their platform. People will also post on their story but won’t actually do any action. Other people just repost. Social media action is good if it’s backed up with real action,” said Getahun. Social media can allow people to be passive in their actions by speaking up on the internet but not doing anything to elicit change in real life.

While social media did provide a platform for promoting the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement, it also opened the doors for people who had hateful feelings to spread their beliefs.

McCoullough said, “Instead of just posting Black Lives Matter (BLM) on their social media apps, I think they should have just joined the protesters or used their influence to try and make changes. I was happy for the mostly positive response. Though, the hate comments really troubled me’

“The most frustrating thing that I heard in response to the BLM movement was “all lives matter,” said McCoullough. “All lives don’t matter until black peoples lives matter. I hated how people tried to diminish our movement and how we were feeling.”

Activism on social media usually aims to educate or spread awareness. It does not always elicit change. Getahun said it can contribute to the desensitization of these issues.

“I think that something that’s really important is racial battle fatigue. How having to constantly go on social media and see people that look like you die is very traumatizing and violent. That doesn’t help anyone, it just normalizes it. People have to understand how exhausting it is to see that and be calm and rational.”

These cases caught attention nationwide and sparked calls for change on a nationwide and local level.

When asked about what local changes she wanted to see, Getahun said, “I think the Sacramento police department needs to be defunded. There has to be more accountability within the police department. If there is excessive violence, they need to be fired and can’t be hired somewhere else. I think people need to realize racism isn’t just murdering black people. Microagrresions uphold structures that allow black people to be murdered.”

McCoullough added, “Local police should not be allowed to have any sort of military access to guns or any such things. Then we should defund the police and break it down and rebuild it.”

The idea of defunding the police means that funding for the police would be reallocated to resources that could better help people in non-violent situations. The money would be invested in systems that can help people who need help with their mental health. When police respond to these situations, it can cause stress and put victims in an unnecessarily violent situation that worsens their mental health.

In addition to the call for defunding the police, there has been a demand for better student support in schools. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) says that having police officers on campus can be harmful to students because of cases of excessive force and discrimination.

“Get rid of SROs. There needs to be more space available for students of color. Maybe have BSU be more important. Make conversations about race and racial advocacy more central. Training for teachers about stereotypes and prejudice. Understand bias and how that results in discrimination More resources for the rest of the school. Everyone should have more access to higher-level classes,” said Getahun on changes she would like to see at C.K. McClatchy.

This year, the Sacramento City Unified School District (SCUSD) announced that the budget will not include money for school resource officers (SROs). According to the Sacramento Bee, students of color are more likely to be stopped by SROs. This disproportionately affects students of color and can make them feel like criminals in what is supposed to be a safe space.

Getahun is the president of Black Student Union (BSU) this year. Her plans for this year include, “Educating students, providing a safe place…. black graduation, field trips, and black history month.” BSU will initiate important conversations and provide a space where students can educate themselves and voice their thoughts.

As a member of BSU, McCoullough said, “I hope to do more stuff such as having interviews with different news parts. Just to get the word out about how we feel and things that need to be talked about. I think we should also do speeches and talk about the stuff we talked about in meetings.”

“People need to start educating themselves by watching documentaries and signing petitions. Actively follow Black lives matter, Colors of Change, Reclaim the Block and other organizations for racial justice. And just educate yourself on systemic racism, anti-racism, and more. And don’t be afraid to start conversations with people,” Brodeur stated. There are many organizations and opportunities that teach about being anti-racist and how racism is built into the systems in society. BSU provides opportunities to have these conversations on a local level and other worldwide organizations spread these messages on a bigger scale.

“People have to stop expecting people to be educators. I am not google. If you have questions, I would love to have conversations, but I don’t owe you anything. You don’t always have to be an educator. Focus on an uplifting and supportive community and self care and heal from the inside,” Getahun added.

Racial injustice is not a new issue but cases such as Arbery’s, Floyd’s and Taylor’s have spread awareness and brought on protests. Within the C.K. McClatchy community, the Black Student Union is looking to make a change and give students a space to talk about these issues.