What is racial disparity and why is it so hard for us to talk about? A team of eight Davie County young people have organized a peaceful protest and march this Thursday, June 18th, in hopes of opening that conversation within our community.
The event, which supports the Black Lives Matter movement, will kick off at Rich Park at 4:30 with an invocation and introduction and time for participants to get organized to march together to Main Street Park in downtown Mocksville. Speakers include activists PJ Peck and Shante Mendelez; Davie County Early College Teacher Angela Griffey; Mocksville Mayor Will Marklin; and Mocksville Police Chief Pat Reagan. An open mic time for honest, respectful discussion is also planned.
I had the pleasure today to meet with five of the organizers, Victoria Bailey, Lluvia Bello Cervantes, Jaqueline Gonzalez, Estefani Martinez Julian, and Sarah-Grace Rogers, all 2020 graduates of the Davie County Early College. They attribute their willingness to tackle the tough questions and their deep sense of compassion for the plight of others to their years at the Early College. Each was well-spoken and insightful. I was moved by their heartfelt desire to educate others and to promote change in the world around them.
Here are their thoughts in their own words:
We are a collaborative team of Hispanic and White women. The intention of protesting in solidarity with Black Lives Matter is to express our sincerest support of the movement. We do not wish to overshadow black voices in America. The purpose of our educational campaign is to highlight insightful perspectives.
Why did you organize this event?
We organized the event to raise awareness about systemic racism, police brutality, and racial injustices. We believe that this event will effectively educate the masses and amplify black voices. As a result, we hope this event inspires the implementation of solutions in our community.
What do you hope this event will accomplish?
The hope is that this event introduces a national dialogue to our local area. A community such as Davie County, which is 90% white according to the US Census Bureau, undeniably cannot relate to the firsthand experience of racial oppression. We know that a significant amount of people do not have to go through what people of color go through on a daily basis. It is necessary to encourage a conversation of empathy even when the populous, at large, cannot personally relate. This conversation can begin in the education system so young people may be introduced to a more diversified curriculum.
Why do you think it is so hard to talk about racial issues?
As Hispanics, we go through our own challenges and struggles but we find comfort in the fact that we do not go through the struggles of the black community. We also enjoy the comfort and privilege of living with lighter skin color. Hispanics are raised around the racism of darker-skinned Hispanics or Blacks. Even within our community, we see colorism as a huge issue. From personal experience, I (Jaqueline) grew up surrounded by people who would rather hold and hug me than my darker-skinned sister. Hispanics tend to associate ourselves with our own prejudices and racial injustices. The Hispanic community feels compelled to address our discrimination first and foremost. As young members of the Hispanic community, we aspire to challenge political and racial traditions. With this protest and march, we hope to encourage everyone to open up the conversation within the Hispanic community. It is important to acknowledge that while we go through our own struggles, the black community has been oppressed far longer than we have; as a united community, we need to come together and uplift our black brothers and sisters.
From the perspective of our non-POC organizers: Racial issues are a taboo subject in American society. This topic is difficult for the white community to reconcile our overt and indirect contributions to systemic racism. Our ancestry influenced the white privilege still prominent in our era. “White privilege” constructs this comfortable safe-house that we (as white people) can flee to when race-related conflict occurs. There is a privilege in walking away from discussions of racial injustice and police brutality. Though they may be difficult conversations to have, it is vital to listen and thus, understand.
As part of their educational campaign, the young women also created a resource list that includes books and movies that provide insightful perspectives.
When selecting which books to put on our action list, we wanted to make sure we chose books that made clear points while still being understandable. We wanted to shine a light on the various struggles black people face—not just one. Our goal was to educate and bring awareness to the prejudice and racism seen in our community. This is why we chose to include books like “White Fragility” and “So You Want To Talk About Race”. We felt that these books allowed people to educate themselves about their own privilege while also allowing them to learn how to start engaging conversations about racism. Additionally, we included other books like “Between The World and Me” that showcase the rawness of being black in America through the format of a letter.
What are the issues you see here in Davie County?
There was a video circulating on social media platforms featuring former and current Davie High students kneeling on one another’s necks to prove they could endure 8 minutes of suffocation. The matter was addressed by Davie County School administration, though, examples of racism are still evident in our community. Down most streets, you can find a confederate flag decorating someone’s property or vehicle. The exclusive nature of our culture is not welcoming to the minority presence.
What do you want the people in this community to hear and to learn?
These are uncomfortable conversations but most often the uncomfortable conversations are the ones we need to have. We strive for the community to listen to the concerns of minorities. Their voices deserve to be heard, not silenced.