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Opinion | Young Americans on the Reaction to George Floyd’s Death

George Floyd’s death has made me resent the power that white people have to define justice in our society. Black Americans have been getting murdered by the police and vigilantes for as long as this country has existed, and yet it feels like our deaths only matter if they can provoke an emotional response from white Americans. This time around, it took a nine-minute video of a Black man’s brutal killing to elicit that response. That, and last summer’s protests, pushed me to start writing about politics for the first time. Now I write a column about race and justice for my college newspaper.

I live in one of the most disadvantaged neighborhoods in Chicago, a neighborhood that is majority Black. Even though millions of people committed to racial justice last summer, my neighborhood still struggles with the same issues it had before the protests, the same issues it faced decades ago, when my grandparents were my age. I turned 18 in 2020. Becoming an adult during a time of political change has been strange. So I reached out to my grandmother, who turned 18 in 1968, and we had a conversation about the similarities between her experiences and my own. That conversation showed me just how much we have in common and how little our country has changed over the past 50 years. — Caleb Dunson, 18, West Side, Chicago

The protests were intense. I had already “woke up” to the reality of racism in America, but seeing people out in the streets gave me some small hope that I was not so alone in my anger anymore. But things didn’t change like we wanted, and in Louisville, where I’m from, people lost their lives. The second night of protests, we were tear-gassed in the streets. Not long after, David McAtee was killed by law enforcement.

The nonstop barrage of violence only made me a stronger abolitionist. I spent the summer learning as much as I could about abolition and police violence. We must come up with a way of implementing police abolition in our communities. There have been small changes in Louisville since. But things are moving slowly. The private sector made promises of change but I saw very little happen on a local governmental scale.

Every time I meet someone who is racist, I’m surprised. I guess I’ve spent too much time with a community moving in solidarity and not enough time trying to convince folks that Black and brown and Asian and Indigenous people deserve to live on equal ground. Those conversations are really painful. — Avalon Gupta VerWiebe, 23, Louisville, Ky.

As a person of color, I have always known that racism is prevalent in the United States. Mr. Floyd’s death, and the controversy surrounding it, has shown me that racism will be a pressing matter for generations to come. The protests and growing racial justice movement have been weird to navigate. There is peer pressure to post about social justice issues on social media and while this does spread awareness, I wonder how effective this form of activism truly is. It feels as though we are preaching into an abyss.

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