Racism: Perspective of a black teen

Racism: Perspective of a black teen

Jack Burkholder

As I spoke with a black teen on the topic of the Black Lives Matter movement, I was corrected for wrongly using a term. “It’s people of color, not colored people.” This was not the last truth I learned from the conversation. 

   Before the events that took place this past summer, commonplace racial injustice was primarily relevant to the people that were and have been directly affected. My interview with Xavier Chavis, a black teen who attends Holland High School as a senior, taught me about the firsthand importance and empowerment of the BLM movement. 

   Chavis told me what exactly the movement means to him. “For me, it’s saying that black lives are equal to other people. It’s just saying that they need to matter to people. So the movement, to me, is saying that black lives need to matter.” 

   Chavis has been to several protests around Holland, noting that due to the small population of people of color in Holland itself, the protests are not as diverse as he has seen in other major cities. That being said, the primary leaders and organizers tend to be people of color. 

   Our discussion also came to mention the rioting taking place all across America. “…oftentimes it’s misconstrued in the media. I don’t support it but I understand the anger.” Chavis mentioned a concept known as Slavery Reparations. The government would donate money or property to people of color who can biologically prove that their ancestors were subject to slavery. 

   This idea presents several issues, however. This topic is considered more controversial than most, and would require people to get extensively educated before making a decision. Chavis believes that this would help, though, to bring people of color to the level of equality they deserve. 

   Chavis includes that rioting just fuels the racist stereotype that people of color are violent. “White people kind of use it out of context, like ‘I support the BLM movement, just not the rioting. … but that’s just because they want a reason not to support it without sounding racist.’” 

   “I do not think that the movement is racist. That’s just hate and it’s not support … because [people who do not support the movement] want to find every reason for the movement not to continue to raise support.” 

   Chavis continued, “I, for one, would struggle a lot with trying to accept an entirely new belief system … it’s not black people saying ‘we hate white people,’ it’s black people saying ‘we wish we were treated the same as you guys.’” Systemic racism is very apparent in society. More often than not, racism takes form in unintentional forms. Examples include social stereotypes, unfair access to proper medical assistance. 

   According to a national research lab, there is a direct correlation between COVID-19 deaths and race. According to a graph prepared by the lab, Cumulative actual COVID-19 mortality rate per 100,000 in black Americans is roughly 97.9. For white Americans, 46.6. Black Americans experience mortality from COVID-19 over 2x as frequently than white Americans. 

   So. Are white people doing too much? From what Chavis told me, people of color need all the help they can get. In the same token, it’s not white peoples’ battle to fight. Be an ally, and ask what you can do to help. Chavis explains, “Clearly we’ve had years of having to do it on our own, and now we have the help available that we need in order to make a lasting change.” 

   There is no ignorance in not knowing. There is only ignorance in not wanting to know. Have discussions with friends, get educated, and be open minded. In my discussion with Chavis, I received a firsthand point of view on a topic that I was not particularly educated on. I now have the ability to be an advocate and speak on this subject with more confidence than I previously had.